Alvin Dark: 1954 World Champion New York Giants Short Stop (1950-1956)

Alvin Ralph Dark was born January 7, 1922, in Comanche, Oklahoma. His father worked for the Magnolia Oil Company as a drilling supervisor. 

As a young child Alvin battled malaria & diphtheria keeping him out of school until he was seven years old. Eventually he became a top athlete in high school.

The five-foot eleven right hander was a five-sport player at Louisiana State University. It was there he earned the nickname "Blackie".

Military Service: Dark served time with the Marines in World War II. He spent time at Pearl Harbor & in communist China.

Dark was a standout football player, who was originally drafted to play football with the NFL Philadelphia Eagles. But he loved baseball more & was signed by the Boston Braves in 1946. 
MLB Career: Due to complete his military obligations, Dark didn't join the club until July & appeared briefly in 15 games that year. The next year he was at AA Milwaukee in the minors batting .303. It was the only year in his pro baseball career he would play in the minor leagues.

Rookie of the Year: In 1948 Dark won the Rookie of the Year Award, hitting .322 (4th in the league) with 175 hits (3rd in the league) 39 doubles (3rd in the league) 3 HRs & 48 RBIs. He finished fourth in fielding (.963) & third in the MVP voting helping the Boston Braves' win their first pennant since 1914. That season the Dodgers had traded Eddie Stanky "the Brat" to the Braves, he & Dark became an outstanding middle infield double play combo for many years. The two were roommates & became good friends as well. Stanky hit .320 that season.

1948 World Series: In his first World Series Dark hit only .167 (4-24) as Boston lost to the Cleveland Indians. 

In 1949 the Braves fell to fourth place with 75 wins, Dark hit .276 that season.

NY Giants Career: After the season ended, Dark was traded to the New York Giants, along with Eddie Stanky for Sid Gordon, Buddy Kerr, Willard Marshall and Red Webb.

It turned out to be a great trade for the New York Giants. At first the Polo Grounds fans were unhappy to see Sid Gordon a fan favorite go & they were not happy about former Brooklyn Dodger Eddie Stanky coming over.  But for Dark, he was welcomed. 

Dark would spend seven seasons with the Giants, winning Championship & two pennants. He would hit over .300 three times, play in three All Star games & hit over forty doubles twice, including a league leading 41 in 1951. Dark would become the first NL shortstop to hit more than 20 HRs in two different seasons.

In New York, Dark was eventually named team Captain by manager Leo Durocher to help build his confidence. Dark remembered in his first year he mostly took the lineup card to home plate but after the 1051 pennant he took on more responsibilities. In his first season with the Giants he hit .279 with 16 HRs, 36 doubles & 67 RBIs.

In 1950 the traded improved the fifth place Giants to a move up to third.

1951 NY Giants Pennant Season: In the Giants 1951 pennant season, Dark led the league in doubles (41) & batted .303 with a career high 196 hits. He hit 14 HRs with 7 triples (10th in the NL) 69 RBIs, a career high seven stolen bases and 114 runs scored (5th in the NL). On the field he led all shortstops with 45 errors, but also led in put outs, assists & was fifth in fielding % (.944).

The captain also helped a young rookie Willie Mays during his transition to the big leagues.

On May 1st, 1951, he hit a grand slam HR helping the Giants beat the Cubs at the Polo Grounds 5-3. Four days later he had a big four hit, four RBI Day in an 8-3 Giants win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. On May 9th the hot hitting Dark, drove in another four runs in a 17-3 walloping of the St. Louis Cardinals. That month he hit .356 & drove in 23 runs overall & was batting at .331. 

On June 9th he hit two HRs in a 10-1 win against the Cubs, driving in another four runs. On July 7th Dark's 11th inning sac fly of the Braves Hall of Famer; Warren Spahn, won the game for the Giants 6-5. IN June Dark hit .336 with 4 HRs & 12 RBIs.

Walk Off Hit: On July 7th, his bottom of the 11th inning sac fly off the Braves Warren Spahn scored Stanky with the game's winning run.

Pennant Run: The season was not going good for the Giants, by August 11th they were 13.5 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers. The rivalry got uglier during the year. There was the taunting of Jackie Robinson, especially with the personal feud he & Leo Durocher had going on. 

Also, as the Dodgers lead grew, they would taunt the Giants. One memorable incident had them singing good night to the Giants thru the clubhouse wall. An event manager Durocher used as motivation.

In the Giants incredible September stretch run, they came from being six games back on September 1st (10.5 games from August 15th) to winning the pennant. In that stretch Dark had seven multi-hit games while scoring 18 runs. 

This time around the Giants were taunting the Dodgers, mercifully. The press was all over the race & NL baseball in New York was at its peak. The Giants & the Dodgers ended up tied at the end of the season. A now legendary three game playoff was scheduled.

Post Season- Playoffs: In the 1951 playoff series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Dark was held hitless until the 9th inning of the final Game #3. He began the 9th inning comeback rally with an infield single to first base off Dodger pitcher Don Newcombe. 

Quotes- Alvin Dark: "I must have fouled off six or seven pitches before I got that hit."

Dark advanced on Don Mueller's single to right.  Dark then came around to score the first run of the inning when Whitey Lockman doubled left field. Newcombe was relieved by Ralph Branca which led up to the most famous HR in baseball history, when Bobby Thomson hit his walk off HR over the left field wall. The Giants won the Pennant!!

1951 World Series: In Game #1 of the World Series, he had two hits, including a 6th inning three
run HR off Allie Reynolds, leading the Giants to a 5-2 win over the A.L. New York club.

In Game #3 he tied up the game with a 5th inning RBI single off Vic Raschi. He came around to score on a close play at home under Yogi Berra's tag on Monte Irvin's fielder's choice. The Giants won Game #3 to take two games to one series lead, but that was the end of their miracle run as they dropped the next three games.

Overall, in the 1951 World Series Dark hit .417, second only to Monte Irvin, going 10-24 with three doubles, two walks, five runs scored & a .462 on base %. 

After the Pennant: In the Giants 1955 home Opener, Dark & Whitey Lockman helped raise the World Champions flag in the Polo Grounds.

Dark's pal & double play partner Eddie Stanky was traded to St. Louis in the off season. Willie Mays also spent most of the year doing his military service. That year the Giants finished second to Brooklyn. Manager Leo Durocher became impressed with a young Giant minor leaguer named Darryl Spencer & wanted him to play short with Dark moving over to second. Dark was publicly not happy with the idea.

Spencer would go on to serve his military duty & in 1953 Dark had his best year at the plate. He
batted .300 for the third straight season (.301) having career highs in HRs (23) RBIs (88) runs scored (126) slugging (.488%) games (155) & a league leading 647 at bats. 

He collected 194 hits with six triples & a .352 on base%. With Mays in the military again the Giants were missing the greatest player & they finished fifth.

Dark hit over .290 the next three seasons, scoring over 90 runs each year with over 25 doubles in each of those seasons.

Giants 1954 Championship Season: That off season the Giants made a big trade that was very unpopular at first, when they traded away the 1951 hero Bobby Thompson along with Sam Calderone to the Milwaukee Braves for Johnny Antonelli, Don Liddle, Ebba St. Claire & Billy Klaus. Antonelli would end up winning 21 games leading the league in ERA (2.30) & winning % (.750). Liddle would also win nine games (9-4) with three shut outs.

For Dark, he opened up the year with a two run HR off the Brooklyn Dodgers Carl Erskine in a 5-4 win at the Polo Grounds. On April 18th his 7th inning double off Milwaukee's Lew Burdette drove in two runs including the game winner.

On May 14th he had a big five hit day that included a two run HR in a 9-6 win over the Chicago Cubs. On June 12th Dark drove in three runs in a game & did the same later that week on June 20th. From July 6th through July 10th, Dark not known for his power, hit five HRs including one in three straight games.

On July 10th he hit a Grand slam HR in a 10-7 loss to the Pirates. That month he drove in twenty runs. In the first two weeks of August, he hit six HRs with ten RBIs. He rode a twelve-game hit streak into September as the Giants ran away with the NL Pennant.

Dark played in every regular season game, leading the league in at bats (644) hitting .293 belting 20 HRs with 26 doubles 70 RBIs & 90 runs scored. He made the All Star team & came in fifth in the MVP voting.

Although he led all short stops in errors he was second in assist, fourth in put outs & posted a .956 fielding %. Dark was a fine defensive player, from 1948-1957 he never finished lower than fifth in fielding %.

1954 Post Season- World Series: The Giants shocked everyone by sweeping the mighty Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series with Dark having a great series. He hit safely in every game, batting .412 overall (7-17) with a walk & a .444 on base %.

He opened up Game #1 at the Polo Grounds with two hits & drawing a walk in the 5-2 Giants win. The Giants won the game in the 10th inning on Dusty Rhodes pinch hit three run HR off Bob Lemon. Dark collected one hit in each of the next two games as well.

In the final Game #4 he collected three hits going 3-5, while scoring two runs. In the 3rd inning he scored when Willie Mays doubled to left field. In the 5th inning Dark scored when Hal Newhauser walked Hank Thompsons with the bases loaded. The Giants won the game 7-4 to sweep the World Series.

After the Championship: In 1955 he won the first annual Lou Gehrig Award & hit .282. In June of 1956 he was involved in a nine-player deal sending him to the St. Louis Cardinals at age 34. There he hit .290 & led the NL in putouts and double plays for the second time, coming in second in assists.

In May of 1958 he was traded to the Chicago Cubs, batting .295 over the remainder of that season. The next year he switched to third base when Ernie Banks had arrived at shortstop, that year Dark batted .264. He went to Philadelphia, Milwaukee & returned back with the Giants on Halloween 1960.

Career Stats: In a 14-year career Dark batted .289 with 2089 hits, 1064 runs scored 358 doubles 72 triples 126 HRs 757 RBIs 59 stolen bases a .333 on base % & a .744 OPS in 1828 games played.

His .411 career slugging average was the seventh highest by an NL shortstop when he retired, and his 126 home runs placed him behind only Ernie Banks and Travis Jackson.

He ended his career playing in 1404 games at short stop (74th all time)with the 933 double plays turned (48th all time) and a .960 fielding percentage. He made 286 errors (77th most all time) and has 2672 put outs (64th all time) & 4168 assists (77th all time). 

Retirement- Manager: After his playing days he quickly became the Giants manager in 1961 finishing in third place. In 1962 his Giants caught the Dodgers at the end of the season, forcing a best of three playoff series, just like they had done in 1951 back in New York. The Giants once again beat out the Dodgers for the pennant this time on the West Coast.

The Swamp Fox: Dark earned the nickname "the swamp fox" when he was accused of flooding the Candlestick Park base paths in order to slow up the speedy Dodger runners, Maury Wills & company. 

In the World Series the Giants fell short by one game & one out when Willie McCovey hit a bullet line drive that was snagged by the second baseman, ending the game with the winning runs on base.

Drama: In 1964 Newsday misquoted Dark with comments about black and Hispanic players saying, "They are just not able to perform when it comes to mental alertness." 

His friend & team captain, Willie Mays as well as Jackie Robinson came to his defense. Dark was eventually fired when owner Horace Stoneham found out about an extramarital affair, he was involved in.

Dark went on to manage Charlie Finley's Athletics in Kansas City in 1965 finishing in seventh place. 

In 1966 he finished 10th as Finley moved the franchise to Oakland. Dark moved on to Cleveland serving as both GM & field manager, in 1968 finishing in third place. He remained there until 1971 when he he was fired in last place.

After that he became a golf fanatic playing every day, living on a golf course in Miami Beach. Then his wife began taking Bible classes & invited Alvin to the classes as well. The two became devout Christians and it changed his whole outlook on life.

1974 World Champion A's:  In 1974 Dark returned to work under Charlie Finley, this time with the Oakland A's who were coming off two straight World Series titles. Dark was now a more religious man & put his differences with Finley aside, agreeing to his suggestions. 

with Reggie Jackson after the
A's World Series Win
He said he would no longer berate his players or belittle them publicly. Some A's players like Reggie Jackson took to Dark while others likeVida Blue & Sal Bando did not.

Quotes- A's Captain Sal Bando: "He couldn't manage a meat market". When commenting on Darks style of managing.

A's pitcher Vida Blue: "I knew he was a religious man but he's worshiping the wrong god". A reference of Dark to owner Charlie Finley

Dark won a third straight title for the A's although he wasn't nearly as popular as previous manager Dick Williams was with the players. Williams had resigned following the 1973 season, fed up with Finley's constant meddling.

Dark led the Oakland A's to another AL West title in 1975 but was fired after losing the ALCS to Boston. He ended his managerial career with a 994-954 record (.510%) winning two pennants & a World Series.

Charity: He created the Alvin Dark Foundation to financially support Christian ministries & spread the Gospel. 

Trivia: Until his death Dark was the oldest living manager to have won a World Series & pennant.

Family: In 1946 Alvin married his childhood sweetheart Adrienne & the couple had four
children. They divorced in 1969 after 23 years of marriage.

In 1970 he married his second wife Jackie & adopted her two children.

Passing: On November 12th, 2014 Dark passed away at his home in South Carolina, he was 92. 

Quotes: The Oakland A's said in a statement: "We are saddened to learn of Alvin's passing. 

He was a true baseball man who will always hold a prominent place in our history, both in Kansas City and Oakland.

 A's fans will never forget the 1974 team he managed to a third consecutive World Series title. Our condolences go out to his family and friends."

The Giants also issued their condolences. Alvin Dark left quite a baseball legacy in the Bay Area as well as National League New York baseball legacy.


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