Former star shortstop and manager Alvin Dark (.289/.333/.411, 35.6 fWAR) died earlier today. A native of Comanche, Okla., he won two World Series rings, one as shortstop for the 1954 New York Giants, the other while piloting the 1974 A’s. He was 92.
Daniel Brown of the Sacramento Bee:
Dark emerged as a Giants star while the franchise was still in New York, serving as the captain of the 1951 team that toppled the Brooklyn Dodgers on Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”
Dark was also on the field three years later when Willie Mays made his legendary catch against the Cleveland Indians in the ‘54 World Series.
Regarded as one of the best hit-and-run artists of his time, Dark finished his 14-year playing career with a .289 average, 126 home runs and 757 RBIs. He made the All-Star team in 1951, ‘52 and ’54.
Giants owner Horace Stoneham gave Dark his first managerial job in 1961, three years after the team had transplanted to the West Coast. Dark’s ‘62 team, featuring stars such as Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal, nudged the Dodgers for the National League pennant.
While managing the Giants, Dark got mired in racial controversy:
Behind the scenes, however, Dark struggled to navigate baseball’s shifting demographics. Dark prohibited Latinos from speaking Spanish to each other, a ruling that upset many of the team’s best players, including Dominican Republic native Felipe Alou — whose brothers, Jesus and Matty, played on the team.
Dark also prohibited Latin music, which alienated Cepeda, the player nicknamed “Cha-Cha.” Cepeda had been second in voting for the MVP award in ‘61 and was the team’s leader among Latin players.
In July of 1964, Newsday quoted the manager as saying that the minorities on the Giants were “just not able to perform up to the white ballplayers when it comes to mental alertness.” The team’s black and Latin players threatened an indefinite boycott until Dark was replaced. It took Mays, the manager’s long time teammate, to quiet the rebellion.
Dark, meanwhile, insisted he was misquoted by Newsday — and players of various ethnicities rushed to his defense. Jackie Robinson, the Dodgers star who had broken baseball’s color barrier, said: “I have found Dark to be a gentleman and, above all, unbiased. Our relationship has not only been on the ball field but off it.”
The incident forever rankled Dark, who was 90 years old when he told the Chronicle: “Let me say this: Some reporters always tried to find a reason that a manager like myself wouldn’t like people from different countries. We have 25 on the ballclub, and every one is important to me. I don’t care where they came from.”