#24 Walter Alston & a Jim Murray Column

Thank you all that visit my blog to read or for the pictures.   My blog ranked #24 in the latest MLB fan blog ranking.   This is only the second time I get a Dodger Hall of Famer number!

 

Walter Alston, Baseball, Brooklyn Dodgers 

Walter Alston was born on December 1st 1911.  Mr. Alston had only one at bat in the Major League (St Louis Cardinals) when he appeared as a substitute for the future Hall of Famer, Johnny Mize.   But after managing in the minor league for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Walter Alston went on to manage the Dodgers on one-year contracts for 23 seasons (1954-1976).  

During Walter (Smokey) Alston’s tenure, the Dodgers won seven National League Championships and four World Series Championships.    He amassed 2,040 wins, before retiring after the 1976 season.  During the offseason and after retiring, he was a high school teacher of science, physical education, and industrial arts teacher. 

The following is a reprint of a Jim Murray column that appeared at the top of page 22 in the Hamilton (Ohio) Journal-News on Friday, October 8, 1976. Mr. Murray had a 37 year career with the Los Angeles Times.   He was named “America’s Best Sportswriter” by the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters 14 times.   He won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his 1989 columns.

“Murray Bids Alston a Fond Farewell

All right, Miss Tulsa, put away those poison pen letters for a minute and take a letter to Walt Alston. Send it care of the Dodgers. I don’t think Darrtown has a post office yet. Mark it  “Unurgent” and sign it “Affectionately.”

Dear Walt,

See I told you it wouldn’t last. That O’Malley is a fickle character who changes skippers on a whim every 23 years.

I’m going to miss our little chats on the infield fly rule and the balk motion. I was just beginning to get the hang of it. I don’t think we ever once discussed anything that didn’t go on between those white lines out there. I don’t know whether you’re Republican or Democrat or Catholic or Protestant and I’ve known you for 18 years. I never heard you tell a lie, saw you take a drink or talk about anyone behind his back. I heard three generations of your players cut you up – usually after their third martini or while trying to impress the lady on the next bar stool.

I’ll never forget the time on the team bus a bunch of guys were discussing some bistros in New York and you said with a perfectly straight face, ‘What do people do in night clubs?’ They looked at each other for a moment but, when the answer came that they sit there and drink, you shook your head and said, ‘They could do that in their room – at no cover charge.’

I know you didn’t spend all your life making fudge and bobbing for apples – you could cuss like a ferryboat captain – but if you had any major hang-ups, I never saw it. You were testy with me on a few occasions, but that was before you came to appreciate the vast knowledge of baseball that I have accumulated. Let’s face it, Walt; you could never have won those pennants without me.

I’m going to miss our little jokes about Darrtown. You know. ‘We don’t have an airport, but we have a birdbath.’ ‘Darrtown’s international airport has ducks in it.’ ‘The train only stops here when it hits a cow.’ ‘We don’t have a street, but the trees are blazed.’ ‘Main Street is the ploughed field without corn in it.’ ‘We don’t have burlesque; but the widder Brown leaves her shades up.’ ‘They would have put a traffic light on Main Street, but the cows are color blind.’ ‘An energy crisis is when your mule dies.’

I never got the impression you were afraid of a damned thing. And that went for 220-pound left fielders or the job stealers the owner use to hire under you to put a little Broadway in the act. Next to you, they were showed up as the petty little back-alley schemers they were. It was like a bug biting an elephant.

You were a college graduate with a teacher’s degree, but you used to say ‘extry’ all the time. You were as Middle Western as a pitchfork. Black players who have a sure instinct for the closet bigot recognized immediately you didn’t know what prejudice was. You were as straight as John Brown’s body. There was no ‘side’ to Walter Alston. What you saw was what you got.

But, I guess the thing I’ll always remember is that you never had to worry about what sort of ‘mood’ Walter Alston was in. You were as approachable as a hunting dog. As long as I live, I will never forget theat dressing room in the playoff of 1962, when the Dodgers blew a 9th inning 4-2 lead and the pennant. The players locked themselves in and passed the bottle. You came out, dry-eyed… and dry throat and talked to us, then went over and congratulated the Giants and Alvin Dark. You had won a playoff, too, three years before.

I sat with you through 10-game losing streak in 1961 and never once say you bust up a locker or punch a newspaperman. That’s why, when you turned on a newsman this summer, I couldn’t have been more shocked if they caught St. Francis of Assisi poisoning bread crumbs.

Your life is summed up in Jack Tobin’s biography ‘One Year At A Time.’ I don’t know of anybody leaves his profession with more respect. You took a four-straight loss in the ’66 World Series with a shrug. You had won in four straight, too, three years before. You didn’t panic when they took your slugging team from a bandbox in Brooklyn to the Coliseum in L.A., which was about as suitable for baseball as a deck of an aircraft carrier. You won a pennant on that aircraft carrier the second year.

I used to laugh when someone would say, ‘Why shouldn’t Alston win with all that talent?’ and I’d say, ‘Yeah. Too bad he doesn’t have some better baseball players to go with that talent. I think you ran that wild animal act that was the Dodgers about as well as it could be run without a whip and a chair.

So, I’ll be seeing you, Walt. Give my regards to beautiful downtown Darrtown. I don’t know what time your stagecoach gets in; but, when the natives ask you where you have been for the past 23 years, tell ‘em you found seasonal work in Californy. But, don’t tell ‘em what happened to Custer.

The corner of the dugout is going to look funny without you there, next year. I only hope the Dodgers don’t, too.

Affectionately,

The Old Second Guesser”

To fully appreciate the significance of the kind words used by the Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Jim Murray, in his  “fond farewell” to Smokey Alston (at the left), one needs to understand the manner in which Jim Murray typically wrote and the acclaim that was bestowed upon him.

The following links provide background on Jim Murray:

From the Los Angeles Times:

“Jim Murray, Pulitzer-Winning Times Columnist Dies”

From the Tucson Weekly:

“The Legendary Sportwriter Made This Kid Want To Write”

From the New York Times:

“Jim Murray, 78, Sportwriter And Winner of Pulitzer Prize”

For a collection of Jim Murray quotes from the Los Angeles Times, see “Jim Murray, Pulitzer-Winning Times Columnist, Dies”

 

I’ve read a Jim Murray book but I never read the above column before so I am glad I ran into it.     


DO YOU KNOW?

18 of Smokey’s players went on to become major league managers – according to “
thebaseballpage.com,”

Move your cursor over this box, if you want to know their names.

1955 – “Smokey” Alston Visits with Darrtown Fans and Friends

In the fall of 1955, after leading the Brooklyn Dodgers to their first-ever World Series Championship, Walter “Smokey” Alston came home to Darrtown – just like he would after every season during his 23 year career as the Dodgers field manager. 

This particular year, honoring the wishes and requests of his Darrtown fans and friends, “Smokey” shared his memories of that eventful season by speaking to those assembled in the Darrtown Knights of Pythias Hall.

The image at the right, contributed by Paul and Janet (Bauman) Jewell captures a moment during Smokey’s address to the audience.

We can identify two others in this photograph. The young boy seated on the stage of the hall behind Smokey is Donnie Thomas. Seated beside Donnie, in the dark dress is Olive (McVicker) Hansel. The woman whose face is framed by the window at the left resembles Dorrie (McVicker) Thome – although we are not positive.

I like this quote by Jim Murray:

“Baseball is a game where a curve is an optical illusion, a screwball can be a pitch or a person, stealing is legal and you can spit anywhere you like except in the umpire’s eye or on the ball.”

 Jim Murray quote

10 Comments

Emma: Congrats on #24! I like that number. It’s Robinson Cano! I’m #27…haha that number means a lot to Yankees fans :)
-Virginia
http://southernbelle.mlblogs.com

Congratulations on 24 Emma! You deserve it – this blog is a lot of fun to visit. Thank you for sharing the article and the Alston history. I love the glimpses into the past! Alston must have been a fun school teacher to have, but I’ll bet all the kids knew to mind their manners too. It is good to be reminded, in the middle of this month’s signing excesses, that players and coaches used to have offseason jobs and needed to have post baseball career jobs to fall back on.
http://blithescribe.mlblogs.com/

Emma,
I did not know that much about Walter Alston until I read your post today. And this historic post about a man who shared the “Dodger Blue” is why you are scaling the MLBlogs.com Leaderboard.
I always know if I pull up your blog I will be either entertained or astonished at another piece of unknown information I read on your posts.
Might have to vtoe you the Class Historian. Great post.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Thanks Viriginia! I saw you got #27, 2 & 7 are my lucky numbers.
.
Blithescribe,
I can just imagine having him as a teacher, teaching you Sience,
P.E. and Industrial Arts. He was a big guy (tall) so imagine no one messed with him. Is hard to imagine players now days having jobs like that but like you said, is a good reminder of the way things used to be. Can you imagine Duke Snider delivering mail in the offseason?
.
RR,
I enjoy digging into baseball history. Sometimes I spent too much time as one thing leads you into something else that I lose track of time.

Loved the post about Alston. I learn such interesting information here at this blog! Congrats on the ranking and may you reach higher and higher.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jane,
i leave the top 10 or 20 for writers like you. I am content with just being in the top 50. I love reading many of the MLB blogs.

Thanks for sharing about Mr. Alston. 23 one year contracts. In a row. Gotta respect that.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/
http://mtrredstatebluestate.com

23 one-year contracts, and an off-season job as well. That sure was a different era back then!
Sue
Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts

wow – the guy has to have been something to get 23 one year deals…

not too many would get past the first few years in todays market…

-peter

(philliesoutside)

http://devilabrit.mlblogs.com

Jeff,
He was a Cardinal player also even if it was one game.
.
Sue,
So you got Lee? Santa is being nice to the Phillies.
.
Peter,

you got that right. Mr. Alston got the job because his predecesor Charlie Dressen asked for a multi contract and Walter O’Malley barked at that so he brought Walter Alston from the minor league.

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