A LASTING LEGACY
Baseball America|December 2020
All-star player. Decorated manager. Ambassador for the Dominican Republic. Felipe Alou wore many hats, but above all he was a pioneer who helped pave the way for generations of Latino players.
JOSE DE JESUS ORTIZ

Jose Rojas promised only one thing to the reporter sitting in his living room in the Dominican Republic more than 60 years ago, and it had nothing to do with a bat or a glove. He didn’t know if his sons Felipe, Mateo or Jesus Maria would attain stardom in the major leagues.

Rojas was absolutely certain, however, about the quality of the men he was sending to the United States. History will show that Felipe, Matty and Jesus Alou validated their father’s promise.

“The only thing I’m certain about is that I’m sending three men to the world—three men—and that they will not make me look bad,” said the late patriarch of one of Major League Baseball’s greatest families.

Because the New York Giants didn’t understand how surnames are written in the Dominican Republic and throughout most of Latin America, Rojas’ boys earned their fame under their mother’s maiden name, Alou. The eldest of the three, Felipe Rojas Alou, became one of the great leaders in baseball, an icon who rates with Roberto Clemente of Puerto Rico among the most respected Latin American figures in sports history.

Because of Felipe Alou’s lifetime contributions to the game, Baseball America is honoring the 85-year-old with its Tony Gwynn Award. He’s the sixth recipient, following Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., Augie Garrido, Tom Kotchman, Jerry Weinstein and Keith Lieppman.

The Tony Gwynn Award celebrates a lifetime of making an impact in the game, sometimes behind the scenes, without the publicity of prominent managers, coaches or general managers.

Alou wasn’t behind the scenes very much. He was a three-time all-star during a 17-year playing career with the Giants, Braves, Yankees, Athletics, Expos and Brewers. He amassed 2,101 hits and 206 home runs.

After his playing career, Alou waited patiently as a minor league manager and coach before getting his shot as a major league manager in 1992 at 57 years old with the Expos. He spent a decade in Montreal before serving as the Giants’ manager for four years.

Alou led the Giants to 100 wins and the National League West title in 2003. He also was the NL Manager of the Year in the strike-shortened 1994 season with an Expos squad that many considered a legitimate World Series contender.

He’s still listed as a special assistant to the GM with the Giants, but medical issues have kept him from being as involved as he would prefer.

“I’ve had open-heart surgery,” he said. “And I’ve had knee-replacement surgery, but I’m aware of everything that happens in baseball.”

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