Walter Alston was at the helm of the Dodgers from their mid-1950s battles with the Yankees to their mid-1970s races with the Big Red Machine. Alston managed the Dodgers for 23 years, winning seven pennants and four World Series.
Walter Alston turned to managing in 1940
at age 28 when it grew clear to him that
his progress as a player had
come to a halt.
Walter Emmons Alston (1911-1984) was an infielder who played for Miami University in Ohio. Branch Rickey signed him to a minor-league deal after he graduated in 1935, and he played two years before getting a single at bat in the bigs. It was Alston's only major-league at bat.
He started his managerial career while still a player, with Portsmouth of the Mid-Atlantic League in 1940. Rickey brought Walt into the Dodger fray in '44 and then brought him along like he did players, allowing him to experience success at higher and higher levels.
In 1946, Rickey chose Alston as one of two managers to manage black players by placing Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella on his Nashua, New Hampshire, team. From 1948 to 1953, Walt managed at the Triple-A level.
After Chuck Dressen won pennants in 1952 and '53 as the Brooklyn manager, he was fired when he demanded a multiyear contract. Alston was the surprise choice as Dressen's replacement, and Walt accepted one-year contracts for the next 23 years. In contrast to the other New York managers of the 1950s -- Dressen, Leo Durocher, and Casey Stengel -- Alston was a quiet, businesslike man. As a field general, he was in control. He was a devotee of bunts, the hit-and-run, intentional passes, stolen bases, platooning, and pinch hitters.
The Dodgers finished second in Alston's first season, 1954, and then won the pennant in 1955. For the first time in five tries, the Brooklyn nine finally beat the Bombers in the Series. The Dodgers also won the pennant in '56. In '58, the Dodgers' first year in L.A., the team finished seventh. Walter O'Malley hired Dressen as a coach, breeding speculation about Alston's imminent demise. Walt did his best managing job in '59, driving a less-than-talented Dodger team to the championship.
Alston helped to rebuild the Dodgers along the lines of a team that he wanted to manage, emphasizing speed, defense, pitching, and more pitching. With Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale pitching, LA won the championship in 1963 and again in '65, and the pennant in '66. His teams went into a slight decline, rebounded by 1970, and challenged for the NL West crown each year (winning it in '74) until he retired in 1976. Alston was inducted in 1983.
Here are Walter Alston's major league managing totals:
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