Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Matty Alou (#10)

Matty Alou (the middle of the 3 Alou brothers) played the outfield for 15 seasons, mostly for the Giants and Pirates.

Alou was signed by the Giants in 1957, and played 4 seasons in the minors before making his major-league debut in the final week of the 1960 season, 2 ½ years after his brother Felipe joined the team.

Matty spent the next 4 seasons as the Giants’ 5th outfielder, behind Willie Mays, brother Felipe, whichever of Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey wasn’t playing 1st base, and the veteran Harvey Kuenn.

After Felipe was traded away following the 1963 season, it looked like things would open up for Matty, but his younger brother Jesus joined the team that year and jumped ahead of him in the outfield mix.

Not until 1965, when Cepeda missed most of the season to injuries and Kuenn moved on did Alou get a starting position. (Actually, he shared left field with Len Gabrielsen, but Matty’s time as a backup at the other 2 spots pushed him up to #3 in overall playing time.)


After the 1965 season, he was traded to the Pirates for pitcher Joe Gibbon and catcher Ozzie Virgil. Although Alou batted .310 and .292 in part-time duty in ’61 and ’62, it wasn’t until he got to Pittsburgh that his bat exploded (maybe due to the influence of manager Harry Walker?).

Alou was immediately installed as the Pirates’ center fielder, and collected over 575 plate appearances in each of his five seasons with the Pirates. His batting average soared, reaching .342 (NL best), .338 (2nd to Pete Rose), .332, .331, and .297 for those 5 seasons. Alou also made the all-star team in 1968 and 1969, and led the NL in hits (231), doubles (41), and plate appearances (746) in 1969.

Matty’s final games as a Pirate were in the 1970 NLCS. With young Al Oliver waiting in the wings, the Pirates dealt Alou while he was at the top of his game, sending him to the Cardinals (with pitcher George Brunet) for pitcher Nelson Briles and outfielder Vic Davalillo prior to the ’71 season.

Alou started 144 games for the Cardinals in 1971, dividing his time between center field and 1st base. The following season he was the primary first baseman (while also playing in right field) until his August trade to the Athletics. Matty finished out the rest of that season (including the ALCS and World Series) with Oakland, then was traded to the Yankees in the off-season.

Alou played most of 1973 with the Yankees, sharing the first base and right field starting assignments with his brother Felipe. In September Matty was sold back to the Cardinals, who flipped him to the Padres after the season.

Matty played 48 games for the Padres in 1974 before his release in mid-July. He then played in Japan from 1974 through 1976.

Alou passed away in November 2011 at age 72.

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