They were dark-skinned men who could not be described as "negro." They were proof that whatever other arguments you could present against the old segregationist way - and those arguments were prima facie of course - the old way wasn't going to be serviceable in our new world.
Life wasn't wholly kind to the Alou boys in their native country. Poverty chased them. Felipe was going to try to escape this by becoming a doctor. He flirted with this dream for a time. His baseball talent turned heads after he switched to this sport from track and field. This life-changing transition happened at the Pan-American Games. Felipe's Dominican team took Gold.
He stuck with University studies for a time. Then in 1955 (the year I was born), family financial pressures persuaded him to accept a short-term financial fix from the San Francisco Giants. That "fix" was $200. How quaint to report on such a figure.
Baseball was integrated in the 1950s. Realistically there were still hurdles confronting players of color. Felipe was able to make his major league debut in 1958. In 1962 he became an All-Star as he batted .316 with 25 home runs and 98 RBIs. Brother Matty came along for big league play in 1960. Then came the baby brother, Jesus (pronounced "hay-SOOS") in 1963. The three were all initially Giants. In September of 1963 they all took the outfield together, a brother phenomenon that has not been repeated since.
Felipe moved to Milwaukee for the 1964 season. They were the Braves then, not the Brewers. Felipe shone as a Brave, reaching All-Star status. He later took his talents to Atlanta, Oakland, the Yankees, Montreal and the Milwaukee Brewers, over a career of 17 years. Any boy collecting baseball cards would almost consider Mr. Alou to be family. But then there were his brothers too.
Matty Alou was a fixture in big league ball for 15 years. I remember him mostly for his outstanding hitting with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he was upstaged by Roberto Clemente. Oh, and Willie Stargell was in that lineup. Like Felipe, he played for several teams. Matty also played in Japan in 1974 through 1976.
Matty won the National League batting title in 1966 as a Pirate. He played with the world champion Oakland A's in 1972.
I have previously written a blog post essay on the life and career of Jesus Alou. He presented the unique issue of a name spelled identical to the Christian savior. This was seen as a problem or conflict by many at the time. Quaint.
"hay-SOOS" made the rounds in big league ball, looking fine in several uniforms. He had talent reflecting his brothers but had a marked weakness of not drawing many walks. He was probably at his best with the Houston Astros. He managed a .300 average with them, but with few walks and not a lot of power. He moved on to Oakland in the A.L. and was a bench player on two World Series championship teams.
Quite a trio, those Alou brothers, and pioneers in showing us the rainbow-like complexion of major league baseball rosters that was to come. The dichotomy of "white" and "negro" was unraveling and headed to the dustbin of history.
Felipe managed the Montreal Expos from 1992 to 2001. Thus he made an impact north of the border that brought that Canadian Hall of Fame status. Felipe managed the San Francisco Giants from 2003 to 2006.
I have previously written poetry honoring the Alou brothers for a post on my primary website, "I Love Morris." Anyone who follows my writing knows I love baseball. I decided to go beyond poetry and write song lyrics for a song that might be recorded honoring the Alou brothers. My song is called "The Alou Boys." It has a gentle, laid-back tempo. Lyrics are not the same as poetry. I invite you to read through the song as presented below. Embrace the memories. Visualize those old baseball cards. Thanks for reading.
"The Alou Boys"
The Alou boys made a big noise