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Dave Bristol

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James David Bristol

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[edit] Biographical Information

Dave Bristol was a minor league infielder from 1951 to 1961, missing 1954 due to military service, and a minor league manager from 1957 to 1965. He was a smart young man, earning a scholarship to attend Western Carolina University and then the University of North Carolina, obtaining a degree in education while studying in the winter time. He was not much of a prospect as a player, and was already a player-manager when he had his best seasons, hitting .332 with 46 RBI while drawing 43 walks in 85 games for the Hornell Redlegs of the New York-Penn League in 1957, then putting up a .312 average with 26 doubles and 10 homers for the Geneva Redlegs of the same league in 1958. He saw the writing on the wall as a player before the 1962 season with the Macon Peaches, when a young hotshot named Pete Rose beat him for the second baseman’s job. He was solely a manager after that. He was quite successful as a manager, earning league titles in 1960, 1961 and 1964, the latter with the Reds’ top farm club, the Pacific Coast League’s San Diego Padres.

He then joined the Cincinnati Reds coaching staff in 1966 and was promoted to manager on July 13, replacing Don Heffner, a position he held through 1969. The Reds improved under his tenure, but failed to win a pennant; he was let go in favor of Sparky Anderson, who would lead the Reds to a decade of success in the 1970s. Still, he can be credited with putting the first pieces of the Big Red Machine in place, by moving Pete Rose to the outfield, integrating the young Tony Perez and Johnny Bench into the line-up, and bringing together Wayne Granger and Clay Carroll to form the first of the dominating bullpens that would caracterize the team over the next decade.

Left without a job after the 1969 season, Bristol signed on as a coach with the 1970 Montreal Expos, but a few weeks later was hired to manage the Seattle Pilots. The team was in turmoil, having gone through a very trying inaugural season in 1969 and was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. During spring training, the team was sold to new owners in Milwaukee, WI and became the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers finished tied for 4th with their expansion brethren the Kansas City Royals in the AL West in 1970, but with a very poor record that was only made to look decent in comparison with the woeful last-place Chicago White Sox. The team then returned to the cellar in 1971 and got off to a terrible start in 1972, prompting Bristol's firing after only 30 games. He was replaced by coach Roy McMillan on an interim basis on May 28, and then by Del Crandall. From 1973 to 1975, he was a member of the Montreal Expos coaching staff under manager Gene Mauch.

In 1976, Bristol was hired to manage the Atlanta Braves under brash and colorful young owner Ted Turner. Turner wanted to make his team a glamor one, signing expensive free agents such as pitcher Andy Messersmith for the 1976 season and outfielder Gary Matthews in 1977, and expecting success to follow instantly. The Braves were among the first teams to broadcast most of their games on a cable television channel - which Turner owned - but the product on the field was quite disappointing. After a last-place finish in 1976, Turner became angered by the team's poor start in 1977 - 8-21, including an ongoing 16-game losing streak - and gave Bristol a ten-day leave of absence on May 11. Taking a page from 19th Century owner Chris Von der Ahe, Turner installed himself as the manager in spite of his complete lack of baseball experience. The novelty lasted one game, a 17th consecutive loss, until National League President Chub Feeney intervened and persuaded Turner to end this silly experiment which was bringing ridicule to the game (and which was also against Major League rules, as managers or players were forbidden to hold ownership shares in any team). Coach Vern Benson took over the team's reins for the next game and ended the losing streak while Turner convinced Bristol to return to complete the season. The episode actually enhanced Bristol's reputation, and he landed a job as a coach with the San Francisco Giants in 1978, a year when the team surged to respectability after years in 5th place. Manager Joe Altobelli was unable to maintain the magic in 1979 and was fired late in the season, giving Bristol another opportunity to lead a team. The team’s top brass figured that Altobelli’s laid-back style was repsonsible for the Giants’ seeming lack-of-focus in 1979 and that a more rigid manager like Bristol was just what was required to return to the previous year’s success. The Giants had a lot more talent than the Brewers and Braves, but the 1980 season was a tough one, with Bristol's old-style ways clashing with the new generation of players such as popular young stars Jack Clark and John Montefusco. The Giants finished a disappointing 5th, and Bristol was fired at the end of the year, to be replaced by Frank Robinson. His reputation as a manager had been damaged beyond repair, as he had become a caricature of a disciplinarian completely out-of-tune with the more laid-back and player-centered atmosphere of the 1980s.

Bristol then became a Philadelphia Phillies coach from 1982 to 1985 and again in 1988. He finished his big league career as he began it, as a Reds coach in 1989 and 1993.


Preceded by
Don Heffner
Cincinnati Reds Manager
1966-1969
Succeeded by
Sparky Anderson
Preceded by
Joe Schultz
Milwaukee Brewers Manager
1970-1972
Succeeded by
Del Crandall
Preceded by
Connie Ryan
Atlanta Braves Manager
1976-1977
Succeeded by
Ted Turner
Preceded by
Vern Benson
Atlanta Braves Manager
1977
Succeeded by
Bobby Cox
Preceded by
Joe Altobelli
San Francisco Giants Manager
1979-1980
Succeeded by
Frank Robinson

[edit] Year-by-Year Managerial Record

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1957 Hornell Redlegs New York-Penn League 38-59 7th Cincinnati Redlegs the Bradford Beagles disbanded on May 23
and were replaced by Hornell on May 28
1958 Geneva Redlegs New York-Penn League 69-57 2nd Cincinnati Redlegs League Champs
1959 Visalia Redlegs California League 63-77 5th Cincinnati Redlegs
1960 Palatka Redlegs Florida State League 81-56 2nd Cincinnati Redlegs League Champs
1961 Topeka Reds Three-I League 79-50 1st Cincinnati Reds none League Champs
1962 Macon Peaches South Atlantic League 80-59 3rd Cincinnati Reds League Champs
1963 Macon Peaches South Atlantic League 81-59 1st Cincinnati Reds
1964 San Diego Padres Pacific Coast League 91-67 2nd Cincinnati Reds League Champs
1965 San Diego Padres Pacific Coast League 70-78 8th (t) Cincinnati Reds
1966 Cincinnati Reds National League 39-38 7th Cincinnati Reds replaced Don Heffner (37-46) on July 13
1967 Cincinnati Reds National League 87-75 4th Cincinnati Reds
1968 Cincinnati Reds National League 83-79 4th Cincinnati Reds
1969 Cincinnati Reds National League 89-73 3rd Cincinnati Reds
1970 Milwaukee Brewers American League 65-97 4th (t) Milwaukee Brewers
1971 Milwaukee Brewers American League 69-92 6th Milwaukee Brewers
1972 Milwaukee Brewers American League 10-20 -- Milwaukee Brewers replaced by Roy McMillan on May 28
1976 Atlanta Braves National League 70-92 6th Atlanta Braves
1977 Atlanta Braves National League 60-100 6th Atlanta Braves Ted Turner (0-1) and Vern Benson (1-0)
managed the team May 11 and May 12
1979 San Francisco Giants National League 10-12 4th San Francisco Giants replaced Joe Altobelli (61-79)
1980 San Francisco Giants National League 75-86 5th San Francisco Giants

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