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Al Lopez

Catcher / Manager
Born: August 20, 1908(1908-08-20)
Tampa, Florida
Died: October 30, 2005 (aged 97)
Tampa, Florida
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
September 27, 1928 for the Brooklyn Robins
Last MLB appearance
September 16, 1947 for the Cleveland Indians
Career statistics
Batting average     .261
Hits     1,547
Runs batted in     652
Managerial record     1,410–1,004
Teams

As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction     1977
Election Method     Veterans Committee

Alfonso Ramon "Al" Lopez (August 20, 1908 – October 30, 2005) was an American catcher and manager in Major League Baseball, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.

Lopez was the son of immigrants from Asturias, Spain who went to Cuba, then settled in Tampa's Spanish-speaking Ybor City neighborhood.[1]

He established a major league record for career games as a catcher, and later became the only manager to interrupt the New York Yankees' string of American League pennants from 1949 to 1964. With a .584 career winning percentage, he ranks 4th in major league history among managers of at least 2000 games, behind Joe McCarthy (.615), Frank Selee (.598) and John McGraw (.586). Over the course of 15 full seasons as manager, he never had a losing record.

Biography

Born in Ybor City in Tampa, Florida, the son of a cigar factory worker, Lopez' baseball career began with the local team, the Tampa Smokers, in 1924. He broke into the major leagues briefly in 1928 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and became their starting catcher in 1930. Over a career which ran until 1947, he played for the Dodgers (1928, 1930-1935), Boston Bees (1936-1940), Pittsburgh Pirates (1940-1946) and Cleveland Indians (1947). He compiled modest numbers, including 613 runs, 51 home runs, and 652 RBI and a .261 batting average. His best season was in 1933, when he hit .301, stole 10 bases, and finished 10th in National League MVP voting. In 1945, he surpassed Gabby Hartnett's record for career games as a catcher. The record stood until 1987, when Bob Boone broke it; Lopez' National League record was broken by Gary Carter in 1990.

Lopez could get himself thrown out of a game on purpose, according to Baseball's Greatest Managers (1961). During his career as a catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was working behind the plate on a hot day and decided to leave the game even if he had to get the thumb. As luck would have it, the plate umpire was Charley Moran, who, Lopez knew, had been a college football coach in Kentucky. So, between innings, Lopez turned around and baited Moran. "Charlie, weren't you once a famous football coach?" Lopez asked. Off guard, Moran said, "Why yes, I coached the Praying Colonels at Centre College." "Is that so?" Lopez asked innocently. "What were they praying for--a new coach?" In a moment he was on his way to the showers.

Lopez' largest contributions to the sport began in 1951, when he became the manager of the Cleveland Indians, a position he would hold until 1956. In 1954, the Indians won a then American League record 111 games (since broken by the 1998 New York Yankees and 2001 Seattle Mariners). In every other season he spent with the team, the Indians finished second to the Yankees.

Lopez moved on to manage the Chicago White Sox in 1957 and carried his success over to his new team. As White Sox manager until 1965, he never had a losing season. The White Sox won the American League pennant in 1959 and finished in second place five times, never posting fewer than 82 victories. His 1954 and 1959 teams were the only non-Yankee clubs to win the AL pennant between 1949 and 1964.

Lopez briefly returned to manage 47 games in 1968 for the White Sox and 17 games in 1969, then retired. His 1,410 wins ranked 11th all-time upon his retirement, and his 840 wins with the White Sox still rank second in franchise history, behind Jimmy Dykes (899).

Al lopez park sign.jpg

In 1954, Al Lopez Field in his hometown of Tampa was named in his honor. He was later ejected from a spring training exhibition game at that field after yelling at an umpire. The Field was razed in 1989, and its former location is now the south end zone of Raymond James Stadium. Al Lopez Park, formerly Horizon Park north of the stadium, was renamed in his honor in 1992, and a statue of him was erected there.

Lopez died in Tampa at the age of 97, just four days after the White Sox won the World Series for the first time in 88 years, in their first pennant-winning season since Lopez led the 1959 team. He had been hospitalized for a heart attack, suffered two days earlier at his son's home. He was the longest-lived member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the last living major leaguer to play in the 1920s.

References

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