Rico Petrocelli had been a pitcher and a outfielder with a power bat while in high school in Brooklyn, but an elbow injury while pitching as a senior turned off most of the scouts that had been following him.
The Red Sox invited him to a workout, however, and signed him in July 1961.
He debuted just two years later, getting into one game in September 1963 before returning to the minors.
Petrocelli struggled in 1964 at Seattle and was advised to try switch-hitting, an experiment that was scrapped early in the 1965 season after he had won the shortstop job for the Red Sox.
According to the Society for American Baseball Research, hitting coach Pete Runnels had a new strategy for Petrocelli, pull the ball to take advantage of the Green Monster.
That worked out much better for Petrocelli, who would never hit for a high average, but pummeled balls over the Monster with regularity.
He helped Boston to their run from ninth in the American League to the pennant in 1967, earning his first All-Star berth, and he returned to the All-Star Game in 1969 in the process of setting a major-league record for shortstops with 40 home runs, a mark that stood until 2002 when it was broken by Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers.
Petrocelli’s power waned after that season, to 29 homers in 1970, 28 in 1971 and 15 in 1972.
The 1961 season also brought a position change, as Petrocelli moved to third base to accomodate newly acquired defensive whiz Luis Aparicio at shortstop.
An elbow injury limited Petrocelli to 100 games in 1973 and he was nagged by a hamstring injury in 1974 before he was beaned by Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Jim Slaton in September and missed the rest of the season.
The beaning affected Petrocelli the following season, as he would be diagnosed with a severe inner-ear imbalance that affected him at the plate. Medication treated the problem and he was back in the lineup full-time for the playoffs as Boston won the American League East title for the first time.
Petrocelli struggled in 1976 as he had an adverse reaction to the inner-ear medication and had to stop taking it, bringing back the problems with depth perception and balance. He was released late in spring training in 1977.
Petrocelli managed in the minors for several years and worked as a roving minor-league instructor for the Red Sox before opening the Petrocelli Marketing Group in Nashua, N.H.
In parts of 13 seasons, Petrocelli hit .251/.332/.752 in 1,553 games, with 210 homers, 773 RBI and 653 runs, putting up an OPS+ of 108.
Petrocelli hit .200/.292/.842 in the 1967 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, hitting two homers in Game 6, and was 2-for-12 with a homer and two RBI against the Oakland Athletics in the 1975 ALCS.
In the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, Petrocelli was solid at .308/.379/.725 with four RBI and three runs scored.