Signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, Rocky Nelson reported to club’s Class D affiliate in Johnson City in 1942. After just 53 games in the minors, the slick-fielding first baseman served three years in the U.S. army, before returning to the Cardinals system in 1946.
Though he enjoyed several stints in the majors, Nelson is best known as an International League superstar. Employing an unorthodox batting stance, Nelson became the only player to capture the International League MVP award three times – with the Montreal Royals in 1953 and 1955 and with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1958. He also won two triple crowns: in 1955, he hit .364 with 37 homers and 130 RBIs, and in 1958, he topped the circuit with a .326 batting average, 43 home runs and 120 RBIs.
Despite terrorizing International League pitching, Nelson was never a regular in the big leagues. His most successful season was with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960, when he platooned with Dick Stuart at first base. After hitting .300 in the regular season, Nelson smacked a two-run homer in the first inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Yankees. His home run would help set the stage for Bill Mazeroski’s storied ninth-inning walk-off homer.
Career Major League Statistics
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