Title/Author:“Alou: My Baseball Journey” by Felipe Alou with Peter Kerasotis
Tags:Baseball, professional, Giants, Braves Expos, memoir
Publish date:April 1, 2018
Rating:4 of 5 stars (very good)
Review:Usually a man who became a major league baseball player and manager will share that he always dreamed of making it to the majors. Not so for Felipe Alou. The man who became the first player from the Dominican Republic to play in the major leagues, to play in the World Series and to manage in the major leagues, originally was going to be a doctor. Then through a strange turn of events in the 1955 Pan American games, a young Alou found himself on the baseball team, where he caught the eye of scouts. The rest is history – and told by Alou in this memoir of his life both in his homeland and in the United States.
Alou was often portrayed as a gentleman during his playing days with the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves and even more so during his managerial career, mostly with the Montreal Expos but also his last two years back in San Francisco. The stories he shares are told in that manner with one notable exception: his recollections of the racism he faced while being a pioneer for Latin American ballplayers.
While there are many stories about the racism directed at black players in the early days of integration in baseball, the plight of the Latin American player is not as well known. However, it is was just as humiliating and degrading and reading about someone experiencing this firsthand, as Alou did, is very powerful. He talks about Latin players going through this even worse than black players, as the latter players were able to stick together and retreat to friendly neighborhoods. When they were doing this, the black players, according to Alou, would exclude their Latin American teammates, making them feel even more isolated.
When approached by Sport magazine in 1963 to talk about these experiences, Alou had also been fined by commissioner Ford Frick for playing in an exhibition series in his homeland. Incensed by this and wanted to tell everyone about the racism Latin players faced, he wrote an article for the magazine’s November edition, which is shared verbatim in the book and certainly the most powerful passage in the entire volume.
This isn’t to say that the book is all about this topic Indeed, Alou spends a great deal of time talking about his two brothers who also played in the major leagues, Matty and Jesus. The three brothers made history when they appeared in a game together in all three outfield positions and also were the three batters who came to bat in one inning – both firsts for the major leagues. Alou speaks with some pride about his accomplishments on the field with the Giants and Braves, but downplays it much of the time.
Then he talks about his experience with the Montreal Expos as both a coach and later the manager of the team, becoming the first man from the Dominican Republic to manage in the major leagues. Here Alou looks back fondly at his time in Montreal as it is very clear that he has a special place in his heart for the city and it broke when the Expos left. He blames the ownership for this. He also looks back warmly at the Expos team that is still talked about today, the 1994 team with so many young stars whose season of glory was cut short by a strike that wiped out the season and the World Series that year. I do wish there was more in the book about that team, but at least Alou shared some great memories of that group.
Finally, Alou shares much about his homeland, not just his family life but also about the political strife of the Dominican Republic in the 1960’s. While interesting, this section took a little bit away from the rest of the book for me as it seemed to be more a statement about his political beliefs in his homeland than simply background information. This fits with his writing in the rest of the book where he shared his opinions of what he felt strongly about (including his belief that the National League should adopt the designated hitter) but I believe it could have been shortened.
Nonetheless, this was a very good book that fans of the Giants, Expos and baseball in general will enjoy. If a reader is interested in the history of Latin American players in the game, Alou’s experiences will certainly be of interest to that person.
I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Book Format Read:E-book (Kindle)