Walter ‘Smokey” Alston who managed the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1954-1976 was born on this day in 1911. Walter Alston is I think an unsung manager. When they talk of great managers in the history of the game you seldom here his name but he was highly successful. He managed the Dodgers to 7 National League Pennants and 4 World Series Championships. He had a record of 2040 wins and 1613 losses as Dodgers manager.
Alston’s Dodgers were known for their great pitching, speed and defense. Not great hitting teams but they won. My favourite Alston story is -Sandy Koufax wouldn’t pitch game one of the 1965 World Series due to it being on Yom Kappur. Don Drysdale started instead and got rocked by the Twins. When Alston came out to take Drysdale out of the game he said to him “Why couldn’t you have been jewish too”
Alston managed his career on one year contracts. I can’t imagine anyone doing that today. Smokey Alston won 6 Manager of the Year Awards.
His playing career in the major leagues was incredibly short. He appeared in one game for the St.Louis Cardinals in 1936 and had one at bat. He struck out on three pitches. He almost had a home run though, on the second strike he hit a long foul ball that would have been a home run but it curved foul at the last second.
The Brooklyn Dodgers had an incredible run on managers. They fired Chuck Dreesen in 1953, hired Alston who retired after 1976, hired Tommy LaSorda who managed until he retired in 1996. They didn’t fire a manager from 1953 until 1998 when Bill Russell was fired. Currently the Pittsburgh Steelers are the modern version of that- they last fired a head coach in 1968, they hired Chuck Noll in 1969, he retired then they hired Bill Cowher, when he retired they hired Mike Tomlin who is still the coach.
Smokey Alston died in 1984 at the age of 72.