COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – His big league playing career consisted of exactly one at-bat – one that ended in a strikeout. But a little more than 47 years after his Sept. 27, 1936 debut for the St. Louis Cardinals, Walter Alston was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.In between, Alston established himself as one of the best managers in major league history.
Alston was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee 27 years ago this week: March 10, 1983. The Veterans Committee also elected George Kell, adding to an already impressive class that included Baseball Writers’ Association of America electees Juan Marichal and Brooks Robinson.None of them, however, were part of more World Championship teams than Alston, who guided to the Dodgers to four World Series titles during his 23-year tenure with Brooklyn and Los Angeles.“He might be taken for a farmer who came to manage the town team on a Saturday,” wrote Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Journal.But beneath Alston’s quiet exterior was the heart of a champion.In 1954, Alston took over a Dodgers team coming off two straight National League pennants – and two straight World Series losses to the Yankees. Brooklyn finished second in the National League that year, but in 1955 Alston guided the Bums to their only World Series championship in Brooklyn.After another NL pennant in 1956, Alston moved with the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1958. The following year, a transitioning Dodger club featuring a mix of veterans and youngsters won the NL pennant – giving Alston three flags in six years. Los Angeles went on the win the World Series over the Chicago White Sox.Four years later, Alston picked up his third World Series ring when the Dodgers – behind NL Most Valuable Player Sandy Koufax – defeated New York again in the World Series. Alston and the Dodgers then won back-to-back NL flags in 1965 and 1966, winning the World Series over the Twins in ’65 before losing to the Orioles in ’66.Alston’s Dodgers won one more NL pennant in 1974 before the beloved skipper called it a day and went home to Ohio in the waning days of the 1976 season. His final record: 2,040-1,613, good for a .558 winning percentage (12th all-time among managers with at least 1,000 wins), seven NL pennants and those four World Series titles.His 2,040 wins rank ninth on the all-time list (Alston is one of only 10 managers with at least 2,000 wins), and his four Fall Classic wins are topped by only Casey Stengel (seven), Joe McCarthy (seven) and Connie Mack (five).Alston died on Oct. 1, 1984.Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum