Walt Alston had exactly one at-bat in his major league career, on September 27, 1936, as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals (he played as a substitute for another Hall of Famer, Johnny Mize). That kind of futility made him the perfect fit for the hapless Brooklyn Dodgers, where he started managing in 1954 - from 1911 to 1954, the Brooklyn Dodgers never won a World Series. They struggled in the 1920s and 1930s under Wilbert Robinson and Casey Stengel, then became contenders in the 1940s under Leo Durocher and had great success under him, Bert Shotton and Charlie Dressen, but were always "Dem Bums," perennial also-rans to the Yankees powerhouse. They won 7 pennants altogether:
1941 - lost to the Yankees in 5
1947 - lost to the Yankees in 7
1949 - lost to Yankees in 5
1952 - lost to Yankees in 7
1953 - lost to Yankees in 6
Even-tempered and philosophical, Alston managed to do what the more abrasive and flamboyant managers, like Durocher and Stengel, could not - win a World Series in Brooklyn. In 1955, in his second year as a manager, Alston managed his team to a splendid season, winning 98 games behind Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges and Don Newcombe. The Yankees were a solid team as well, with hitters like Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Moose Skowron, and pitchers like Whitey Ford, Bob Turley, Tommy Byrne, Jim Konstanty and Don Larsen. But thanks to Johnny Podres big time Game 7 performance, the Dodgers carried the day.
Alston proved his worth as a manager by adapting the power-laden Brooklyn clubs of the 1950s to spacious Dodger Stadium. He led his team to three more World Series titles in LA, in 1959, 1963 and 1965, and they were led by pitching (Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale), speed (Maury Wills) and defense.
Alston is part of a great tradition of Dodger managers. Before him, HOFers Durocher and Stengel helmed the team, and after him, Tommy Lasorda carved out a Hall of Fame career. In fact, many of his players later became successful managers themselves, including Gil Hodges, Tommy Lasorda, Bobby Valentine and Don Zimmer.
At age 62, Alston guided his 1974 Dodgers to a seventh and final World Series. He was honored as Manager of the Year six times by Associated Press and five times by United Press International. In eight All-Star Game assignments, he was the winning manager a record seven times. Alston was the first 1970s manager inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Alston is one of seven managers to amass more than 2,000 wins (he finished with 2,040) - the others are:
Connie Mack ------ 3,731
John McGraw ------ 2,763
Sparky Anderson --- 2,194
Bucky Harris ------- 2,157
Joe McCarthy ------ 2,125
Leo Durocher ------ 2,008
A product of the "Cradle of Coaches," Miami (Ohio) University, Alston tried almost every position during a 13-year minor league playing career (1935-47). Initially a third baseman, he moved to first base in 1936 and led the Mid-Atlantic League with 35 homers. Promoted to St. Louis, Alston struck out in his only major league at-bat. His first managerial assignment came while he was still a player, with Portsmouth (Mid-Atlantic League) in 1940. He led the circuit in homers (28), but the club finished sixth.
The following two years, Alston led the Mid-Atlantic League in homers and RBI. He moved up, as player only, to Rochester (International League), but was released in 1944. Branch Rickey, who knew Alston from his days as the Cardinal's GM, hired him as player-manager at Trenton (Interstate League) on July 28, 1944, beginning Alston's 33-year run as a skipper in the Dodgers' organization. He spent two seasons at Trenton, one at Nashua, one at Pueblo, and two at St. Paul. After leading St. Paul to the Junior World Series in 1949, Alston was promoted to Brooklyn's top minor league club, Montreal. During four seasons in Canada, guiding many of Brooklyn's future stars, Alston's Royals never finished below second place.
Finally, on November 24, 1953, Walter O'Malley named Alston to replace Charlie Dressen, who wanted a multi-year contract, a Dodger taboo. Alston served under 23 consecutive one-year contracts. Following charismatic helmsmen like Leo Durocher, Bert Shotton, and Dressen, Alston kept a low profile in the dugout. A quiet, dignified leader, Walt refused to panic following a disappointing second-place finish in 1954.
"Fans tend to get too excited by streaks of either kind and I think the press does too.
There should be a happy medium."
— Walt Alston
"I'd rather win two or three, lose one, win two or three more. I'm a great
believer in things evening out. If you win a whole bunch in a row, somewhere along the
line you're going to lose some too."
— Walt Alston
"I'm happy for him (Gil Hodges). That is, if you think becoming a big league manager
is a good thing to have happen to you."
— Walt Alston
"Individual grievances and pet peeves have got to go by the wayside. Generally, you don't have to worry about the guys who are playing every day, it's the guys who are sitting on the bench that are the ones that get needles in their pants."
— Walt Alston
"Perhaps the truest axiom in baseball is that the toughest thing to do is repeat."
— Walt Alston
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