Hall of Fame class ready for induction

Indians Hall of Fame set to induct seven

CLEVELAND -- Late-night games of poker didn't entice Rocky Colavito and Herb Score the way they did their respective roommates during the Indians' Spring Training in 1953.

And so, the pair thought it best to just live together, leaving their night-owl peers to each other.

For the better part of the next seven years, Colavito and Score weren't just teammates, but "roomies," as they affectionately referred to each other long after they shared a key.

"We're like brothers," Colavito said Friday. "If you don't know a person after living with them for seven years, you'll never know him."

This weekend, the two are sharing another common bond, as both are being inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame, along with Sam McDowell and Al Rosen and the late Ray Chapman, Addie Joss and Al Lopez.

It's fitting that Colavito, 72, and Score, 73, would share the honor, because they shared plenty of other experiences during their formative years in the sport.

Colavito laughs when he remembers the two times he faced Score in his career. One was during a split-squad Spring Training game, when Score pegged him in the foot with a curveball.

"I told him, 'You're supposed to be my roommate, and you hit me in the foot!'" Colavito recalled.

The next meeting came after Colavito had been shipped to the Tigers -- and don't even get "The Rock" started on that controversial trade, which he says he's still holds a grudge about -- and Score had been sent to the White Sox. They faced each other at old Comiskey Park, and, after Colavito blasted a foul ball over the roof, Score got him to hit a grounder.

"I hit a 1,000-hopper down the third-base line," Colavito said, "and I beat out the throw. That should tell you how good that third baseman was, because I wasn't known for my speed."

After Colavito reached with an infield single, Score turned to him and yelled, "Hey roomie, you're actually going to take that?"

Those were two of the many stories shared at an afternoon luncheon at Jacobs Field honoring the Hall's newest inductees. The Indians haven't updated their team shrine since 1972, so the inclusion of all seven men was long overdue.

Having all four living inductees on hand for Friday's luncheon and Saturday's induction -- which will take place on the field at 6:45 p.m. ET, before the start of the Indians-Mariners game -- is cause for a special thrill not only for the players but also for their family and friends, the fans and the organization.

"It's remarkable," said Bob DiBiasio, Indians vice president of public relations. "It really is a joyous occasion. The memories that these guys have created for millions of Indians fans are truly what baseball is all about. It's a generational sport, and this is a perfect example of that. "

Colavito, Rosen and McDowell all had plenty to say about the difference between their generation and today's -- a common topic of conversation anytime old-timers get together.

"The game is still the same," said the 82-year-old Rosen, who lives a quiet life of retirement in Palm Springs, Calif. "But the players are bigger, stronger and better conditioned. The ballparks are smaller, the ball is wound tighter and the bat is harder."

McDowell, the hard-throwing left-hander whose enormous potential was hindered by alcoholism, thinks baseball's rules addendums have all made life harder for pitchers.

"I think everybody should feel sorry for us," said "Sudden Sam," who has spent the last 35 years working as a drug and alcohol counselor. "Right, Rocky?"

"Yeah," Colavito replied, sarcastically. "Real sorry."

The playful banter continued when Colavito criticized today's strike zone, which he feels is overly expansive.

"Some of these pitches they call strikes, I think I would have needed my cue stick to get to," he said, drawing a roar from the crowd.

The 63-year-old McDowell chimed in: "Yeah, but if [pitchers] come inside, eight lawyers come in to talk to you."

The back-and-forth chatter was entertaining, no doubt, but the afternoon's most poignant moment came when Colavito discussed Score, his old roomie, who's confined to a wheelchair and has difficulty speaking after a major car accident in 1998 and the stroke that followed.

When asked what kind of pitcher Score was, Colavito choked up. He said it's difficult to see Score in his current state, knowing what a big, strong, handsome man he was when the two reached the bigs together.

"To me," Colavito said, his eyes filling with tears, "Herbie was the best left-hander I ever saw."

And the best roomie he ever had.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.