- LF, OF, CF, RF, P, 1B, DH
- December 22, 1938
- 5' 9"
- 160 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-26-1960 with SFN
He was the product of a great experiment gone well. When Matty Alou came to the Pirates before the 1966 season for pitcher Joe Gibbon and catcher Ozzie Virgil, Alou was but a .260 hitter who was coming off a .231 season with the Giants.
Pirate manager Harry Walker, who considered himself one of the foremost experts on hitting, which not many would dispute, took aside Alou in spring training and asked him to make a couple of adjustments. The first thing he wanted Matty to do was stop pulling the ball and instead push it to left field. He told Alou early on that if he learned to hit the ball to left, he could improve his batting average by 50 points. Walker was wrong, his average shot up 102 points. Alou listened to Walker, hit the ball to left field, choked up on the bat and used a 38 oz bat instead of the 34 oz model he had been using and the results were remarkable. In his first season in the black and gold, the diminutive center fielder won the National League batting title and finished 9th in the MVP voting.
Prior to coming to Pittsburgh, Matty was more renowned for being part of the Alou brother trio that not only were all in the majors at the same time, but all on the Giants in 1963. Matty was the middle Alou, Felipe being the oldest and Jesus bringing up the rear. On September 10th of the ’63 season, Giants manager Alvin Dark did something that had never been done in the history of the game, he batted the Alou’s consecutively, becoming the first brother trio to do that in a big league game.
For Alou, Pittsburgh proved to be an exciting new opportunity that he was more than taking advantage of. Former teammate Orlando Cepeda had felt that Giant manager Alvin Dark really never gave the Dominican native a shot in San Francisco and he certainly made the Giants look bad.
After Matty’s breakthrough season, he wanted to prove that 1966 was no fluke and he certainly more than did that. Alou finished third in the circuit in hitting with a .338 mark and 4th in hits with 186.
While the rest of baseball was being dominated by pitching in 1968, Matty refused to be part of the poor batting trend and hit an NL 2nd best .332 while the league average was only .251. That season the 29-year old outfielder was selected to play in his first all-star game.
Although Alou got most of his credit for his offense, he was also solid defense as he was considered the fastest of the Alou brothers and covered a lot of ground in center.
One thing Matty was always criticized for was the fact he was a one-dimensional slap hitter. The center fielder set that argument back a little in his marquis season of 1969 when he not only led the league in hits with 231, he also led it in doubles with 41, 13 higher than his next best career mark. He once again broke the .330 plateau with a NL 4th best .331 average. During the year, Matty not only once again was selected to play in the all-star game, but he set the major league record for at bats in a season with 698.
Despite the fact Alou had a fine 1970 season for the Bucs, it marked the first time he didn’t break .300 as he hit .297. With the Bucs near a championship, pitching was there biggest weakness and with a young Al Oliver ready to take over in center, Matty became expendable and was sent to the Cardinals with George Brunet for Nellie Briles and Vic Davalillo.
Alou had solid seasons with Cardinals, hitting .315 and .314 respectively in 1971 and 1972 before heading to the A’s in August of ’72. He was a star in the ALCS, hitting .381 with 4 doubles and won his first World Championship, even though he was only 1 for 24 in the series against the Reds.
1972 marked the last solid major league season Matty Alou would accomplish as he was out of the show two years later after stints with the Yanks, Cards and Padres. He tried his hand in Japan in 1974, but his better days were definitely behind him.
After he retired Alou managed Cuidad Trujillo in the Dominican Winter League. In his five year Pirate career Alou hit 67 points better than his Giant career mark with a .327 average. He also is the one player that is a lasting tribute to the immense hitting knowledge of Harry “the Hat” Walker.