Saturday, November 15, 2014

Blast From the Past: Alvin Dark RIP

News came this week that Alvin Dark had died at the age of 92.  The story of the Giants history cannot be told without including Alvin Dark who was an important piece of the Giants pennant and World Series winning teams of the early 1950's, and who was their manager in San Francisco in the early 60's including a pennant winning team in 1962.  What was otherwise a great career may be overshadowed by a controversial, racially charged statement he made during the 1964 season.

Dark was born in Oklahoma in 1922 but grew up in Louisiana.  He was a two-way football and baseball star for LSU and what is now Louisiana-Lafayette.  The start of his baseball career was delayed by service in the Pacific Ampitheatre in WWII.  He broke in with the Boston Braves in 1946 and helped them to a NL Pennant in 1948 when he hit .322 and won the MLB Rookie of the Year award.

He was traded to the Giants after the 1949 season and enjoyed the peak years of his career as a Giant from 1950-1956 when he was traded midseason to the Cardinals in a 9 player trade.  Leo Durocher named him Team Captain before he had played one game as a Giant.  As a Giant, he hit .300 or better for 3 consecutive seasons, 1951-1953 and hit double digit HR's from 1950-1954 peaking at 23 in 1953.  During this time the Giants won the pennant in 1951 and a World Series Championship in 1954.  Dark hit over .400 in both World Series with the Giants.

Dark finished his MLB playing career in 1960.  His career line was .289/.333/.411 with over 2000 hits and 126 HR's.  His career fWAR was 35.6.  He was the first NL SS to hit 20 or more HR's twice.  At the time of his retirement, his SLG% ranked 7'th all time for SS's, and his 126 HR's was 3'rd to Ernie Banks and Travis Jackson.  Baseball statistician Bill James commented that Dark's service in WWII may have cost him a HOF berth.

Dark was traded back to the Giants from the Milwaukee Braves after the 1960 season.  The Giants knew his playing career was done, but they wanted him to manage the team.  Dark managed them to a NL Pennant in 1962.  In 1964, he was quoted in Newsday magazine complaining about the number of Latin and African American players on the team saying, "They are just not able to perform up to the level of the white player when it comes to mental alertness."  Dark claimed he was grossly misquoted.  Team Captain Willie Mays came to his defense as did Jackie Robinson who stated that he had a good relationship with Dark both on and off the field.  Dark remained the manager until the 6'th inning of the final game of the season when he was fired by Horace Stoneham as the Giants wrapped up a 4'th place finish.

Dark went on to manage some losing Cleveland Indians teams but was hired by Charlie Finley to manage the A's to their 3'rd consecutive World Series Championship in 1974 after the resignation of Dick Williams.  Dark was fired by Finley after the A's lost in the 1975 playoffs.  He wrote an autobiography published in 1980 entitled When In Doubt, Fire the Manager.  He died this week at the age of 92 from complications of Alzheimer's Disease.


  1. Alvin Dark was a bit before my time, but is credited with one of the best stories of baseball lore:

    "They'll put a man on the Moon before he hits a home run" — Giants manager Alvin Dark in 1964, about his feeble-hitting pitcher Gaylord Perry.

    Perry would collect his first homer on July 20, 1969, minutes after Apollo 11's lunar module touched down on the Moon.

    I saw Gaylord Perry last year at spring training at a booth signing baseballs and he confirmed the story.

    1. Awesome story, Derald. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. dark was an amazing character

    alzheimers is a terrible disease



  3. here is a nice article on dark being a man out of time

  4. Great Giant. RIP Alvin.

    Cool story about Alvin & Perry.

    Thanks for sharing.