Gene Alley

Gene Alley

2B, 3B, SS
July 10, 1940
5' 10"
160 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-04-1963 with PIT
Allstar Selections:
1966 GG, 1967 GG

While many people remember Bill Mazeroski as holding most of the Double Play records in the history of the game, they forget when it comes to turning the twin killing, it takes two to tango.  For Maz to become the double play king that he was, he needed a solid shortstop right next to him.  In the mid 60’s when Maz was at his peak, his double play partner was a man named Gene Alley.
Alley came up to the show in 1963 as a highly touted prospect and after hitting only .212 in 260 at bats between ’63 and ’64, took over the starting spot at short in 1965. 
Although the Virginia native hit only .252, he showed what the future had to offer with his spectacular defensive play as he led all NL shortstops with 30 fielding runs (a statistic found in Total Baseball that takes a players major defensive statistics and compares them the league average in an attempt to measure a players overall defensive ability)
The following campaign in 1966, Gene not only blossomed into a fine overall shortstop, but in fact was considered by many as the best shortstop in the league.  His batting average skyrocketed to .299, while he showed he was the best defensive shortstop in the senior circuit.
The soft-spoken Alley, was part of the National Leagues most prolific double play combo in history as the team as a whole recorded a senior circuit record 215.  Gene himself participated in 128 double plays that season, the 10th best mark ever for a shortstop.
For his efforts the Virginian was awarded his first gold glove.  None other than Leo Durocher felt that there was no better at his position in 1966 than Gene Alley.
When he was in his prime, Alley could cover ground at short as not many could.  He also had a howitzer of an arm.  Offensively not only had he become very effective, but he doubled that up with being an outstanding bunter.  The future looked very bright for Gene and he didn’t disappoint the next season.
Alley not only continued his successful offensive ways with a .287 average and a career high 55 RBI’s, but had 26 fielding runs and was awarded the gold glove for the second consecutive season.  Gene found himself selected to play in his first all-star game in 1967.
With everything seemingly on the up rise for the 28-year old shortstop, injuries would rear their ugly head and unfortunately, his best days were behind him.  Alley suffered a severe shoulder injury in 1968, and played most of the season despite the pain.  It affected him not only offensively, where he was hitting only .217 by the first of July and .245 for the season, but defensively where he was forced to throw almost underhand the rest of the campaign.  Gene once again was selected to play in the all-star game, but the injury forced him to sit the contest out.
A young shortstop by the Freddie Patek had to be called upon in ’69 to replace Alley, who was limited to only 285 at bats because of the shoulder, his lowest level since his second season in 1964.  Despite the limited action in ’69, Alley still managed to hit a career high 8 homers, a level he matched the following season in 1970, when he also garnered 34 fielding runs, the 76th highest total, regardless of position, in major league history.
1970 proved to be Alley’s last meaningful season, as not only was the shoulder bothersome, but add to the fact he was suffering from knee injuries, Gene’s days in the majors were numbered.
He hung on until 1973, when he retired following a .203 performance in only 158 at bats.  Alley left the game with 125 total fielding runs, which was the 70th best total regardless of position in the history of the game. 
Despite the fact he suffered through the last part of his career with assorted ailments, for two years though in 1966 and 1967, when someone spoke of the best shortstops in the majors, the name of Gene Alley was one that always inevitably would come to the forefront of the conversation.

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