Alvin Dark, who made his Major League Debut with the Boston Braves on July 14, 1946, over 68 years ago, passed away yesterday at his home in Easley, South Carolina, at the age of 92. Dark was born January 7, 1922 in Comanche, Oklahoma. He played and managed in the Major Leagues from 1946 until 1977.
After serving with the Marines in World War II, he was drafted as a quarterback by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1945 but after being drafted by the Boston Braves as a shortstop, chose baseball.
He came up as a shortstop and played in just 15 games with the Braves in 1946 and had his first full season with them in 1948. In that rookie year, he hit .322, the highest average he would ever record, and was named Baseball Rookie of the Year. This was before there was a Rookie of the Year Award for each league. The Braves won the National League pennant that year and lost the World Series to the Cleveland Indians.
He was with the Braves from 1948 until December of 1949, when he was traded to the New York Giants along with Eddie Stanky. He played for the Giants from 1950 to 1956 . In 1951, he was the Captain of the Giants team, Managed by Leo Durocher, that won the NL pennant in a playoff against the Dodgers. That is the year that Bobby Thompson hit what has always been known as the Shot Heard Round the World to defeat the Dodgers in the ninth inning of the final playoff game.
In that final playoff game to decide the pennant, with the Dodgers up 4-1 in the last of the ninth, and the series tied at two games each, Dark started a rally with a single off Don Newcomb that led to Thompson’s dramatic game winning homer which sent the Giants to the World Series where they were defeated by the Yankees.
The Giants won the pennant again in 1954 and Dark hit .412 in the Series as the Giants swept the Cleveland Indians. The 1954 season was the season in which Willie Mays made his famous basket catch in the World Series.
He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in June of 1956 with Whitey Lockman and the Cards got Red Schoendeinst in return. He was with them until May of 1958 when he was traded to the Chicago Cubs. He then was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in January of 1960 for Richie Ashburn and, in June of that year, he was traded for Joe Morgan to the Milwaukee Braves where he finished his playing career.
He had a batting average of .289 in his 14 year career and was named to the All Star team in 1951, 1952 and 1954. He was involved in Major League baseball for four decades.
After his playing career, he managed for 13 years, four with the San Francisco Giants, two with the Kansas City Athletics, four with the Cleveland Indians, two with the Oakland Athletics and one with the San Diego Padres. He won 994 games and lost 954 in his managerial career and won the 1962 National League pennant with the Giants but lost the World Series to the Yankees in seven games. He won the American League pennant in 1974 with the Oakland Athletics and won the World Series, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.
While with the New York Giants in the fifties, he shared the New York shortstop limelight with the Yankees’ Phil Rizzuto and the Dodgers Pee Wee Reese both of whom became Hall of Famers.
In his career he played for the New York Giants before they moved to San Francisco and then managed them in San Francisco. He also played for the Boston Braves before they moved to Milwaukee and then played for them in Milwaukee and managed the Kansas City Athletics before they moved to Oakland and then managed them in Oakland. Being employed as a player or manager, by three different Major League franchises, each in two different cities, at different times, may be unique in baseball history.
Alvin Dark never made it to the Hall of Fame but he had an outstanding career, both as a Player and Manager. He was one of the last links to those great teams of the forties and fifties. He played against and with such greats as Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio and Stan Musial, Rizzuto and Reese and managed Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Reggie Jackson and other greats.
He was also one of a diminishing number of World War II Veterans to whom we owe such a debt of gratitude and who we honored this week on Veteran’s Day.