The ground is laid for the statue of Rocky Colavito in Little Italy

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Among the dozens of people who showed up in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood to mark the unveiling of a statue of former Indian slugger Rocky Colavito, few shone as much as Sheldon Green.

Like many older people, Green loved New York-born Colavito, an affection the baseball player shared with his adopted hometown. In 1960, Green was in a theater when management stopped the film to announce that Colavito had been traded. This deal still lingers bitterly for many fans, whose respect and love for Colavito has never wavered.

“It has bothered me my whole life,” Green said. “A baseball player who never had anything negative in his career or his life – baseball had turned its back on him.”

Members of the Rocky Colavito statue committee and other supporters attended Tuesday’s inauguration.

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 years old 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, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Sommer brought Colavito to the 2019 Star Week festivities for a meet up event in Playhouse Square related to the release of the author’s book. The tribute to the Colavito statue has been in the works for several years, fueled by locals pushed to see the former baseball player receive an official honor.

On Tuesday afternoon, the pitch was broken in Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood for a statue honoring beloved Indian slugger Rocky Colavito.

The Rocky Colavito statue will be installed at this location in Tony Brush Park, in the Little Italy neighborhood of Cleveland.

Sommer was unable to attend the opening, but said, “Rocky Colavito is so loved in Cleveland. For so long people thought there was a statue to commemorate Rocky, and now we do. We are very happy that David Deming, one of the greatest sports sculptors who lives right here in Cleveland and who has made so many statues of Indian and Browns players, is doing Rocky Colavito.

Deming, who said he remembered seeing Colavito as a child, said the project was progressing well and had only been slowed down by the coronavirus pandemic which has hampered fundraising efforts over the past year . But the casting, which is done at Studio Foundry in Cleveland, is done in stages and is going well, he said. He started working with clay for the initial model and is now finishing the sculpture. He created the artwork in matching pieces and then made them together, like hands and wrists grabbing the bat, he said.

Randy Mintz, who sits on the nine-member statue committee, credits the basic approach and teamwork to making the project a reality.

On Tuesday afternoon, the ground was thrown in Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood for a statue in honor of beloved Indian slugger Rocky Colavito.

Joe Gazzo, David Deming and Randy Mintz during the revolution. Gazzo is an artist who painted a portrait of Colavito. Deming is the artist who makes the sculpture. And Mintz is also a supporter of the project.

“Rocky was not only a great baseball player, but the type of individual who makes it more special,” Mintz said. “He loves his fans.

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

“It’s often said that you don’t get flowers until after you leave,” said Blaine Griffin, a member of the Cleveland Council, whose Ward 6 includes Little Italy. “Reflections of Cleveland’s history often go downtown, but having it at Tony Brush Park” remains a fitting honor, he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the pitch was broken in Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood for a statue honoring beloved Indian slugger Rocky Colavito.

Bobby DiBiasio and Ida Pocci, members of the Rocky Colavito statue committee, were among those in attendance at Tuesday’s inauguration.

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

Matt Gambatese, committee member behind the project, credits the “collaborative” relationship with the Italo-American Brotherhood Club, the project sponsor.

The next stop in the tribute will take place on Tuesday, August 10, when the statue is due to be consecrated on Colavito’s 88th birthday. The bricks that will surround the statue are for sale. And committee members said Colavito plans to attend. Mintz, however, sees yet another immortal place for the outfielder.

“Next stop,” he said, “Cooperstown. “

On Tuesday afternoon, the pitch was broken in Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood for a statue honoring beloved Indian slugger Rocky Colavito.

Cleveland Indians infielder Rocky Colavito is pictured in March 1957. (AP Photo)AP

Associated coverage: Rocky Colavito returns to Cleveland; hundreds of people meet a “true generational hero”

I am on cleveland.comthe life and culture team of the company and cover topics related to gastronomy, beer, wine and sport. If you want to see my stories, here is a directory on Bill Wills from WTAM-1100 and I talk about food and drink usually at 8:20 am Thursday morning. And tune in at 7:05 am Wednesdays for “Beer with Bona and Much, Much More” with Munch Bishop on 1350-AM The Gambler. Twitter: @ mbona30.

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