Ground is broken for Rocky Colavito statue in Little Italy


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Of the dozens of people who showed up in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood to mark the groundbreaking for a statue of former Indians slugger Rocky Colavito, few beamed as much as Sheldon Green.

Like many people of a certain age, Green was fond of the New York-born Colavito, an endearment the ballplayer shared with his adopted city. In 1960, Green was in a theater when the management stopped the film to announce Colavito had been traded. That deal still lingers bitterly for many fans, whose respect and love for Colavito has never wavered.

Green called Mark Sommer’s book, “Rocky Colavito: Cleveland’s Iconic Slugger” the “turning point” in bringing a respectful hat tip to Colavito’s life and career. Colavito is 87 and lives in Pennsylvania. The book came out two years ago this month.

“Mark Sommer is the reason we’re all here,” Green said. “Without him, his relationship with Rocky Colavito, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Sommer brought in Colavito during All-Star Week festivities in 2019 for a meet-and-greet event in Playhouse Square tied to the author’s book release. The statue tribute for Colavito has been in the works for several years, fueled by residents driven to see the former ballplayer receive an official accolade.

Sommer could not attend the groundbreaking but said “Rocky Colavito is so beloved in Cleveland. For so long people thought there out to be a statue to commemorate Rocky, and now we’re doing it. We’re so pleased David Deming, one of the foremost sports sculptors who lives right here in Cleveland and has done so many statues of Indians and Browns players, is doing Rocky Colavito.”

Deming, who said he remembers seeing Colavito as a kid, said the project is moving well and was slowed only by the coronavirus pandemic putting the brakes on fundraising efforts over the last year. But casting, which is being done in Studio Foundry in Cleveland, is being done in stages and going well, he said. He started working in clay for the initial model and is now finishing the sculpture. He created the artwork in assorted pieces and then crafted them together, like hands and wrists gripping the bat, he said.

Randy Mintz, who serves on the nine-member statue committee, credits the grassroots approach and teamwork to make the project happen. “Rocky not only was a great ballplayer but the type of individual that makes this more special,” Mintz said. “He loves his fans.”

Colavito, who still speaks favorably of Cleveland, hit .266 over 14 seasons and banged out 374 home runs. He was a fan favorite during his eight seasons in Cleveland and beyond.

“It is often said you don’t get flowers till after you’re gone,” said Cleveland council member Blaine Griffin, whose Ward 6 includes Little Italy. “Reflections of Cleveland history often go downtown, but to have it at Tony Brush Park” remains an appropriate honor, he said.

The park is nestled in the heart of the city’s Little Italy neighborhood.


Matt Gambatese, a member of the committee behind the project, credits the “collaborative” relationship with the Italian-American Brotherhood Club, the project’s sponsor.


The next step in the homage comes Tuesday, Aug. 10, when the statue is scheduled to be dedicated on Colavito’s 88th birthday. Bricks that will encircle the statue are being sold. And committee members said Colavito plans to be in attendance. Mintz, though, sees yet another immortal place for the outfielder. “Next stop,” he said, “Cooperstown.”

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