CLEVELAND — Baseball legend Rocky Colavito will be honored in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood with his own statue.
Matthew Gambatese, who was born and raised in Cleveland’s Little Italy, has a lot of pride in his community.
A few years ago, he got the idea of honoring one of his favorite Cleveland sports icons.
“Rocky Colavito had a book signing two years ago, and I just came up with the idea that Rocky should have a statue because I’m a big fan of Rocky's. I’m going to be 80 years old, so I’m right in the right age group," Gambatese said.
Colavito was an outfielder for the Cleveland Indians in the 1950s. The New York native of Italian descent and quickly became a fan favorite before being traded.
Gambatese said he reached out to the Indians about putting the statue outside of the team’s stadium but was told he wasn’t qualified because he wasn’t in the Hall of Fame.
“My quick mind said, ‘You know what, I don’t want him there anyway. I want it in my neighborhood,’ because Rocky Colavito played for the Cleveland Indians, was a great ballplayer for the people, and I thought it would be a big asset for the neighborhood,” Gambatese said. “The age group of 60 and over, they have fond memories of him. And I’ve heard every aspect of how great a guy he was. He was a tremendous (asset) to Cleveland baseball,” he said. “I’ve heard so many stories of him stopping just to sign a kids autograph.”
In addition to the statue in Tony Brush Park, it will also have a wall for those who helped raise money.
Gambatese said it’s a great opportunity not just to honor Rocky, but also to bring pride to the community.
“I’m ecstatic. I’m full of joy,” he said.