Tuesday, January 15, 2013

#485- Felipe Alou

Felipe Alou returns us to the two-card post (though I split up the last one) and may be the first guy in the set with both cards air-brushed. Both photos are from the same shoot and show him smiling in his Yankees pinstripes at the Stadium. He’s a few shades darker after the trade to Milwaukee so maybe the photographer was using in infrared bulb. At this point in his career Felipe was pretty much on the way out. After spending nearly all of ’73 splitting time at first and right field with his brother Matty and some other guys, he and Matty were pretty much dumped by new owner George Steinbrenner and Felipe was picked up by Montreal for its stretch drive. George was fond of ridding the team of older outfielders that summer and Felipe had been having a tough season anyway, with his average nearly 60 points under his lifetime one. He didn’t stay with Montreal too long as his Traded card attests and his stay with the Brewers wouldn’t be lengthy either. But in a couple years he’d be back with the Expos, just as optimistic as his photos show him, even air-brushed. Like his brother Matty, this is Felipe's last card (or cards).

Felipe Alou was one of the first Dominicans to get on the radar map of US teams. Before he was signed he was majoring in pre-med back home where he was actually a bigger track star than a baseball player. But in the summer of ’55 at that year’s Pan Am Games he was asked to switch over to the baseball team and performed well enough to garner notice and was signed later that year by the Giants. The next summer he hit the crap out of D league pitching, hitting .380 with 21 homers and 99 RBI’s. In ’57 he hit .306 with 12 homers and 71 RBI’s in A ball before he moved up a few games in Triple A. He then split ’58 between Triple A and San Francisco, hitting .319 with 13 homers and 42 RBI’s at the lower level. Back then Felipe’s principal position was center field but with Willie Mays there he was going to have to move. Plus between the older guys like Willie, Willie Kirkland, and Hank Sauer and new kids Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, and Leon Wagner, there wasn’t too much room. So Felipe played mostly in right, splitting time with the other young guys, and despite having a decent rookie year and better numbers the next couple, it wasn’t until ’61 that he established a hold anywhere. In ’62 he had right field to himself all season and he generated one of his best years offensively of his career. He was an All-Star for the first time and then hit over .300 in the three-game playoffs against LA and .269 in the Series, but blamed himself for not pushing runners along in the last inning of the last game when he missed a bunt. But his home run totals were a pleasant surprise since he was viewed as a singles guy and in ’63 he came pretty close to matching his totals. That was the season when he and his brothers Matty and Jesus all appeared in a game for San Francisco in the same outfield. But it was also the year Felipe made some noise about the treatment of Latin players by the commissioner’s office and not too coincidentally after that season he was sent to the Braves with Ed Bailey, Billy Hoeft, and Ernie Bowman for Del Crandall – who’d be his manager on the Brewers – Bob Hendley, and Bob Shaw.

Alou had a rough start in Milwaukee. A regular participant in winter ball, Felipe hurt his knee in the DR prior to ’64 spring training. It killed his power and for a while his average and then after he was getting over it, he tore his knee again playing first and it took him a little while to get back. But he had a nice bounce in ’65 and then when the team moved to Atlanta the next year he put up his biggest season, hitting 31 homers from the leadoff spot and leading the NL in runs, hits, and total bases. He also got his second All-Star nod and came in second to Matty for the batting title. In ’67 bone chips in his elbow contributed to seriously discounted numbers and would also make for a permanent power swoon, but like ’65 Felipe came back strong in ’68, leading the NL in hits and getting in his third All-Star game. In ’69 he lost time to a broken finger though his average was still quite good. But with kid outfielders Ralph Garr and Dusty Baker in the wings Felipe was sent to Oakland after the season for Jim Nash. With the A’s he took over left for a year and hit well enough but then got traded again to make way for another youngster, this time Joe Rudi. Early in the ’71 season Felipe went to the Yankees for Rob Gardner and Ron Klimkowski. He had a pretty good year in ’71 while playing predominantly right field for the Yankees but his numbers tailed off the next couple years as he put in more time at first base. After a few at bats for the Brewers in ’74 he was done. Felipe finished with a .286 average on 2,101 hits, 206 homers, and 852 RBI’s. In the post-season he hit .259 with an RBI in eight games.

After playing Alou returned to the DR where in addition to playing and then managing winter ball he opened a sporting goods store with his brothers. But Felipe got too restless and by ’76 was back in the States coaching in the Montreal system. From ’78 to ’91 he was either managing or coaching in the Montreal system, or coaching up in Montreal (’79-’80, ’84, and ’92). During that time he was 417-426. In ’92 he got promoted to the top spot in Montreal and did a nice job generating wins and developing young talent. In ’94 he put up a .649 winning percentage and looked headed for serious post-season action before the strike hit. He won Manager of the year anyway that season. When the Montreal management started unloading the kids Felipe’s record suffered and he was dismissed during the 2001 season. In ’02 he worked as bench coach for Detroit before going back to San Francisco to manage the Giants in ’03. That year he returned to the post-season on the back of Barry Bonds and he remained as manager until he retired following the 2006 season. He was able to manage his son Moises on both teams. He has a record of 1,033-1,021 as a manager and continues to do some admin work for the team.

No room for the star bullets and Felipe eschews the parenthetical thing. His surname is actually that of his mom and his dad’s surname is his middle one. I got no idea about the pancake reference. In “the Bronx Zoo” the Alous get mentioned. According to Sparky Lyle the reason the brothers were released by King George was that they both popped up late in a game in early September which pissed George off. He ordered Ralph Houk, then the manager, to release them. But Houk, aware they’d both have to take significant pay cuts to sign with new teams, tried to trade them instead, thereby allowing them to maintain their salaries. He was able to swap Matty to St. Louis and the Expos took Felipe off waivers so his plan worked. But one or both of them got mad at Houk because they thought it was his idea to trade them. It was, but for a beneficial reason.

Topps goes nostalgic on the back of the Traded card with the whole Milwaukee connection. Felipe had all of three at bats for the Brewers in ’74 so that connection doesn’t seem to have contributed too much. That last line makes it look like he was traded in ’66 but that was just the year the Braves relocated to Atlanta. Felipe has a very detailed SABR page.

We just hooked up Carmen Fanzone to the Braves and it looks like we’re going to do it again:

1. Alou and Milt Pappas ’68 to ’69 Braves;
2. Pappas and Carmen Fanzone ’71 to ’73 Cubs;

1 comment:

  1. I remember Felipe as the AAA skipper in the minors for the Expos system in the 80's. Since I spent a lot of time hanging out during batting practice, I always thought he was good teacher and popular with his players.