The Major League Baseball community lost another prominent figure on Wednesday when former big-league player and longtime coach Joe Altobelli passed away. Altobelli served as the SF Giants manager from 1977-1979, had a three-year tenure as the Baltimore Orioles manager, and had a short stint as an interim manager for the Chicago Cubs. He finished his career with a 437-407 managerial record.
Before his coaching career, Altobelli had three big-league stints from 1955-1961 (two with Cleveland, one with the Minnesota Twins). A soft-hitting utilityman, Altobelli never quite got his footing as a big-league hitter and finished his career with a .210/.277/.323 triple-slash and five home runs over 290 plate appearances. Once he retired as a player in 1970, he soon joined the coaching ranks.
Altobelli’s biggest highlights in the Bay Area came in 1978 when he led a rag-tag group of Giants, highlighted by a 40-year old Willie McCovey, young Jack Clark, Vida Blue, and Jim Barr to an 89-73 record with an incredible 42 one-run victories, which remains an MLB record for most one-run wins in a season. While the Giants missed the playoffs, the franchise had not had a winning record since 1973 and was far removed from any title contention.
The pinnacle of Altobelli’s career came in his first year as the manager of the Orioles. After Replacing Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, Altobelli led a talented Baltimore roster to a 98-64 record and a 7-2 postseason record en route to the last World Series victory in franchise history.
SF Giants CEO Larry Baer offered condolences to the Altobelli family in an official statement and added, “Joe Altobelli’s leadership was one of the key factors for the Giants’ success in 1978, which rekindled excitement for Giants baseball in the Bay Area.”
The entire team at Around the Foghorn sends our thoughts and condolences to the friends and family of Joe Altobelli.