After a shaky start with the Boston Red Sox, Petrocelli went on to become a solid part of the team during the late 1960s and early 1970s as one of the American League’s best defensive players.
Following an outstanding high school career, Rico Petrocelli was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1962. He made a brief appearance with the club in 1963, but returned to the minors until 1965 when he came up as the team’s regular shortstop.
He hit 13 home runs in his first major league season and augmented it with 18 the following season. Yet in both seasons, his batting average remained low. During 1967, his overall stats took a jump. His batting average rose to .259, and he was an integral part of the “Impossible Dream” American League pennant winners. That same year, he was the first recipient of the Boston Red Sox Club’s “Man of the Year” award.
After a 1968 dip, his career soared in 1969. He ranked among the American League’s slugging leaders with 40 homeruns, 97 RBI’s and a .297 average. Only “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks hit more homers in a single season at shortstop than Petrocelli.
While he never repeated his prodigious season, he maintained a solid career with the Red Sox, moving to a permanent third base slot in 1971. In that position, Petrocelli became one of the league’s best defensive players. After recovering from inner ear problems in 1975, he helped Boston grab the pennant, with a .308 Series batting average, in an exciting Fall Classic against Cincinnati.
Rico Petrocelli retired during spring training in 1977. He was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.