Brooklyn's Rocky Nelson Dies at 81

Rocky Nelson, who played for Brooklyn, although briefly, in 1951 and 1956, died December 29 in Portsmouth, Ohio at the age of 81. Nelson was one of literally hundreds of players who attempted to crack major league lineups in the 1950s and despite glossy minor league statistis, just couldn't quite make it. He was truly a AAAA player, too good for Triple-A and not quite good enough for The Show.

Nelson was signed by the Cardinals in 1942 but he spent 1943-45 in military service. He played for St. Louis in 1949 and 1950, then was traded to Pittsburgh in mid-season in 1951. The Chicago White Sox claimed him on waivers in September and quickly traded him to Brooklyn for Hector Rodriguez.

The Dodgers swapped him to Cleveland after the 1953 season for Bill Abernathie and then re-purchased him from the Indians May 11, 1956 only to have the Cardinals claim him off waivers on July 30. He later played for Pittsburgh 1959-61.

With all the bouncing around he did, one might think we just wasn't all that good but in between major league stops he absolutely crushed minor league pitching on a steady basis.

While with the Cardinals he hit .319 for Columbus and led the International league with 23 triples in 1946 and the following year rang up a league-leading .371 average, adding 105 runs batted in. He followed that with a .303 average before the Cardinals called him up.

He didn't stick but hit .418 in 48 games back in Columbus in 1950 before again getting the call from the Cardinals.

After being traded to the Dodgers, he hit .256 in 37 games in 1952 and was 0-for-3 in the World Series, then exploded in Montreal in 1953. Posting a .308 average, he turned on the power, hitting 34 home runs and knocking in a league-leading 136 runs.

The following season he led the International League with 31 homers and knocked in 94 while hitting .311 and in 1955 nearly ran the table, leading the league in games (154), runs (118), home run (37), runs batted in (130) and average (.364).

Early in 1956 he was hitting .394 over the first 49 games when the Dodgers called him up but after hitting .208 with the Dodgers little better with the Cardinals it was back to Montreal.

There he hit .294/28/102 in 1957 and .326/43/120 in 1958 before finally sticking with the Pirates for three seasons, 1949-51, and went 3-for-9 in the 1960 World Series with a home run as the Pirates topped the Yankees.

He was named "Most Valuable Player" three times in the AAA International League and was inducted into the Canadian and International League Halls of Fame.

His major league career stats over 620 games were only .249/31/173.

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