BALTIMORE — Joe Altobelli, the manager who led the Baltimore Orioles to their most recent World Series title in 1983, died Wednesday. He was 88.
The Orioles confirmed Altobelli’s death Wednesday, saying in a statement that the manager was a “tremendous leader.”
Altobelli was hired by the Orioles before the 1983 season — replacing future Hall of Famer Earl Weaver — and immediately found success. The team’s roster included future Hall of Famers such as first baseman Eddie Murray, shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and pitcher Jim Palmer.
The balanced club won the American League East by six games over the Detroit Tigers and then dominated in the playoffs, beating the Chicago White Sox 3 games to 1 before rolling to the World Series title over the Philadelphia Phillies in five games.
“A tremendous leader, Altobelli’s compassion, skill and baseball expertise contributed to the Hall of Fame careers of Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, and Cal Ripken Jr.,” the Orioles said in a statement. “We send our sympathies to Altobelli’s family and many friends throughout the game.”
Altobelli managed the Orioles for three seasons, then was fired after a 29-26 start in 1985. He also managed the San Francisco Giants from 1977 to ’79. He led the Chicago Cubs for one game as the interim manager in 1991.
The 1978 Giants managed by Altobelli went 89-73 for their first record above .500 since 1973 — winning 42 one-run games in the process for the highest single-season total in MLB history.
“In 1978, we got off to a really good start and were in first place until sometime in August,” recalled John Montefusco, a player for Altobelli then. “I thought we really had a shot at it and it was all because of Joe.
“He was a good guy. He’d talk to you, sit down with you and go over things with you. We had a lot in common. I really liked him. He brought a calm to the team and everyone liked him. He brought chemistry to the club, was a lot of fun to be around and he’d joke with us all the time.”
Altobelli had a career record of 437-407. He also had a successful stretch as the Orioles’ Triple-A manager from 1971 to ’76, when the Rochester Red Wings won two International League championships.
A former infielder and outfielder, Altobelli played in three big league seasons during a span from 1955 to ’61. He spent two of those years with Cleveland and one with Minnesota. He had a career batting average of .210 with five homers and 28 RBIs in 166 games.
“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,” Giants CEO Larry Baer said.