Alvin Dark, an All-Star shortstop with the New York Giants in the 1950s who went on to manage the Oakland A’s to the World Series championship in 1974, died Thursday at his home in Easley, S.C. He was 92.
His death was confirmed by the Robinson Funeral Home in Easley. No cause was given.
The 1948 Rookie of the Year with the Boston Braves and a three-time All-Star in New York, Dark played on three World Series teams in 14 seasons before becoming a manager.
Dark’s relationship with his Latin players proved a source of friction during his time as manager of the San Francisco Giants in the 1960s, when he reportedly asked them to refrain from speaking Spanish at the ballpark. Among the Latin stars on those teams were future Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal, plus Felipe Alou.
And in 1964, Newsday quoted Dark as saying that the Giants’ black and Latin players were “just not able to perform up to the white ballplayers when it comes to mental alertness.”
Dark said he was misquoted, but team owner Horace Stoneham let him go at the end of the season.
Cepeda told the Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday that he often saw Dark in later years and “every time he saw me he felt very sorry for what he did to the Latino players.”
“He didn’t know our background or where we came from. I said, ‘Alvin, that’s in the past now, that’s in the past,’” Cepeda said. “I don’t have grudges against nobody.”
As a player, Dark sparked one of the most famous rallies in baseball history. In 1951, Dark was team captain when the Giants trailed the Brooklyn Dodgers, 4-1, in the bottom of the ninth inning in the deciding Game 3 of their National League pennant playoff.
Dark hit a leadoff single against Don Newcombe, and Bobby Thomson capped the comeback at the Polo Grounds with a home run that became known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” for a 5-4 win.
Born Jan. 7, 1922, in Comanche, Okla., Dark grew up in Lake Charles, La. He was a star runner, passer and punter at Louisiana State University and served in the Marines during World War II before becoming a major leaguer.
He played briefly for the Boston Braves in 1946, then hit .322 in 1948 and won the rookie award when there was only one selection from both leagues. The Braves reached the World Series that year for the first time in three decades but lost to Cleveland.
Traded to the Giants, he helped them reach the 1951 Series and hit .417 in their loss to Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and the Yankees.
In the 1954 World Series, highlighted by Willie Mays’ famed over-the-head catch, Dark hit .412 as the Giants swept Cleveland.
Dark played in the celebrated “Willie, Mickey and the Duke” era of New York baseball in the 1950s, when the Giants, Yankees and Dodgers ruled. Along with Mays, Mantle and Duke Snider in center field, the city had three quality shortstops — Dark, plus future Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese of the Dodgers and Phil Rizzuto of the Yankees.
Dark hit .289 with 126 home runs in 14 seasons with the Braves, Giants, St. Louis, Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia.
In 1961, Dark began a managing career that spanned 13 seasons in which he went 994-954 with the Giants, Kansas City and Oakland A’s, Cleveland and San Diego.
He led the Giants to the 1962 pennant but lost the World Series in seven games to the Yankees. Dark took over the Athletics in 1974 and guided them to their third straight Series title that season, a four-games-to-one victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was hired and fired twice by A’s owner Charlie Finley.
Dark managed the Padres for the second half of the 1977 season, then was fired during spring training in 1978.
Dark worked with minor leaguers in the Cubs and Chicago White Sox organizations and moved to South Carolina in the early 1980s.