Better known today as the long-time manager of the Montreal Expos, Felipe Alou was a fine hitter during the 1960s who led the National League in base hits twice. A free-swinger at the plate, the three-time All-Star was an unusual high average hitter in an era regarded as a pitcher’s paradise. Felipe was arguably the best of a trio of bothers, Jesus and Matty the other two, who played in the 1960s, and he is also the father of former star Moises Alou.
The Dominican born Alou joined the Giants in 1958 and showed a little promise as a 23-year-old. After three years of sporadic play at the Major League level, Felipe broke out in the famous offensive year of 1961. He hit .289 with 18 homeruns. However, the next season, offensive numbers went backwards–but not Felipe’s. He raised his batting average to .316 and upped his homerun output to 25. The right-handed hitter came within two RBI of notching 100 while he led the Giants to the World Series. Felipe, whose brother Matty was a reserve on the ’62 Giants, hit .269 in a World Series loss.
In 1963, Felipe was one of just two Major League right fielders to post 30 doubles and 20 homeruns. But the Giants coveted All-Star catcher Del Crandall and used Felipe was trade bait to acquire him from the Braves. Alou’s first year in Milwaukee was atrocious but he got back on track in 1965 by leading National League left fielders in batting average. When the Braves relocated to Atlanta in 1966, Felipe enjoyed his finest all-round season. He led the National League in runs scored, base hits and total bases while making his second All-Star squad. Used as a first baseman/corner outfielder, Felipe posted 32 doubles, 31 homeruns and a .327 batting average.
After coming back down to earth in 1967, Felipe again tied for the National League lead in base hits, with Pete Rose, in 1968 with 210. Alou’s 37 doubles were good for fourth in the senior circuit, but when his slugging percentage dipped mightily in 1970, the Braves traded him to Oakland for Jumbo Jim Nash. For the rest of his career, which spanned until 1974, Felipe never again was among the league leaders.
His days after playing weren’t spent idle as Felipe became a minor league manager in the late 1970s. Groomed by the Expos, Montreal called him to Canada in 1992. The Expos finished dead last in their division in 1991 but when they gave Felipe the reins early in the ’92 season, the Expos caught fire and came in second place with a 70-55 record under Alou. Montreal had plenty of athletic talent in Alou’s early years as they were a go-go styled team. Montreal led the National League in combined stolen bases in ’93.
The Expos were on fire in 1994, running away with the National League East division, when the player’s strike put a halt on play. At the time of the strike, Felipe had guided the Expos to a 74-40 record, but Montreal was denied a World Series run thanks to rampant greed. The Expos faltered in 1995 before returning to second place in ’96. At the heart of the Expos team was 1997 Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez. But after Pedro left the club, the Expos were relegated to second division status, courtesy a failed youth movement.
After a dismal start to the 2001 season, Alou was replaced at the helm in Montreal. Not unemployed for long, the San Francisco Giants offered him their vacant post for the 2003 season. Although the player’s strike denied Alou a 100-win season in 1994, he was able to get that 100-win campaign his first year with the Giants. San Fran won the NL West in ’03 then came in second in 2004. After two straight third place finishes in 2004 and 2005, the Giants terminated their marriage with Alou.
G 2,082/R 985/H 2,101/2B 359/3B 49/HR 206/RBI 852/SB 107/BB 423/SO 706/BA .286/SA .433.OBP .328
W 1,033/L 1,021/PCT .503: two first place finishes