Walter Alston

Alston carved out a Hall of Fame career as a manager of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. 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. He proved he was boss in 1955, quelling clubhouse turmoil just before the start of the season. With a lineup of stars, Alston led Brooklyn to its only World Series victory in 1955 and a pennant in 1956. Alston adapted to his talent: the power-laden Brooklyn clubs, the pitching-rich Los Angeles Dodgers of the 1960s, and the young team of the 1970s. Sandy KoufaxDon Drysdale, and Maury Wills led the group that earned four pennants in eight seasons from 1959 to 1966. Steve Garvey, Dave Lopes, and Ron Cey headed Alston’s last great team. 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.