Posts Tagged ‘Walt Alston’

Buff Biographies: Walt Alston

July 24, 2013

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Walt Alston

Walt Alston

Bill Johnson’s biosketch for the SABR biography project at Baseball Reference (d0t) Com is the best, most comprehensive you are likely to find. Check it out for a fact-packed good page of information you may not already completely have about the legendary Dodger manager and Miami (O) University graduate. Were you aware, for example, ┬áthat Brooklyn players Jackie Robinson and Billy Loes weren’t exactly happy with Alston as the two-straight-years NL champion Dodgers (1952-53) lost the 1954 pennant to the New York Giants in Walt’s first year at the helm of his 23-season career as manager of the boys in royal blue? Check it out:

Walter Alston was also once a Houston Buff, if ever so briefly, and it came on the heels of his even most brief career as a three-pitch strikeout victim for the St. Louis Cardinals in his only MLB time at bat on September 27, 1936. Alston was on the big league club roster as an end-of-season call-up player, but he only got into the game as a replacement for first baseman Johnny Mize after the latter was ejected. Alston then followed this opportunity by committing an error on one of his two chances in the field and then striking out on three pitches in his only time at bat. The next spring, Walt Alston started the 1937 season as a first baseman fo the Houston Buffs.

In 65 games for the 1937 Houston Buffs, Walt Alston hit only .212 with no home runs in 208 times at bat. Somehow he was promoted from Houston to Rochester that same season where he hit .246 with 6 HR in 66 games and 203 times at bat. Go figure.

Over his 13-season minor league career (1935-47), first baseman Walt Alston batted a very respectable .295 with 176 home runs. He also built a reputation as a quiet, mild-mannered, unassuming personality who was slow to anger on the outside, but a guy who was totally committed to doing what he felt was right. Sometimes that mild exterior was misunderstood by those who count on explosions of rage as their first choice for managerial reactions to disputes that come up in many games.

As he would prove over time as the 23-season manager of the Dodgers (1954-76), Walt Alston was neither slow nor weak. He was simply the “real deal” as the strong silent type.

In his time at the Brooklyn/LA Dodger helm, as you probably know, Alston was the first and only manager of a Brooklyn Dodger World Series winner in 1955, but he also led the Brooklyns to another pennant in 1956. That second time, the Dodgers lost to the Yankees that they had defeated in 1955. The Dodgers lost out to the Braves in 1957 and then moved to Los Angeles in 1958. They returned to the World Series again in 1959, defeating the Chicago White Sox for their first World Series win as the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Under Alston, the Dodgers played in seven World Series. They won in four tries (1955, 1959, 1963, & 1965) and they lost in three (1956, 1966, & 1974).

Walt Alston was a three-time MLB manager of the year and a six-time NL manager of the year. He won 2,040 games as a major league manager and was selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1983.

When Walt Alston yielded the managerial reins to Tommy Lasorda late in 1976, he tuned things over to a guy who would also stay on the job for a Hall of Fame managerial career (1976-1996). Think about that. – For 43 seasons (1954-1996), the Dodgers had only two managers – and they together won over 4,000 games and places for each of them in the Hall of Fame. How great does great have to be before we find another word for it?

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Walt Alston’s life began and ended in places far away from the big spotlight of the country’s media spotlight. The (6’2″, 195 lb.) (BR/TR) former first baseman was born December 1, 1911 in Venice, Ohio. He died October 1, 1984 in Oxford, Ohio at the age of 72.

The man was Dodger Blue all the way, but it’s still nice to remember that his path to managerial greatness includes the time he passed through our town in 1936 as a member of the Houston Buffs.