2017-09-07 / Sports

World champion player becomes world champion manager

BASEBALL’S BEST
LAMAR GARRARD baseball historian

“Friendship is forgotten when the game begins.” – Al Dark

About seven years ago, I made a road trip, as I often do, to visit a Major League Baseball player. Don Dillard, a former major league out- and the Cleveland Indians had set up a visit for us to have lunch with Alvin Dark, former player and manager in the big leagues. I met Don at his house in Greenwood, S.C., and we made the short trip to see Don’s old friend, Al Dark. Dark lived on the golf course in Easley and we met him at the very nice clubhouse.

Dark, a native of Oklahoma, chose his retirement location in Easley because that was the home of his second wife. Dark was a college football standout at LSU in 1942 and ran for 433 yards as a halfback. He played basketball and baseball that year and lettered in all three sports. As part of the Marines’ V-12 program in WWII, Dark transferred to Louisiana Tech in 1943. He starred in the football team’s win over Arkansas A&M in the Oil Bowl. In 1945, after Marine basic training he was assigned to the Pacific Theater and then to Peking China as part of a supply depot unit.

The Boston Braves offered him a $50,000 sign- ing bonus in July of 1946 and he went straight to the big league club. He was in the 1948 World Series that saw his Braves get defeated by the Cleve- land Indians. He was voted the Rookie of the Year for 1948 with a .322 batting average. Al was in the lineup on October 3, 1951, at the Polo Grounds when the Giants beat the Dodgers to win the pennant with a home run off the bat of Bob- by Thomson. That line up had some outstanding talent that included Willie Mays, Eddie Stanky, Monte Irvin, and Don Mueller among others. In 1954, Dark helped the Giants become World Champions over the Indians with a blistering .422 batting average for the series. completed his playing career in 1960 with the Milwaukee Braves. In his 14-year playing career he chalked up a life time batting aver- age of .289 in over 1,800 games at shortstop. He managed to blast 126 homers which at the time was the seventh most home runs all time for a shortstop.

Between 1961 and 1977 Al manclubs. He was inactive in ’65 and 72. His managerial record was 994 wins against 954 losses and included a pennant win with the Giants and a World Championship with the 1974 Oakland A’s featuring slugger Reggie Jackson. In 1954 he played on a World Champion- ship team and in 1974 he managed one. This puts him in the category of Gil Hodges for having this same type of success as a player and a manager.

I remember talking baseball with Mr. Dark and Mr. Dillard that day, but what Al Dark wanted to talk about most was his church, his mission work, and his Christian testimony. It was an honor for me to meet and talk with him. He passed away on November 13, 2015, at age 93. He was one of the stars in the golden age of baseball.

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