Walter (Smokey) Alston, a small-town man who managed the Dodgers to four World Series championships, was buried today after hundreds of friends and baseball associates honored him a final time.
Executives, players and former teammates packed a small chapel to attend the funeral for the man who led his teams to seven pennants. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983.
He signed the first of his 23 one-year contracts in 1954, taking over a team that had never won a World Series. The Brooklyn Dodgers won their first Series in 1955. Alston's other championship teams came after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958.
Alston, 72, had lived quietly at his family home in nearby Darrtown since retiring. He had been ill since April 1983, when he suffered a heart attack. He died Monday.
Among mourners were Pee Wee Reese, a former Dodgers shortstop; Carl Erskine, a former Dodgers pitcher; Preston Gomez, who coached for Alston seven years; owner Peter O'Malley of the Dodgers; Buzzy Bavasi, who is retiring as general manager of the San Diego Padres; Manager Tom Lasorda of the Dodgers; President Bob Howsam of the Cincinnati Reds, and Dick Wagner, former president of the Reds.
The 20-minute ceremony was held in the 210-seat Sesquicentennial Chapel at Miami University, where Alston graduated in 1935.
Alston's grandson, Rob Ogle, opened by recalling that Alston gave him a baseball soon after he was born.
"It said, 'May you have the strength of Ruth, the speed of Mantle, the finesse of Reese and the good looks of your grandfather,' " Ogle said.
"Today, I give you a ball. It says 'Your grandson will always be your best friend.' "
Present and former major league players and executives took note of Alston's achievements in his years managing the Dodgers.
"It's amazing what he accomplished," Lasorda said. "Managing today for that many years with one-year contracts seems impossible. He was a great man."
"Walt had a great sense of integrity," Howsam said, "and, of course, he loved baseball."
Reese played six years for Alston, whom he called the ideal manager.
"I never wanted to manage myself," Reese said. "But if I did, I would want to be the same as Alston. He would never embarrass a player in front of others. If you did something wrong, he called you into his office and talked about it quietly. He didn't want to embarrass you and he didn't want to be embarrassed."
Miami University Athletic Director Richard Shrider was Alston's longtime friend, golf and hunting partner and traveling companion.
Alston was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in March 1983 and spent five weeks at the Dodgers' training camp before returning home in early April last year. He suffered a heart attack a few days later.
Burial was in Darrtown Cemetery, eight miles from the campus chapel.