RIP Alvin Dark

Al Dark

Al Dark

Saw that Alvin Dark died last week. He was 92 and largely forgotten. But he was a significant player and a big league manager of note.

Dark came out of Oklahoma and attended what is now Louisiana-Lafayette excelling in both baseball and football. He was drafted in 1945 by the Philadelphia Eagles football team, but chose to play baseball. He made it to the Boston Braves for a 1946 cup of coffee. While there, he  hit .231 and was sent back to the Minors (Milwaukee). In 1948 he was up for good playing shortstop well enough to earn the second ever Rookie of the Year Award (there was only one award in 1948, not one in each league). Boston got to the World Series, lost in six games to Cleveland, and Dark managed to come in third in the MVP voting.

He remained in Boston in 1949, then was sent to New York where he anchored a Giants infield that included Eddie Stanky and Hank Thompson. They finished third. The next year the Giants tied the Dodgers for first place in the National League and Dark participated in the most famous of all playoff series. Whitey Lockman had joined the team at first and an outfield of Monte Irvin, Don Mueller, and rookie Willie Mays helped the team go 50-12 at the end of the season. Dark managed to lead the National League in doubles that season (the only time he led the league in any significant hitting stat). In the famous ninth inning of the third game, Dark led off with a single, went to second on another and came home with the first run of the inning. Later Bobby Thomson hit his “Giants win the pennant” homer and everybody forgot Dark began the rally.

He hit .417 in the World Series with a home run, but the Giants lost. Dark remained with the Giants through 1955, helping them to a World Series sweep in 1954. He hit .412 and scored a couple of runs in the Series. He played part of 1956 in New York, but ended up in St. Louis. He remained with the Cardinals into 1958, then was sent to Chicago. We was with the Cubs two years, then spent the 1960 season, his last between the Phillies and the Braves.

A trade sent him back to the Giants. He retired to take over as the Giants manager in 1961. They finished third. The next year he took them to their first World Series since the 1954 sweep and their first since moving to San Francisco. They took the Yankees to seven games before losing 2-1 in the last game.

He stayed in San Francisco through 1964 when he was fired (during the sixth inning of the final game). He worked with Kansas City (the A’s, not the Royals) becoming manager in 1966 and part of 1967, when he fell victim to one of Charlie Finley’s tantrums. That sent him to Cleveland until 1971 where he managed and for a while doubled as general manager. In 1974 he was back with the A’s (now in Oakland) and led the team to the final of three consecutive World Series triumphs (Dick Williams managed the other two wins). The A’s got to the playoffs in 1975, lost, and Dark was fired. He managed one year in San Diego (1977) then retired.

For his career he hit .289, had an OBP of .333, slugged .411, and ended up with an OPS of .744 (OPS+ of 98). He led the NL in doubles the one time and had 2089 hits, 358 total doubles, 72 triples, 126 home runs, and 757 RBIs to go with 1064 runs scored. His Baseball version of WAR is 43.1. As a fielder he was considered more than capable. He led the league in putouts, assists, double plays, and errors at various times in his career. Over his career, he made three All Star teams. His Hall of Fame voting percentage peaked at 18.5% in 1979.

During his managerial career there was some question about his view of black players. In 1964, he made a questionable comment about their baseball smarts which some considered racist. But both Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson came to his defense.

As mentioned in the first paragraph, Dark’s been largely forgotten. But he was a key player on three pennant winners, one World Series winner, and managed in two World Series contests, winning one. RIP, Alvin.


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7 Responses to “RIP Alvin Dark”

  1. Miller Says:

    Well said. I think he’s be a better candidate for the Golden Era ballot than some of the guys on it.

  2. Glen Russell Slater Says:

    Largely forgotten? No. Not here in New York. There were territorial arguments arguing about who was the best shortstop—- Phil Rizzuto of the New York (meaning the Bronx) Yankees, Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Alvin Dark of the New York (meaning Manhattan and the Bronx, because the Polo Grounds was as close to some parts of the Bronx as the Yankees were.) Yankees. My father grew up about a mile of Yankee Stadium and about 2 1/2 miles from the Polo Grounds. And he had to take a bridge to get there. He usually took the subway to the Polo Grounds, but usually walked to Yankee Stadium, which was only about a half-hour walk, then climbing to the roof of an apartment building that overlooked the outfield and watching the games from there.

    My father used to watch Yankee games from the roof of a building, and I have to guess that he paid admission to get into the Polo Grounds. Anyway, Ebbets Field was too damn far for most people in the Bronx, as people in my father’s area of the Bronx didn’t have cars back then, generally, and it was a long, long subway trip to get to the Polo Grounds from the Bronx.

    Yap yap yap. Back to the subject.

    So it was at the Polo Grounds where my father saw the great players of BOTH the Giants AND the Dodgers.

    I don’t know the reality of it. They didn’t have the fancy statistics back then. But a lot of people argued about Rizzuto, Reese, and Dark.

    From what I hear, Dark has at least as much business being in the Hall of Fame as Rizzuto does. A lot of people think that it was Reese that made it on merit and Rizzuto who made it on hot air. All those Yankee championships PLUS being on the Yankee telecasts and radio broadcasts all those years didn’t exactly hurt Rizzuto’s chances.


  3. Glen Russell Slater Says:

    I’ll ask my father what he thought of Alvin Dark.


  4. Glen Russell Slater Says:

    I have absolutely no recollection of Dark managing the San Diego Padres. None at all. That’s unusual. I probably was paying more attention to the goings-on in the other three divisions in baseball, particularly the Western Division of the American League, when Minnesota, Texas, the Royals and the White Sox were all in a crazy struggle for 1st place, and in the Eastern Division of the NL, the Mets losing Seaver and Kingman on the same day, and in the Eastern Division of the AL, with all that nutty drama going on with the Yankees between Billy, Reggie, Thurman, and Steinbrenner.

    • verdun2 Says:

      To be honest, Glen, I’d totally forgotten he’d managed San Diego until I looked him up for this post (and btw, thanks for the heads up). Totally obscure fact to me.

  5. Glen Russell Slater Says:

    Well, V, the Padres were pretty forgettable during that time.

    As far as my father, he told me that he doesn’t remember much about Alvin Dark, mostly because, for one thing, he says he wasn’t that big of a baseball fan (mostly liked to play it than anything, I guess), and also Dark came to New York during the time that he graduated from high school, then graduated college, then went into the Army, then went into teaching, then got married, then had kids. He had no time for baseball!

    He was much more of a baseball fan in the 40’s. He hardly even remembers Mantle, but he sure remembers the DiMaggio Brothers! And I think he was as big a baseball fan in the 40s as I was in the 70s. Well, maybe not, but almost, anyway.


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