May 12th, 2013

May 12 – Happy Birthday Felipe Alou

falouIf you ask any native of the Dominican Republic currently playing big league ball which of their countrymen did the most to pave the way for them to play in the majors, their answer would be Felipe Alou. Actually, they might say Felipe Rojas. (His Dad’s last name was Rojas and his Mom’s was Alou.) Ozzie Virgil was the first Dominican to play in the MLB, when the New York Giants brought him up in 1956 but Virgil had migrated to the US as a youth and attended high school in New York City.  Alou became the second native of his country (and the first to have lived there all his life) to play big league ball the following year as a member of that same Giants organization.

He was born in the Dominican Republic on May 12, 1935 to extremely poor parents. Felipe was an outstanding athlete and an outstanding student, who had been accepted in the pre-med program at the University of Santo Domingo. But he also played on his country’s baseball team that competed in 1955 Pan American Game. When he led the Dominican Republic to a victory over the US in the finals of those Games the MLB scouts came calling and he signed with the Giants.

It took awhile because the Giant organization in the late fifties was loaded with outstanding black and latino prospects, but Alou finally became a starter in San Franciso’s outfield in the  early sixties. His younger brothers Matty and Jesus later joined him there and the three made history when they became the first three siblings to ever play in one team’s outfield at the same time, in September of 1963.

That was also Alou’s last year with the Giants. After the ’63 season, he was traded to Milwaukee in a seven-player deal. Felipe played for the Braves for the next six seasons, including 1966, when the team relocated to Atlanta and he put together his best year in the big leagues, with 31 HRs, a .327 batting average and leading the league in hits (218) and runs (122.)

He was traded to the A’s in 1970. By then he was 35-years-old and his best playing days were behind him. During the first week of his second season with Oakland, he was traded to the Yankees for pitchers Rob Gardner and Ron Klimkowski, where he was reunited with his brother Matty to become the first set of siblings to wear the pinstripes together since Bobby and Billy Shantz had done so in 1960.

Ralph Houk, the Yankee skipper at the time of the trade loved Felipe and put him in the lineup as a first baseman or outfielder 131 times during his first season in the Bronx. Alou responded with a .289 batting average and 69 RBIs that year. He continued to play a lot for Houk the following year, but his run production took a nose dive. Still, when the Yankees 1973 spring training season came around, Felipe was hammering the ball and Houk was telling the press that the elder Alou would share the brand new DH position with Ron Blomberg and also play a lot of first base. But on September 6th of that season, with his average hovering in the .230’s, Alou was put on waivers and picked up by the Expos. On that same day, the Yankees sold his brother Matty to the Cardinals and the Yankees were suddenly Alou-less.

Felipe Alou would retire as a player the following year and became a minor league manager in the Expos organization. He would later become a highly successful big league skipper of the Expos and also manage the Giants. His son Moises became a big league all star outfielder who played for his Dad with both Montreal and the Giants.

This Hall-of-Fame Yankee catcher and this former Yankee Murderer’s Row third baseman and this WWII era Yankee pitcher were also born on May 12th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1971 NYY 131 501 461 52 133 20 6 8 69 5 32 24 .289 .334 .410 .744
1972 NYY 120 351 324 33 90 18 1 6 37 1 22 27 .278 .326 .395 .721
1973 NYY 93 293 280 25 66 12 0 4 27 0 9 25 .236 .256 .321 .577
17 Yrs 2082 7907 7339 985 2101 359 49 206 852 107 423 706 .286 .328 .433 .761
G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
SFG (6 yrs) 719 2478 2292 337 655 119 19 85 325 51 138 308 .286 .328 .466 .794
ATL (6 yrs) 841 3604 3348 464 989 163 20 94 335 40 188 284 .295 .338 .440 .778
NYY (3 yrs) 344 1145 1065 110 289 50 7 18 133 6 63 76 .271 .311 .382 .694
OAK (2 yrs) 156 627 583 70 158 26 3 8 55 10 32 32 .271 .307 .367 .674
MON (1 yr) 19 50 48 4 10 1 0 1 4 0 2 4 .208 .240 .292 .532
MIL (1 yr) 3 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/12/2013.