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Al Lopez

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Al Lopez

A photo of Al Lopez.

Alfonso Ramon Lopez (August 20 1908October 30 2005) was an American catcher and manager in Major League Baseball who established a major league record for career games as a catcher, and later became the only manager to interrupt the New York Yankees' string of American League pennants from 1949 to 1964. With a .584 career winning percentage, he ranks 4th in major league history among managers of at least 2000 games, behind Joe McCarthy (.615), Frank Selee (.598) and John McGraw (.586). Over the course of 15 full seasons as manager, he never had a losing record.

Born in Ybor City in Tampa, Florida, the son of a cigar factory worker, Lopez' baseball career began with the local team, the Tampa Smokers, in 1924. He broke into the major leagues briefly in 1928 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and became their starting catcher in 1930. Over a career which ran until 1947, he played for the Dodgers (1928, 1930-1935), Boston Bees (1936-1940), Pittsburgh Pirates (1940-1946) and Cleveland Indians (1947). He compiled modest numbers, including 613 runs, 51 home runs, and 652 RBI and a .261 batting average. His best season was in 1933, when he hit .301, stole 10 bases, and finished 10th in National League MVP voting. In 1945, he surpassed Gabby Hartnett's record for career games as a catcher. The record stood until 1987, when Bob Boone broke it; Lopez' National League record was broken by Gary Carter in 1990.

Baseball Hof
Al Lopez
is a member of
the Baseball
Hall of Fame

Lopez' largest contributions to the sport began in 1951, when he became the manager of the Cleveland Indians, a position he would hold until 1956. In 1954, the Indians won a then American League record 111 games (since broken by the 1998 New York Yankees and 2001 Seattle Mariners). In every other season he spent with the team, the Indians finished second to the Yankees. According to Hank Greenberg's autobiography (Greenberg was GM during Lopez' tenure with Cleveland). Lopez' resignation after the 1956 season was forced by Greenberg and the Cleveland stockholders.

Lopez moved on to manage the Chicago White Sox in 1957 and carried his success over to his new team. As White Sox manager until 1965, he never had a losing season. The White Sox won the American League pennant in 1959 and finished in second place five times, never posting fewer than 82 victories. His 1954 and 1959 teams were the only non-Yankee clubs to win the AL pennant between 1949 and 1964.

Lopez briefly returned to manage 47 games in 1968 for the White Sox and 17 games in 1969, then retired. His 1410 wins ranked 11th all-time upon his retirement, and his 840 wins with the White Sox still rank second in franchise history, behind Jimmy Dykes (899).

Lopez was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 by the Veterans' Committee along with Joe Sewell and Amos Rusie. This marked the last time prior to 1995 that the Vets' picked more than 2 candidates in one election.

In 1954, Al Lopez Field in his hometown of Tampa was named in his honor. He was later ejected from a spring training exhibition game at that field after yelling at an umpire. The Field was razed in 1989, and its former location is now the south end zone of Raymond James Stadium. Al Lopez Park, formerly Horizon Park north of the stadium, was renamed in his honor in 1992, and a statue of him was erected there.

Lopez died in Tampa at the age of 97, just four days after the White Sox won the World Series for the first time in 88 years, in their first pennant-winning season since Lopez led the 1959 team. He had been hospitalized for a heart attack, suffered two days earlier at his son's home. He was the longest-lived member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the last living major leaguer to play in the 1920s.

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Preceded by:
Lou Boudreau
Cleveland Indians Manager
1951-1956
Succeeded by:
Kerby Farrell
Preceded by:
Marty Marion
Chicago White Sox Manager
1957-1965
Succeeded by:
Eddie Stanky
Preceded by:
Les Moss
Chicago White Sox Manager
1968
Succeeded by:
Les Moss
Preceded by:
Les Moss
Chicago White Sox Manager
1968-1969
Succeeded by:
Don Gutteridge

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