Where Did You Go Felipe Alou?
I watch big league managers, most of whom make moves according to what the questions might be during the post game press conference and I wonder where did all the managerial geniuses go? Felipe Alou was the best, no question about it and should be in the Hall of Fame at this point. Why has on field baseball forgotten this genius?
Truth be known, I am certain it is the choice of Mr. Alou not to manage anymore. He is 77 years old now and probably would rather be sitting on a beach in his native Dominican Republic enjoying a cool Caribbean drink and watching the pretty bikinis stroll by. Who could blame him? True, he does work as a special assistant for the San Francisco Giants and lives in Florida but we the baseball fans need him in the dugout. Selfish I know but nonetheless I continue to hope that wishing might make it come true.
I dearly miss watching him outmaneuver other managers with the skill of a fortune teller. He seemed to have the ability to accurately predict what situation would arise in the sixth inning even before the game began. Moves by opposing managers had already been anticipated and easily counteracted. He seemed never to make a mistake. Only in his last year with the Montreal Expos did he seem indifferent at times and who could blame him? Then owner Jeffrey Loria wasn’t interested in putting a competitive team on the field and Felipe had little if anything to work with anymore. It must have been discouraging to say the least.
Then came his firing in 2001 despite the howls of protest from players, media and fans alike. They knew that no one could ever replace the beloved Felipe and given even a decent team to work with, his odds of winning were much greater than everyone else.
Felipe grew up as poor as anyone ever could have and dreamed of becoming a doctor as a way out of this horrible poverty. While in pre-med school, scouts noticed his ability on the baseball diamond. At first he refused all baseball offers but when his father became unemployed, Felipe felt he had no choice but to accept a meager $200 bonus to sign with the Giants.
The culture shock was like nothing he had ever experienced in his life. He was unaware of racism, spoke almost no English and didn’t know anyone. Couple this with a sudden influx of Latin and black players on the San Francisco Giants and the odds of Alou making the team decreased to the point that he was in real danger of losing his spot on the team. His refusal to accept being sent down might have lead to the end of a promising career. His reasons at the time were a pregnant wife and a need for major league money. Team officials changed their mind, allowed him to stay and found him a job as their everyday left fielder, a position he had never played. History shows us that all worked out well and Alou went on to have a 17 year big league career.
Alou enjoyed a very good major league career. He was the second Dominican to ever play in the major leagues. He first joined the San Francisco Giants in 1958 and made his first All Star game appearance in 1962. He played alongside Willie Mays and later with Henry Aaron in Milwaukee. He made baseball history in 1963 by playing in the outfield with his two brothers, Matty and Jesus for these same Giants.
Felipe Alou is only the 53rd manager to amass 1,000 wins and only the third foreign born skipper to accomplish this feat. Watching him manage every night was a rare treat. While opposing managers scratched their heads and wondered desperately what to do next, Alou stood in the dugout, furiously spitting out sunflower seed shells and waiting for a mistake by the opposition.
He was sure something to watch and enjoy. I know he’s enjoying life. The Hall of Fame should be next. He’s certainly got my vote.
By: Doug Bird