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Altobelli in 1983
|First baseman / Manager|
|Born: May 26, 1932|
|April 14, 1955, for the Cleveland Indians|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 1, 1961, for the Minnesota Twins|
|Runs batted in||28|
Joseph Salvatore Altobelli (born May 26, 1932) is an American former professional baseball first baseman / outfielder, manager, and coach, who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) with both the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins. In 1983, he succeeded Hall of Famer Earl Weaver as manager of the Baltimore Orioles and led the team to their sixth American League (AL) pennant and their third (and most recent) World Series championship.
As a player, Altobelli was a slugging first baseman and outfielder who enjoyed his greatest success at the AAA level. He batted only .210 in 166 MLB games with the Cleveland Indians (1955, 1957) and Minnesota Twins (1961), with five home runs, and 28 runs batted in (RBI). However, Altobelli was frequently in the double-digits in home runs as a AAA player. As a member of the Montreal Royals, he led the 1960 International League (IL) in home runs (31) and RBI (105). Altobelli batted and threw left-handed.
In 1951, as a member of the Daytona Beach Islanders, Altobelli amassed a 36-game hitting streak which stood as the Florida State League record until Harold Garcia's 37-gamer for the Clearwater Threshers in 2010.
In between, Altobelli played winter baseball in three non-consecutive seasons of in Venezuela: one year in the Liga Occidental de Béisbol Profesional (LOBP) and two in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League (VPBL). He claimed a batting title with a .378 average for the 1955-56 Gavilanes de Maracaibo championship team; he then posted two solid campaigns with the Indios de Oriente (1956-57) and Industriales de Valencia (1960-61).
In 1966, Altobelli began an 11-year apprenticeship as a manager in the Baltimore farm system, culminating in six seasons (from 1971 to 1976) managing the IL Rochester Red Wings. During his tenure, the Red Wings finished first four times. Altobelli's first major league managerial assignment began when the San Francisco Giants hired him to succeed Bill Rigney, on October 7, 1976. Although Altobelli's 1978 club finished 16 games above .500 and in third place in the National League West Division, he was dismissed in 1979, his third season, with a mark of 225-239 (.485) as Giants' manager.
Before the 1983 season, the Orioles named Altobelli as successor to Earl Weaver, following Weaver's -season career as Baltimore's manager. The Altobelli-led team posted 98 wins, winning the AL East championship, then bested the Chicago White Sox, three games to one, in the American League Championship Series (ALCS). The Orioles then decimated the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1983 World Series, winning in five games.
The Orioles fell to fifth in the AL East in 1984, despite playing eight games over .500. In May 1985, when the team continued to tread water at 29-26, Altobelli was let go. Weaver came out of retirement to win 53 of the remaining 105 games.
Altobelli then returned to coaching, working with the Yankees again (from 1986 to 1987), serving next under Don Zimmer with the Chicago Cubs from 1988 to 1991, and filled in as interim manager for one game when Zimmer was fired in 1991 before being replaced by Jim Essian.
In 1991, Altobelli returned to Rochester and took over as general manager of the Red Wings, a position he held for three years. He then served as special assistant to the club president until 1997.
In 1998 he began serving as the color commentator for Red Wings home-game broadcasts. In early 2009 he announced his retirement, making 2009 the first year he was out of organized baseball since 1950.
Altobelli has been referred to as Rochester's "Mr. Baseball." His number 26 has been retired by the team, he was an inaugural inductee into the Red Wings Hall of Fame, and in 2010 a statue of Altobelli was installed on the Frontier Field concourse, which included a plaque noting he is the only man to have been a player, coach, manager, and general manager of the team. Altobelli continues to live in the Rochester area.