St. Paul Central alumnus and former Cleveland first baseman Mickey Rocco was born on March 2, 1916 in St. Paul. In addition to baseball, Rocco also played basketball, and was a violinist in the school orchestra according to biographer Gregg Omoth.
After spending time in the Pirates, Braves, White Sox, Dodgers, and Tigers organizations, Rocco made his major league debut with Cleveland at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park on June 5, 1943 at age 27. He went 2-for-4 with a triple, double, RBI, and run scored in a 6-5 loss to the Athletics. He started 107 of Cleveland’s remaining 114 games that season (they played 153 total).
Rocco led the American League and tied for the major league lead with 653 at-bats in 1944. As a townball player, myself, I think this is a really cool stat. I’m always trying to find ways to get some swings in, including supervising 6 AM high school practices so that maybe I’ll get a few pitches at the end. How cool would it be to be able to say you got more at-bats than anybody else in the American League?
In total, Rocco played 440 games over four seasons with Cleveland, with his final major league game coming on June 24, 1946 at age 30. He hit .258 with 30 home runs. He stuck it out in the minors through 1952.
He remained active in baseball, coaching various Twin Cities teams throughout the ’50s and ’60s. According to biographer Gregg Omoth “a Rosetown team he coached won the Minnesota Legion championship in 1965.”
Mickey Rocco passed away on June 1, 1997 at age 81. He was laid to rest at Roselawn Cemetary in Roseville.
For a much more thorough picture of Rocco, read Gregg Omoth’s biography, originally published in the SABR book Who’s on First: Replacement Players in World War II (click here).