If 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.
|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|
Having three brothers talented enough to become professional anythings is not easy. Take my family as an example. My older brother Matt has a great singing voice. People tell me I could have been the next Sinatra. But any chance the three Cinquanti brothers might have had to become professional entertainers was squashed by our oldest brother Jerry, who couldn’t carry a tune to save his life.
The three Alou brothers, on the other hand, had no weak link when it came to baseball talent. The oldest, Felipe, was the best all-around player of the three. The youngest, Jesus, put together a .280 lifetime batting average over fifteen big league seasons. But only middle sibling, Matty, won a batting championship and finished his big league career with a batting average above .300 (.307).
Matty was not always the best hitting Alou brother. When he came up with the Giants, he used a light bat and an upper cut swing because that’s the way his older brother did it. It was not until he got traded to Pittsburgh, in 1966, and came under the hitting tutelage of Harry “The Hat” Walker that Matty started hitting for average. Walker gave his new outfielder a heavier bat and using Roberto Clemente as an interpreter, convinced Matty to start swinging down on the ball. The results were immediate. Matty won the 1966 NL batting title with a .342 average and did not hit below .331 during his first four seasons with the Pirates. When he finally did (.297 in 1970), Pittsburgh traded him to St Louis.
He ended up with Oakland and a championship ring in 1972 and the Yankees got him in a trade before the 1973 season. For a while, he was reunited with Felipe until New York traded the elder Alou to Montreal late in that same season. Matty hit .296 during his one year in pinstripes and then got sold back to the Cardinals.
How good were the Alou brothers? Between the three of them, Joe, Dom and Vince DiMaggio had 4,853 career hits during their big league careers. Felipe, Matty and Jesus had 5,094.
Matty was born December 22, 1938 and was three years younger than Felipe and four years older than Jesus. He passed away in November of 2011 from complications caused by diabetes. He was 72-years-old.
|SFG (6 yrs)||453||1131||1048||136||272||32||7||12||72||21||59||101||.260||.304||.338||.642|
|PIT (5 yrs)||743||3224||3018||434||986||129||34||6||202||98||147||165||.327||.360||.398||.758|
|STL (3 yrs)||268||1103||1024||132||322||45||8||10||106||30||59||50||.314||.352||.403||.756|
|OAK (1 yr)||32||136||121||11||34||5||0||1||16||2||11||12||.281||.341||.347||.688|
|SDP (1 yr)||48||88||81||8||16||3||0||0||3||0||5||6||.198||.241||.235||.476|
|NYY (1 yr)||123||538||497||59||147||22||1||2||28||5||30||43||.296||.338||.356||.694|