Felipe Alou and his brothers helped pave the way for the wave of Dominican talent that followed
By Kimberly McCray
Almost one third of all major leaguers have a Latino heritage. And among Latin American countries, the Dominican Republic has produced more Latino baseball talent than any other.
Through the 2011 season, over 200 Dominicans have risen to the major league level. Yet there was a time when Latin players were rarer and Dominican players were non-existent. It was in such an era that a young Dominican named Felipe Rojas Alou burst onto the scene and in making a name for himself, paved the road as one of the first Dominican players to start regularly in the major leagues.
Born in 1935 in Bajos de Haina, Dominican Republic, Felipe Alou’s career aspirations led him to enter college with the intention of earning a medical degree. Yet in 1955, financial difficulties persuaded Alou to leave his university studies and career ambitions behind to pursue his childhood love: Baseball. Signing his first major league contract for the sum of $200 so his family could pay off the charge bill at a local grocery store, Alou joined the New York Giants, a baseball organization invested in embracing Latino talent.
As one of his country’s premier track and field athletes as a teenager, it was Alou’s speed that initially turned scouts’ heads in 1955 and led to his major league debut in 1958. With the support of other Giants Latino players such as Orlando Cepeda and Ruben Gomez, both roommates of Alou’s, Felipe made the transition to San Francisco, the new home of the Giants franchise, and began a big league career marked by his success as a speedy leadoff man.
A Giant through the 1963 season, Alou’s biggest year with the team came in 1962, when he achieved a batting average of .316, hit 25 home runs and tallied 98 RBI, making the All-Star team for the first of three times. Although 1964 marked the end of Alou’s career with the Giants – he was traded to the Braves after the 1963 season – his baseball career was far from over. Over the next 11 years, Felipe patrolled the outfield grass for five other teams before retiring with a reputation as one of the greatest Latino players of his era and the “founding father” of Dominican involvement in Major League Baseball.
With his playing days over, Alou stayed in baseball, most notably becoming the fourth Latino – and first Dominican – to manage a major league team. Alou skippered the Expos from 1992 through 2001 and the Giants from 2003 through 2006.
Yet for all of his success on the field as a player and in the dugout as a manager, Felipe Alou is perhaps best remembered not for his individual endeavors but for his role as part of a family legacy. Alou managed his son, major league standout Moises Alou, with both the Expos and Giants. But the father/son connection was only one of Felipe’s family ties to baseball. As a player, Felipe was joined in the majors first by brother Matty in 1960 and then by brother Jesus in 1963, the addition of whom made it possible on Sept. 15 of that year for the Giants to field the first ever “all-brother outfield” and begin a true baseball dynasty.
Said fellow Dominican player Manny Mota of the three brothers: “They (the Alou brothers) opened the door for all of us guys on the field. Felipe was really the first, the guy who cleared the way. He was an inspiration for everybody here. He was a good example. That was the family tradition.”
Kimberly McCray was the 2012 library-recorded media intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development.
For information on how to apply for the Class of 2013 Steele Internship Program, click here