Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Oakland A's/Seibu Lions Series: Mateo "Matty" Alou


This is the beginning of my special offseason series. In this exclusive, we'll be looking at a special group of players who've represented both mine and Christian's two favorite baseball teams: The Oakland Athletics (A's) and the Saitama Seibu Lions. 

To be eligible for this list, the player have had to either have played in at least one game for both teams, or play for one and coach for the other, or coach for both. Playing for minor league affiliations don't count (sorry, Hiroyuki Nakajima).

I'll be looking at how these players performed for both clubs and then adding along any footnotes I see necessary. If there were any special moments, I'll be sure to add them. First up, we'll be looking at one of the first Dominican ballplayers to take baseball by storm.

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Mateo "Matty" Alou

Tenures: 1972 with the Oakland A's, and 1974-1976 with the Taiheiyo Club Lions

Statistics with the A's: 32 games, 136 PA, .281/.341/.347 1 HR, 16 RBIs, 0.5 bWAR

Statistics with the Lions: 262 games, 978 PA, .283/.317/.389 14 HRs, 75 RBIs

You don't think of Matty Alou as being a member of the Oakland A's, but the long time San Francisco Giant and Pittsburgh Pirate ended up in Oakland, after being traded by the St. Louis Cardinals in late August of 1972. The trade to a contender provided the 33-year-old with his one and only World Series championship.

Alou split time between first base and right field with the A's and played just about every day. He garnered plenty of at bats in the playoffs and played quite well against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, hitting .381 with 4 doubles. In the World Series, he hit a major slump to the tune of 1 for 24, but he still was able to obtain that elusive ring and that must've felt like a great weight off his shoulders after the way his Giants team lost in the 1962 World Series.

He's more known for his batting title with the Pittsburgh Pirates after he finally was able to get out of the shadows of his brothers, Jesus and Felipe, but he was still a solid role player for the 1972 Oakland A's. His eldest brother Felipe had previously played for the A's between 1970-1971 and then his younger brother Jesus would join the A's the following season in 1973 and would stay there until the 1974 season, getting two rings.

After the 1972 World Series, the A's traded Alou to the Yankees for a Player to be Named Later (PTBNL) and Rob Gardner, that trade allowed him to be reunited with his brother, Felipe, while his other brother, Jesus, took his place in Oakland. His reunion with Felipe would be short-lived as the Cardinals would bring him back to have him finish out the 1973 season with them.

After 1973, Alou would head to the San Diego Padres and spend a half season there, before being released in mid-July. With his Major League options thinning out, Matty Alou made the decision to head to Japan and join what was then known as the Taiheiyo Club Lions of Fukuoka. Unfortunately for Matty, his tenure with the Lions was a fruitless time in franchise history and Alou did not enjoy his time in Japan. 

The Lions in 1974 would go 59-64-7 finishing fourth in the Pacific League. Then in 1975, the team would go 58-62-10, finishing third. Finally in 1976, Alou's Lions would finish 44-76-10 and dead last in the Pacific League in the final year of his baseball career. Alou finished with a lifetime .283 average while in NPB. 

Matty Alou had this to say about his time in Japan, "I didn't like playing there really, I played there because I had to. I had three kids to support. It was hard there. Too much practice, too much traveling, had to travel almost every day."

Complaints like this have become commonplace for foreign players over the years, nevertheless, Matty Alou is a part of the special club among players in our mind.

Matty Alou passed away in 2011 at the age of 72, may we keep him in our memories.

Special thanks to SABR.org and baseball-reference for the numerous factoids.

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Others in the series: 

John Wasdin

Jose Ortiz

Ty Van Burkleo

Taylor Duncan

Roger Repoz

Jim Tyrone

Esteban German

Bert Campaneris

Hiram Bocachica

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