Al Rosen dies at 91; baseball star was MVP and Executive of the Year

Baseball slugger and front office executive Al “Flip” Rosen, the only person to win both the Most Valuable Player and Executive of the Year awards, died Friday at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. He was 91.

He died of natural causes, said his son, Jim.

Rosen, whose entire major league career as a player from 1947 to 1956 was with the Cleveland Indians, had a banner year in 1953 when he led the American League with 43 home runs and 145 RBIs. His batting average was .336, but he just missed nabbing the triple crown because Washington’s Mickey Vernon hit .337.

Rosen was named MVP that year by a unanimous vote — the first time that had happened in the American League since 1935, when Hank Greenberg won. Greenberg and Rosen, both Jewish, were each called the “Hebrew Hammer” during their careers.


Rosen’s skills as a slugger weren’t limited to baseball. He was also an amateur boxer and known for confronting those who made anti-Semitic remarks, including when, during a game with the Chicago White Sox, someone from that team’s dugout yelled slurs as Rosen played third base.

“I kept looking in and I couldn’t find who it was,” he said later in an interview with the sports website SB Nation. Between innings, the muscular Rosen made a detour to the White Sox dugout. “I challenged whoever would make those comments to come on out.”

No one stepped forward.

Rosen played on four All-Star teams and had one at-bat in the 1948 World Series when Cleveland beat Boston. Although he had up and down seasons, he clearly loved the game.

“The greatest thrill in the world is to end the game with a home run,” he said, as quoted in the Gigantic Book of Baseball Quotations, “and watch everybody else walk off the field while you’re running the bases on air.”

Albert Leonard Rosen was born Feb. 29, 1924, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and grew up in Miami. He was a star player in high school and earned a degree in business from the University of Miami. He served in the Navy during World War II and played in the minors before making it onto the Cleveland Indians roster.

After his playing career, Rosen spent time as a stockbroker and worked as an executive with Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. But he missed the game, and in 1978 he accepted an offer from the tempestuous George Steinbrenner to become president of the Yankees. He lasted only about a year before resigning. His next team was the Houston Astros and then finally the San Francisco Giants, which he joined in 1985 as president and general manager.

The Giants, in last place that year, won the National League West title in 1987, and Rosen was named Major League Executive of the Year.

In addition to his son Jim, who lives in Orlando, survivors include his wife Rita of Rancho Mirage; sons Rob in Orlando and Andy in New York; stepdaughter Gail Evenari of Half Moon Bay; stepson David Lowenstein of Cupertino; four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Twitter: @davidcolker