Baseball can get in the blood of some so much that they find ways to stay around even after their playing days are behind of them. One of the most prodigious and tenured baseball lifers is Felipe Alou, who has spent nearly six decades in baseball as a successful outfielder, manager, scout and front office man. His story has been captured in Alou: My Baseball Journey University of Nebraska Press-2018), by Felipe Alou with Peter Kerasotis.
Alou, a right-handed hitter, batted a combined .286 with 206 home runs during a 17-year major league career. He also won 1,033 games in 14 seasons as a big league manager, including skippering the renowned 1994 Montreal Expos, who seemed destined for World Series glory until derailed by a shortened season because of an unresolved labor agreement.
From reading Alou, it seems to know the subject one must first know his origins. A native of the Dominican Republic, he takes great pride in his country of his birth and of his family which has produced a number of major leaguers, including two of his brothers (Matty and Jesus) his son (Moises), and a nephew (Mel Rojas). While none have made the Hall of Fame, the family has cumulatively made quite an impact on baseball from many facets of the game.
Many young Latin players were starting to break into the majors when Alou came up with the San Francisco Giants in the late 1950s. He does an excellent job of detailing the struggles he and others experienced. This not only included the discrimination, but also language barriers and unequal treatment from front offices. If they were lucky, some players might have a coach or manager who had played in a Latin country and had picked up some Spanish. Otherwise, many were coming to the States and the game with limited or no ability to speak English, which hampered anything from communicating with teammates to ordering breakfast at a restaurant.
To hear Alou tell it, he is really a fisherman at heart, who once wanted to be a doctor, but was coerced into baseball because of the money his talent was able to attract. His career tells a slightly different story, as every time he was about to transition from one phase of his career, he inevitably found a new baseball-related vocation.
The pinnacle of Alou’s career should have been the 1994 Expos. They tore through the rest of the league and looked like locks for 100-plus victories and an excellent shot at the World Series. However, labor unrest kept them from actualizing either. Ominously, an aging stadium and ownership with differing priorities contributed to the team leaving Montreal just a decade later.
What’s special with Alou is that his career has spanned such a length of time and breadth of contemporaries. From Willie Mays to Barry Bonds and many in between, Alou has seen and done a lot. He and Keratosis nicely keep his narrative on track. In a number of cases it would have been nice for them to let loose just a little bit and inject a bit more personal feelings about various individuals and situations. However, it’s also understandable for the need to tread more carefully there given Alou is still working in the game as a special assistant with the San Francisco Giants.
Alou is a fine baseball biography of one of the game’s most tenured figures. More efforts like this, specifically in regards to Latin players, are desperately needed in this literature genre. As someone who has been deeply immersed in baseball for more than the past 60 years, Alou’s insight goes a long way in deciphering the game during that time.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of the book being reviewed by the publisher, but received no payment or other consideration for this review.
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