Sad news for the Bay Area and tha national baseball community today as legendary White Sox and Indians manager Al Lopez has passed away at the age of 97. According to Whosaliveandwhosdead.com, Lopez passed away yesterday (October 29th) at his Tampa home. As I write this, the Tampa Tribune has become the first media outlet to report Senor Lopez's Death.
Alfonso Ramon Lopez was born in Tampa's Cuban sector of Ybor City on August 20, 1908. Lopez was signed for $150 to play for the Tampa Smokers in 1924, and was called up to the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1928. Lopez was Brooklyn's catcher for seven years, including his All-Star season of 1934, when he hit .273 with seven home runs. He was traded the next season to the Boston Braves, and established a reputation as one of the league's best defensive catchers, not allowing any passed balls in 1937 and only one in 1938. He married his wife Evelyn in 1939, and the two remained married until her death in 1983.
Meanwhile, Lopez was on the move yet again in 1940, when he was traded from Boston to Pittsburgh, where he played for six years until finishing his career in 1947 with the Indians. He quickly got into managing, which would become his ticket to the Hall of Fame, managing the minor league Indianapolis Indians after his retirement. Lopez got his chance in the major leagues in 1950, when the Cleveland Indians fired manager Lou Boudreau and replaced him with Lopez. Lopez managed the Tribe for the next six seasons, including the pennant-winning season of 1954 that would be the Indians' last trip to the World Series until 1995. He quit as manager of the Indians two years later, and in his six years with Cleveland, never finished below second place, and this was even before divisions were created.
He wasn't out of the manager's ring for long, as he took the job with the Chicago White Sox a month later. Lopez ended up winning the AL in 1959 yet again in a period of Yankee dominance. The Sox would not reach the Series again until this year. After losing the Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games, Lopez was named the AL Manager of the Year. Lopez resigned from the White Sox job in 1965, and remained in retirement until taking over the same job yet again in 1968 after Eddie Stanky is fired. He would manage the Sox until the end of the 1969 season, when he called it quits for good. Lopez finished his managerial career with an amazing record of 2,459-1,422 (.581). As manager, Lopez ended up going to two World Series, won one Manager of the Year Award, and managed the AL All-Star team three times.
A 1977 inductee of the baseball Hall of Fame and a 1982 inductee of the Tampa Sports Hall of Fame, Lopez remained active in his retirement, helping out the community in many capacities and sharing his baseball expierences with the local community. He held the baseball record for most games caught until Bob Boone broke it by catching his 1,919th game with the California Angels in 1987. He held the NL record in that came category until San Francisco Giants catcher Gary Carter broke it in 1991. The spring training stadium that bore his name in Tampa, north of Tampa Stadium, was erected in 1954 and hosted Reds spring training until the 1987 spring season. It also hosted Tampa Tarpons minor league baseball. It was torn down two years later. Al Lopez Park, on the site of the former stadium, was dedicated in 1992 and includes a life-sized statue of Lopez.
Lopez died just days after the White Sox won their first World Series in almost nine decades, a somehow fitting end to the rich life of the ultimate Bay Area baseball legend. His contributions to the Bay Area and the Baseball Community will not be forgotten and may his soul rest in piece. He deserves it. Rest in Piece Mr. Lopez, and may your legacy remain with us forever and always.
Sources: The Tampa Tribune, Baseball-Reference.com
Courtesy: Baseball Hall of Fame
Al Lopez 1908-2005