Thursday, December 19, 2013

Baseball Brothers: The Alous

Jesus, Matty and Felipe played in the same outfield in 1963
Two decades after Joe DiMaggio, Dom DiMaggio, and Vince DiMaggio became baseball's first trio of great sibling ballplayers, the Alou brothers came over from the Dominican Republic and left their own footprint on the game. All debuted with San Francisco (where the DiMaggios played minor league ball) and were teammates of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal, spending six seasons with the Giants before switching teams; Felipe and Matty via trade and Jesus in the 1968 expansion draft.

They were teammates in 1963, and batted in the same inning on September 10th--Jesus's first game (they were retired in order). Five days later, they were the first set of three siblings to play in the same outfield with Matty in left, Felipe in center, and Jesus in right. Matty and Jesus remained teammates the next two years, and Felipe and Matty were reunited on the 1973 Yankees.

All were primarily outfielders who put together long, distinguished careers. Here's a look at their accomplishments:

Felipe Alou (1958-1974)
The oldest Alou brother was also the most accomplished. He played the longest (17 years), made the most All-Star teams (3) and compiled the most impressive statistics. He was also the only one who could hit for any power. Jesus and Matty never reached double digit home runs in a season, totaling just 63 between them. Felipe smashed more than 200, including a career high of 31 in 1966. He finished fifth in the NL MVP voting that year, leading the major leagues with 122 runs, 218 hits, and batting .327/.361/.533 while batting leadoff for the Braves, setting the table for Hank Aaron, Joe Torre and Rico Carty. Felipe was the only brother not to win a World Series ring as a player (Matty earned one and Jesus got two, all with the Oakland A's 70's dynasty).

After retiring in 1974 he worked for the Expos organization. In 1992 he was promoted from bench coach to field manager, becoming the first Dominican-born manager in MLB history. He managed the club into 2001, overseeing the development of several stars such as Larry Walker, Delino DeShields, Marquis Grissom, Pedro Martinez, and Vladimir Guerrero (and his son, Moises Alou, who went on to become an even better player than his father and two uncles). Alou was named Manager of the Year in 1994 but was unable to do much in later years when Montreal's front office traded away most of his top talent. He was the Detroit Tigers' bench coach in 2002, then managed Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants for four years before retiring from the dugout.

Matty Alou (1960-1974)
Matt was the smallest and thus never hit for power, though he did pace the majors with 41 doubles in 1969. His 231 hits that year were tops in the majors as well, and he made his second straight All-Star team. Unlike Jesus, he compensated for his lack of pop with solid speed, swiping 156 bases in his career and reaching double digits every year from 1965 through 1972. More of a fourth outfielder with San Francisco, he didn't become a star until he was traded to Pittsburgh following the 1965 season, where he was flanked by Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell in the Pirates outfield.

Under the tutelage of Harry Walker, Alou became one of the league's better hitters. His .342 batting average led the majors in 1966 and he finished ninth in the MVP voting. He batted .338 the following year, .332 in the Year of the Pitcher and .331 in 1969, placing third, second, and fourth in the batting race. He fell off to .297 in 1970 and was promptly traded to St. Louis, where he rebounded to bat .315 in '71. After hitting .307 and .295 in 1972 and '73, Alou dropped off to .198 in 1974 and played just 48 games.  He retired after that, preserving his .307 career batting average. Alou was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 alongside Omar Vizquel. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 72.

Jesus Alou (1963-1979)
Jesus was the youngest and and the worst of the trio, even though he was considered to be the better prospect. His career bWAR total is 0.9, and yet somehow this replacement level player managed more than 4,500 big league plate appearances. He didn't provide nearly enough power (32 career home runs) or speed (31 stolen bases) for a corner outfielder, and just once played more than 130 games in a season. He was so walk-averse at the plate that he made his two brothers--a couple of free swingers themselves--look like Ted Williams. Jesus worked 106 unintentional walks in his career, or one every 43 plate appearances.

He did have a few seasons where he hit for some nice (empty) averages, but on the whole his career can be considered a disappointment. He never made an All-Star team and was a part-timers once he reached 30. After his playing days were over he went on to become a scout for the Expos, his former team, and has served as the director of Dominican Operations for both the Marlins and Red Sox. He received the Pioneer Award from the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008 and still works for Boston.

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