Felipe Alou retraces his epic baseball journey in new memoir

Alou: My Baseball Journey

Felipe Alou, with Peter Kerasotis

293 pages

University of Nebraska Press, 2018


What a job resume! Anyone who’s ever applied for a job worries about those time gaps. As in: where were you were working from this date to that date?

Felipe Alou had none of those problems. Since signing as a player with the New York Giants in 1955, he stayed employed constantly through 2018. Best of all, all these jobs were in professional baseball.

That’s only one sense of Alou’s baseball journey.  The talented outfield prospect came out of poverty in the Dominican Republic, making his minor league debut in 1956. Alou inaugural season was overshadowed by the racism of the Deep South, however.  Fans peppered him with racist taunts, all “in that lilting Louisiana accent—a syrupy drawl, the sound and cadence of which have never left my ears.”

Alou’s eloquence runs through his memoir. He tells of early friendships with Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey. Cepeda and Roberto Clemente are praised as Alou’s batting muses. McCovey, meanwhile, encouraged Alou to stop buying and wearing cheap shoes for off the field. This author is grateful for many allies, and he shares the reasons why.

On September 10, 1963, Alou made major league history with brothers Jesus and Matty. The Giants outfield featured three brothers playing side by side. After two innings together with no consequence, reporters asked Felipe how he felt being one of three Alous on the field. “But mostly what I felt was an overwhelming sense of responsibility to look out for my younger brothers,” Alou recalled. “I was more concerned for them than anything else.”

Felipe Alou is a fine storyteller. He relates the tense relationship he endured with then-racist Alvin Dark, the Giants manager. Amazingly, they became friends after Alou’s career, thanks to their shared Christian faith.

The biggest surprise for me in the book was a revelation about son Moises Alou. Felipe got to manage his son with the Expos. Father Alou reveals a tidbit about Moises as a rookie: one of his son’s superstitions was to pee on his hands before a game, in hopes of gripping a bat better. Anyone getting an in-person autograph from Moises during those first years might think twice over their success.

One sentence in the book jumped out at me in the book. “…I believe it’s criminal to charge fans money to see pitchers hit.” Alou makes a strong case for why the National League should allow designated hitters, too. Noting that Alou spent his entire managerial career in the National League makes his feelings even more compelling.

Peter Kerasotis gets applause as an all-star co-author. Book projects require such assisting writers to be part hypnotist, part traffic cop and part cheerleader. Kerasotis extracted details aplenty from Alou, gleaning personal feelings to frame each notable moment. Alou’s book maintains a clear narrative path, moving through seasons with chronological ease.

Alou, now available in a new edition with an afterword by Bruce Bochy, is a worthwhile addition to baseball bookshelves.  Read Alou, and you’ll be thinking that you own exhibit A in the case to get him overdue Hall of Fame consideration.



Wes Westrum recalled his Minnesota roots: Celebrating a decade of Baseball by the Letters via its first-ever blog post!

(From March 10, 2010 edition of Baseball By The Letters)


Westrum Wes 1951 Bowman
Westrum died in 2002. His rookie card comes from the 1951 Bowman set. 

Wes Westrum’s baseball heyday came in New York. He logged a decade catching for the Giants, racking up two All-Star team nods and a 1954 World Championship ring. Westrum returned to the Big Apple as a Mets coach, becoming manager when Casey Stengel fractured his hip and was forced to retire.

All those New York headlines could never match the drama of Westrum’s Minnesota roots. I grew in admiration for any Minnesota native developing as a major leaguer after reading Stew Thornley’s fine Baseball in Minnesota: A Definitive History Thornley has documented the rise of Westrum and his Minnesotan counterparts in Minnesotans in Baseball

Before he died at age 79 in 2002, Westrum sent an epic description of his evolution as a baseball player. (I asked about his place in Minnesota baseball history, along with memories of other native sons. Mentioning that my wife was born in Redwood Falls may have helped increase my chances at a response!)

Westrum wrote:

“Spent all my youth in all the sports. My father died at an early age (37). Baseball was the quickest way to help the family. I was a better football player and had a scholarship to Minnesota. Played pro baseball while in high school so I couldn’t go. Played basketball at Bemidji State Teachers one year before Uncle Sam got me.

Caught Paul Giel in his first game with the New York Giants. Great competitor and wonderful fellow. I was Jerry Koosman’s coach and manager with the New York Mets. Great person.

Russ Rolandson from Alexandria was with us in 1947 with Minneapolis Millers. He was a catcher from the College of Hamline.

Bill Dickey of the Yankees was my idol growing up in the small town of Clearbrook, Minnesota. The people of Clearbrook took up a small collection of $65 to send me to the Crookston (MN) Pirates in my junior year of high school. I made the (minor league) team.

Lots of fond memories of those days. Best always, ‘Wes’ Westrum”

The local hero did return. Westrum passed away in Clearbrook, Minnesota May 28, 2002. Did his friends and neighbors realize they were investing $65 in an all-star career? Clearbrook did in 1990, opening the Wes Westrum Baseball Museum.

One grateful catcher never forgot one hometown’s kindness.

MLB.com raises eyebrows with quiz: ‘Can you guess which star’s autograph this is? Are those letters or squiggles?’

Bryant signing autographs 2
Kris Bryant, in a 2018 minor league rehab stint, signs quickly for a crowd, giving them his abbreviated signature. (Photo by Minda Haas Kuhlmann)

The April 8 quiz of the day on MLB.com is worth pondering. Eric Chesterton brought up a couple of interesting questions about the penmanship of today’s major leaguers.

Chesterton praises MLB stars for penning nearly identical signatures every time. However, he adds, “But the ability to generate identical signatures every time doesn’t mean those signatures are ever legible.”

Check out Chesterton’s 20 autographed baseballs. See what you think.

I think I might be writing thank-you letters to current players who take the time to spell it all out for me. Legible signatures are an endangered species.