Walter Emmons Alston died 25 years ago today, eight years after having retired as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He passed away on October 1, 1984, at the age of 72.
Alston managed the Dodgers for 23 seasons, four in Brooklyn and nineteen in Los Angeles (where they played for four years at the Coliseum and for fifteen at Chavez Ravine). In that time he and the Dodgers won seven National League titles and four World Series championships. His first World Series ring came in 1955 against the Yankees, Brooklyn’s only victory in the big show and the franchise’s first of six (1955, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988; not counting the Bridegroom’s 1890 championship).
He was emblematic of a period in baseball’s history when the commercial hype of it all wasn’t yet the daily, unending norm. He was quiet and matter of fact in his managing style, as the LA Times described him, “conservative and colorless.” But he was also one of the most successful managers in baseball history. Dodger pitching-legend Carl Erskine remembered Alston’s first season as manager. “We weren’t playing too well, so Walt got us together and said: ‘If you expect me to be a rah-rah manager, you’re wrong. You’re all good players. You know the price you have to pay. Now go out and do it.'”
Alston retired when I was four, but he remained a revered figure among fans, including Dodger announcer Vin Scully, who for all practical purposes was my baseball history book growing up. I honestly haven’t one actual memory of Alston as a living person, but I also can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know who he was.