Matty Alou career highlights

Recently, the world heard the sad news that former major league outfielder and 1966 batting title champion Matty Alou died at age 72.

The main tragedy is the loss of the person. Others can speak of that loss better than I (including THT’s Bruce Markusen). What I can do is a career retrospective, some career highlights.

The list includes several types of games. There are the most important games he appeared in, some of the greatest games he saw, his personal highlights, some lowlights, and some of the stranger and more unusual things Alou was on hand for.

Here they are, divided up by teams he played for:

Giants tenure

Sept. 26, 1960: Matty Alou makes his big league debut with the Giants, the same team his elder brother Felipe Alou began playing for in 1958. He pinch-hits for pitcher Jim McCormick and singles. He scores on a triple a few minutes later.

April 28, 1961: Milwaukee Braves ace Warren Spahn no-hits the Giants for a 1-0 win. Alou appears as a pinch-hitter in the ninth, and grounds one back to Spahn for the next-to-last out.

April 30, 1961: Alou’s first appearance since the no-hitter occurs in an even more memorable game. The Giants batter the Braves 14-4, thanks to eight home runs. Four of those long balls come from the bat of Willie Mays. For his part, Alou enters the game in the eighth as a defensive replacement for Orlando Cepeda in left. Alou never bats in this one.

May 14: 1961: The first time Alou ever steps to the plate with the bases loaded is a memorable one. With one out in the bottom of the ninth in a tie 7-7 game against the Braves, Alou draws a walk; a walk-off walk for an 8-7 Giants win.

Oct. 5, 1962: World Series Game Two: In his first ever postseason at-bat, Alou drives in a run with a ground out in the second inning to put the Giants ahead of the Yankees, 1-0. That’s all they need, as they go on to win 2-0 to even the Series at one game apiece.

Oct. 8, 1962: World Series Game Four: Alou helps tie the World Series at two games apiece. With the score tied, 2-2 in the seventh inning, Alou doubles and goes on to score on a grand slam home run by teammate Chuck Hiller. That’s the big blast as the Giants win by four, 7-3.

Oct. 17, 1962: World Series game Seven: It what may be the biggest at bat of his life, Alou does what he needs to do. Heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees lead the Giants, 1-0, and New York hurler Ralph Terry has a two-hitter going. The Giants call on Alou to pinch hit leading off the ninth, andhe beats out a bunt single. Moments later, he advances to third on a two-out double by Willie Mays. That brought up Willie McCovey, who lines a blistering smash—right at second baseman Bobby Richardson. A little higher, Alou and Mays would’ve scored. But it wasn’t higher—and so the Yankees win the World Series.

June 15, 1963: Juan Marichal pitches a no-hitter, defeating the Houston Colt 45s, 1-0. It’s actually a tremendous pitching duel. Heading into the bottom of the eighth rival hurler Dick Drott has allowed just one hit in a 0-0 game. When San Francisco’s Jim Davenport leads off the eighth with a double, Alou pinch hits. He fans, but a little later Chuck Hiller doubles Davenport in for the only run.

Sept. 15, 1963: It’s a great day to be an Alou, as the Giants debut their all-Alou outfield when all three take the field at the same time in the eighth inning. Felipe Alou is in center, younger brother Jesus Alou (makeing his debut) is in right, and Matty in left. It’s the first all-brother outfield in major league history.

May 31, 1964: Matty Alou plays in the longest doubleheader in baseball history when the Mets and Giants square off for nine hours and 52 minutes over 32 innings. The first game is a standard 5-3 win for the Giants in which Alou appears solely as a pinch runner. In the second game, Alou goes 0-for-6 after entering the game in the 10th inning, for a career-worst –0.448 WPA. The Giants win that one, 8-6.

July 10, 1964: Matty has an off day, going 0-for-5 against the Cubs, but that’s okay because little brother Jesus makes up for it by connecting for six hits in the 10-3 San Francisco victory.

Sept. 1, 1964: Matty Alou is stationed in left field in the ninth inning when a new era of baseball begins. The Giants debut a new relief pitcher, Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese player in big league North American ball. Until Hideo Nomo, he’s the only one.

April 27: 1965: In the bottom of the ninth of a Phillies-Giants game tied 13-13, Alou belts a walk-off solo home run for the win. Despite it being only his 11th career homer, it’s his third walk-off shot. In fact, his previous homer (on Sept. 29, 1964) was also a walk-off. However, he’ll never hit another one; in part because the power-deprived Alou will belt only 20 more long balls in his career.

April 28, 1965: Alou never belts a grand slam in his career, but today he comes close, hitting a three-run triple. He’ll do it once more in his career, on May 6, 1966.

Aug. 22, 1965: With Alou watching from the dugout, one of the ugliest incidents in baseball history occurs. At the plate, star Giants pitcher Juan Marichal attacks Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro with his bat. The benches clear and a fight breaks out before Giants star Willie Mays calms things down. Alou enters the game in the eighth playing right and fanning in his only at bat.

Aug. 26, 1965: With the Pirates whaling on the Giants 8-0, San Francisco presses Alou into service as a pitcher. In his only time on the mound, he twirls a pair of scoreless inning, allowing two hits and a walk, but fanning three. He fans Hall of Famer Willie Stargell twice.

Pirates tenure

April 12, 1966: Alou’s first game as a Pirate is also a historic game: It’s the first major league game in Atlanta. In fact, as leadoff hitter, Alou becomes the first batter to step to the plate in Atlanta, as he fouls out to first in the top of the first. Pittsburgh beats the newly transplanted Braves, 3-2 in 13 innings.

Aug. 12, 1966: In one of the wildest games in baseball history, the Pirates top the Reds, 14-11 in 13 innings. The Reds tie the game in the bottom of the 10th and bottom of the 11th before falling. Alou goes 3-for-5 with a walk, HBP, and four runs scored. He scores twice in extra innings, including the actual go-ahead run in the final frame. Cincinnati hitter Art Shamsky sets the all-time one game WPA record for a batter with a mark of 1.503 in the losing cause.

Sept. 21, 1966: The Pirates lose to Alou’s old team in horrible manner. With the score tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth, Pirates reliever Roy Face allows a walk-off home run to Giants pitcher Juan Marichal. Alou goes 1-for-4 for Pittsburgh.

April 13, 1967: When Tom Seaver makes his major league debut, the first batter he sees is Alou. Seaver fans him en route to a 3-2 win.

April 16, 1967: Alou has the best one-day WPA performance of his career. He’s only 1-for-4 in Pittsburgh’s 6-5 win over the Cubs, but it’s a doozy of a hit. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Pirates trailing 5-4 with runners on first and second, Alou connects for the rare walk-off triple. That increases Pittsburgh’s chances of win from 16 to 100 percent.

May 15, 1967: It is Cincinnati 8, Clemente 7. Roberto Clemente bashes 4-for-5 with three homers and seven RBIs, but his teammates drive in none as the Reds win in extra innings. Alou goes 1-for-5 before being pulled for pinch hitter Manny Mota late in the game.

July 15, 1967: Clemente hits a line drive single against St. Louis Cardinals ace Bob Gibson. It’s a very interesting line drive single: It bounced off Gibson’s leg, breaking it. Despite that, Gibson faces three more batters before leaving the game. Alou had fouled out to left against Gibson in the previous inning.

Aug. 16, 1967: Another month, another injured ace pitcher against the Pirates. This time, Reds ace Jim Maloney has to leave the game despite pitching 6.1 innings without a hit. He retires the first 19 batters, allows a walk, and then has to leave. He tripled the previous half-inning, and apparently messed something up in the process. The man he walked? Matty Alou.

Aug. 24, 1968: Young St. Louis stud pitcher Steve Carlton has a great day against Pittsburgh, throwing a complete game shutout and belting a solo home run. He allows only six hits, but that includes a pair of Alou singles.

Sept. 29, 1968: It’s an ugly ending to the Pittsburgh 1968 season. With Alou in center, the Pirates fall 5-4 to the Cubs with a winning run scoring on a walk-off error by pitcher Bob Moose.

June 15, 1969: The longest hitting streak of Alou’s career peaks at 19 games. It’s an impressive performance: He has gone 38-for-86 in the time. After one hitless game tomorrow, Alou starts a 13-game hitting streak.

Sept. 5, 1969: Steve Blass would’ve pitched a perfect game if it weren’t for just one thing: Billy Williams. The star Cub outfielder is 4-for-4 with two doubles and two homers, while his teammates go 0-for-27. The Pirates win 9-2 with Alou going 0-for-4 with a walk.

Sept. 20, 1969: Fifteen days after Blass almost has a no hitter, Pirates pitcher Bob Moose has one. The Pirates top the Mets 4-0 with Matty going 1-for-5 with a strikeout.

June 12, 1970: It’s one of the most memorable and unlikely of all no-hitters. Pirates hurler Dock Ellis no-hits the Padres despite tripping on LSD the entire time. Pittsburgh wins, 2-0 with Alou going 0-for-4.

June 28, 1970: It’s the last day of Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field. The Pirates send the old stadium out in style, sweeping a doubleheader against the Cubs, 3-2 and 4-1. Alou goes 1-for-4 in each game, and drives in the winning run in the final game.

July 3, 1970: Apparently, it’s a windy day at Wrigley Field as the Pirates top the Cubs 16-14. Each team scores once in the first inning, six times in the second inning, and twice in the fourth inning. Alou scores once with two RBIs while going 3-for-6.

July 16, 1970: Alou becomes the first Pirate to step to the plate in Three Rivers Stadium in its first game. He grounds out to begin a 0-for-4 performance, but the Pirates win anyway, 3-2.

Aug. 19, 1970: Alou enjoys the only five-hit game of his career, going 5-for-5 as the Pirates lose to the Giants, 7-4.

Sept. 13, 1970: It’s one of most cringe-worthy plays of Alou’s career. In the bottom of the ninth at Wrigley Field, the Pirates lead 2-1 with two outs and none on when pinch hitter Willie Smith launches an easy fly ball to Alou in center. He muffs it, prolonging the game. Three successive single later, the Cubs walk off with a 3-2 win.

Oct. 3, 1970: NLCS Game One: It’s the first postseason game for Alou since the 1-0 Game Seven from the 1962 World Series. Through nine innings, this one has even less scoring, with the Reds and Pirates locked in a scoreless tie. The Reds score thrice in the top of the 10th to win, 3-0. Alou goes 2-for-3 with two walks, but can never make it all the way home to score.

Oct. 5, 1970: NLCS Game Three: The Reds close out a tightly played sweep over the Pirates with a 3-2 win thanks to an eighth-inning game-winning single by Bobby Tolan. Alou goes 1-for-5.

Dec. 11, 1970: It’s not a major league game, but it’s a memorable moment in the winter league in the Dominican Republic. Rico Carty, the star Atlanta batter who led the league in hitting in 1970, crashes into Alou. Carty breaks his leg and will miss all of 1971.

Cardinals tenure

May 29, 1971: It’s one of the most exciting endings to a game Alou ever plays in. Heading into the bottom of the ninth in St. Louis, the Braves lead 7-5 over the Cardinals. St. Louis loads the bases with no outs before Joe Torre does something so rare it’s happened fewer than 10 times in the last 60 years. He belts a bases-loaded, walk-off triple to give St. Louis an 8-7 win. Alou is the runner on second base at the time, making him the game-tying run.

Aug. 14, 1971: For the third straight year, Alou gets to play behind a pitcher throwing a no-hitter. This time it’s Bob Gibson, who fans 10 while no-hitting the Pirates in an 11-0 blowout. The game is even less close than the score, as the Cardinals lead 5-0 before the second out is made. Alou is 0-for-4 on the day— unlike Gibson, who goes 1-for-4 with three RBIs.

June 21, 1972: With Alou manning first base, Gibson pitches a complete game shutout and hits a home run. This is the sixth and final time Gibson has combined those two feats in a game; which I believe is the record. Alou goes 0-for-3 but walks and scores a run. St. Louis blanks the Braves, 7-0.

Aug. 7, 1972: The Cardinals top the Mets 3-2 when young St. Louis catcher Ted Simmons legs out a walk-off, inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the 13th inning. Alou is 1-for-5 and is caught stealing in his only stolen base attempt on the day.

A’s tenure

Sept. 19, 1972: In a wild 15-inning game, the A’s lose to the White Sox 8-7. The teams combine to use 51 players, and Oakland completely exhausts its 30-man roster. Despite that, Alou plays the entire game, going 2-for-8. The game ends when the A’s use pitcher Ken Holtzman as a pinch-hitter for another hurler, and he strikes out.

Oct. 7, 1972: ALCS Game One: Arguably the greatest postseason of all time begins with the A’s defeating the Tigers 3-2 in 11 innings. The Tigers take a 2-1 lead in the top of the 11th, but Oakland scores twice in the bottom half of the inning. Alou has little to do with the win, going 1-for-5 with a single.

Oct. 10, 1972: ALCS Game Three: Up two games to none, the A’s fail to sweep the Tigers, falling 3-0. The loss comes despite the play of Alou, who has one of his best postseason games. He’s 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and is at the front end of a successful double steal. Despite reaching third twice (and doubling another batter to third a different time), he never scores.

Oct. 11, 1972: ALCS Game Four: Alou keeps up his hot hitting, with his second consecutive two-double game in the postseason. However, for the second straight game it’s wasted as Oakland loses, 4-3 in 10 innings. It’s an especially tough loss because Oakland took a 3-1 lead in the top of the 10th inning. Alou is the key to the 10th, as his second double of the game drives in one run, and then he immediately scores after it on teammate Ted Kubiak’s single.

Oct. 12, 1972: ALCS Game Five: The A’s top the Tigers 2-1 to take the pennant. Alou is 1-for-2 with a sacrifice hit and a HBP in the victory.

Oct. 15, 1972: World Series Game Two: With Oakland clinging to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth against Cincinnati, right fielder Alou sees teammate and left fielder Joe Rudi make one of the greatest catches in postseason. When Denis Menke belts a drive deep to left, Rudi crashes into the wall to make a backhanded catch, fighting the afternoon sun the whole way. It saves the game, which the A’s narrowly win, 2-1. Alou goes 1-for-4 on the day.

Oct. 22, 1972: World Series Game Seven: In the sixth one-run decision of the World Series, the A’s defeat the Reds 3-2 to become world champions. Despite a 1-for-24 performance at the plate in the Fall Classic, Alou is a world champion.

Yankees tenure

April 28, 1973: Though nearly through as a player, Alou still has some glory left in his bat, as he proves on this day. He enjoys perhaps his best day ever at the plate, going 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer for a personal best nine total bases. His performance lead the Yankees to an 11-3 win over the Twins.

Aug. 29, 1973: Nolan Ryan already has two no-hitters on the year and nearly has a third today. He surrenders only one hit, a first inning pop flare by Thurman Munson that lands between two fielders. If it happens later in the game, it might be ruled an error. Alou has no solution for Ryan, going 0-for-3 with a GIDP.

Padres tenure

June 21, 1974: Matty Alou takes the field for the 48th time for San Diego when the Padres call on him to pinch-hit for shortstop Enzo Hernandez in the top of the ninth against Houston. Pitcher Larry Dierker walks Alou and he later advances to second on a walk to the next batter, Dave Winfield. But that’s as far as he goes, as Houston holds on for a 2-0 win. It’s the 1,667th game Alou has played it, and it turns out to be the last one.

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Comments

  1. Chris Jaffe said...

    Here’s another one:

    Sept. 10, 1963: Jesus Alou makes his debut and all three Alous bat in the same half-inning.  First Jesus pinch hits for the shortstop in the eighth, and then Manny Alou bats for the pitcher. Then comes leadoff hitter Felipe Alou.  All make outs.

    Carl Willey of the Mets gets them all out.

  2. Chris Jaffe said...

    Oh – and now that I’ve written it, I belatedly realize I completely forgot about the 1962 season end.  Dammit.

    Few things to add it:

    Sept. 30, 1962: The Giants enter today, the last day of the regular season, trailing the Dodgers by a game.  San Francisco plays in Houston and wins, 2-1 on an eighth inning home run by Willie Mays.  Alou doesn’t start, but enters the game in the eighth as a defensive replacement for Harvey Kuenn.  Combined with a Dodger loss, the NL pennant race ends in a tie, forcing a best-of-three game playoff to determine who will advance to the World Series. 

    Oct. 3, 1962: In the 165th and final game of the season and third and deciding game of the best-of-three series between the Dodgers and Giants for the pennant, Matty Alou makes a key contribution to deliver the Giants their pennant.  Though on the bench for almost the entire game, with the Giants trailing 4-2 entering the ninth, San Francisco turns to him as a pinch-hitter to lead off the top of the frame.  Alou singles, in what turns out to be one of only two balls hit out of the infield all inning long.  Still, it’s the stuff of Dodger nightmares as Alou scores the first of four runs in the inning, giving San Francisco a 6-4 win and the pennant.

  3. glenn-troy ny said...

    Alou doubled in his first at bat vs. Seaver on 04/13/67…Seaver hit him twice with pitches later in the game..My refernce is ultimatemets.com….

  4. John Canham-Clyne said...

    another one:

    October 2, 1966: Matty goes 4-6 (all singles) with a run scored against the Giants, to finish the season with a .342 batting average and win the NL batting title.

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