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Walter Alston

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Walter Emmons Alston
(Smokey)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1983

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[edit] Introduction

1952 Parkhurst
"He is non-irritating. Do you realize how important it is to have a manager who doesn't irritate you?" - Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley about Walt Alston

As a player, Walter Alston had only one major league plate appearance, striking out against pitcher Lon Warneke. However, for his achievements as a manager, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on March 10, 1983 by the Committee on Baseball Veterans.

[edit] Early career

Alston was born in Venice, OH (the town named Venice near Cincinnati, not the one in northern Ohio), and went to school in Darrtown, OH, not far from Venice. His father had played semi-pro ball. Walt was a basketball and baseball player as a youth whose fastball earned him the nickname "Smokey". He attended Miami University, also in the Cincinnati area, and was captain of the baseball and basketball teams, graduating with a degree and taking a job as a teacher.

He began in the minors in 1935, playing third base for the Greenwood Chiefs of the East Dixie League and hitting .326. Thereafter he was primarily a first baseman, and in 1936 he hit 35 home runs with a .326 average for the Huntington Red Birds of the Middle Atlantic League. That earned him a shot at the majors in September.

[edit] Short time in the majors

Alston was a first baseman with the St Louis Cardinals in the 1936 season. He played in his only major league game on September 27th, as a substitute for future Hall of Famer Johnny Mize, who had earlier been ejected from the game. Alston struck out in his only major league at bat. He later claimed that immediately before striking out, he hit a long fly ball that landed barely foul; had it been fair, his career could have taken an altogether different turn.

[edit] Back in the minors

Returning to the minor leagues, Alston led the Middle Atlantic League in home runs four times, RBI twice, and runs once. He had 35 HR in 1936, 28 HR in 1940 (his first season as player/manager), 25 HR, 102 RBI, & 88 runs in 1941, and 12 HR and 90 RBI in 1942.

Smokey's minor league career went 13 seasons, through 1947. He had 176 home runs with a .295 average, primarily in the Cardinals organization but also with several years in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. In 1941 and 1942 and 1944 and 1945 he also pitched 34 innings in the minors, hearkening back to his days as a pitcher in his childhood.

[edit] Minor league manager

Walt started managing in 1940 and put in 12 seasons before he became a major league manager. During his six years at the AAA level, he got to know many of the young Dodgers players who would later come to the majors. For instance, he had the young Tommy Lasorda as a pitcher at Montreal every year from from 1950 to 1953. Chuck Connors, Jim Gilliam and Johnny Podres were other players on his Montreal teams.

[edit] Dodgers manager

Alston was named manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers for the 1954 season, a year in which the team went 92-62. In 1955, he led Brooklyn to the pennant and its first World Series championship; the team repeated as National League champions in 1956. After the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, CA, Alston led the team to pennants in 1959, 1963, 1965, 1966 and 1974, and three more world championships (1959, 1963, 1965).

He won seven National League pennants in his 23-year tenure as Dodgers manager. During that time his teams had a losing record only four times, while winning at least 90 games in a season ten different times.

He was well-known for signing a series of one-year contracts instead of going for an extended term.

Named Manager of the Year six times, Alston also guided a victorious NL All-Star squad a record seven times. He retired with a few games left in the 1976 season with 2,040 wins, ceding the job to long-time Tommy Lasorda, who would hold it until 1995.

As a manager, Alston was noted for his studious approach to the game (he had taught school in the off-season while in the minors) and for signing 23 one-year contracts with the Dodgers at a time when multi-year contracts were becoming the norm in the sport. Dodger General Manager Branch Rickey and statistician Allan Roth would provide data to Alston for use in managing the team.

[edit] Later life

Walter Alston was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1983. He died in Oxford, OH at the age of 72.


Some or all content from this article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Walter Emmons Alston". It has also been much expanded during its time here.

[edit] Notable Achievements


Preceded by
Chuck Dressen
Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers Manager
1954-1976
Succeeded by
Tommy Lasorda

[edit] Year By Year Managerial Record

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1940 Portsmouth Red Birds Middle Atlantic League St. Louis Cardinals replaced Dutch Dorman
1941 Springfield Cardinals Middle Atlantic League 69-57 4th St. Louis Cardinals Lost in 1st round
1942 Springfield Cardinals Middle Atlantic League 59-71 5th St. Louis Cardinals
1944 Trenton Packers Interstate League 31-18 Brooklyn Dodgers replaced Joe Bird
1945 Trenton Spartans Interstate League 70-69 3rd Brooklyn Dodgers Lost in 1st round
1946 Nashua Dodgers New England League 80-41 1st Brooklyn Dodgers League Champs
1947 Pueblo Dodgers Western League 70-58 3rd Brooklyn Dodgers League Champs
1948 St. Paul Saints American Association 86-68 3rd Brooklyn Dodgers League Champs
1949 St. Paul Saints American Association 93-60 1st Brooklyn Dodgers Lost in 1st round
1950 Montreal Royals International League 86-67 2nd Brooklyn Dodgers Lost in 1st round
1951 Montreal Royals International League 95-59 1st Brooklyn Dodgers League Champs
1952 Montreal Royals International League 95-56 1st Brooklyn Dodgers Lost league finals
1953 Montreal Royals International League 89-63 2nd Brooklyn Dodgers League Champs
1954 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 92-62 2nd Brooklyn Dodgers
1955 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 98-55 1st Brooklyn Dodgers Won World Series
1956 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 93-61 1st Brooklyn Dodgers Lost World Series
1957 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 84-70 3rd Brooklyn Dodgers
1958 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 71-83 7th Los Angeles Dodgers
1959 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 88-68 1st Los Angeles Dodgers Won World Series
1960 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 82-72 4th Los Angeles Dodgers
1961 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 89-65 2nd Los Angeles Dodgers
1962 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 102-63 2nd Los Angeles Dodgers
1963 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 99-63 1st Los Angeles Dodgers Won World Series
1964 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 80-82 7th Los Angeles Dodgers
1965 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 97-65 1st Los Angeles Dodgers Won World Series
1966 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 95-67 1st Los Angeles Dodgers Lost World Series
1967 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 73-89 8th Los Angeles Dodgers
1968 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 76-86 8th Los Angeles Dodgers
1969 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 85-77 4th Los Angeles Dodgers
1970 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 87-74 2nd Los Angeles Dodgers
1971 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 89-73 2nd Los Angeles Dodgers
1972 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 85-70 3rd Los Angeles Dodgers
1973 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 95-66 2nd Los Angeles Dodgers
1974 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 102-60 1st Los Angeles Dodgers Lost World Series
1975 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 88-74 2nd Los Angeles Dodgers
1976 Los Angeles Dodgers National League 90-68 -- Los Angeles Dodgers replaced by Tommy Lasorda

[edit] Further reading

  • Walter Alston (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, January 1977, pp. 90-92. [1]

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