Mr. Altobelli, who had a brief major league career as a player, managed at four levels in Baltimore’s minor league system, playing an essential role in teaching the “Oriole Way,” a standard teamwide approach encompassing every aspect of baseball.
He first managed in the major leagues with the San Francisco Giants from 1977 to 1979, then coached for the New York Yankees. In 1983, he became the Orioles’ skipper, taking over from the retiring Earl Weaver.
The Orioles had lost the American League East to the Milwaukee Brewers on the last day of the 1982 season, and Mr. Altobelli made it clear he had come to provide a steady hand at the helm of the ship built by Weaver and general manager Hank Peters. The team was led by Hall of Famers Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr., and other key members had previously played for Mr. Altobelli in the minor leagues.
With Murray and Ripken at the heart of the lineup and a deep pitching staff that included Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan and Mike Boddicker, Mr. Altobelli’s club pulled away in September to win 98 games and clinch the AL East by six games. The Orioles then defeated Tony La Russa’s Chicago White Sox, 3-1, in the American League Championship Series and held the Philadelphia Phillies to nine runs in a five-game World Series romp.
“It’s been one of those years,” Mr. Altobelli said after the World Series victory. “There are years, and there are years, and they can’t take this one away.”
Baltimore has not reached the World Series since then.
The Orioles won 85 games in 1984 but could not catch the 104-win Detroit Tigers. They were off to a 29-26 start in 1985 when owner Edward Bennett Williams fired Mr. Altobelli and brought back Weaver, whose record was 53-52 the rest of the way.
Joseph Salvatore Altobelli was born May 26, 1932, in Detroit. He spent parts of the 1955 and 1957 seasons with the Cleveland Indians as an outfielder and first baseman, then appeared in 41 games for the Minnesota Twins in 1961.
He later played four years with the Rochester Red Wings, the Orioles’ Class AAA affiliate. He began managing in the low minor leagues in 1966 and spent six years managing in Rochester, winning four league championships between 1971 and 1976.
Many of his players later formed the nucleus of the Orioles in the 1970s and 1980s, including McGregor, Flanagan, Murray, Rich Dauer, Bobby Grich, Don Baylor and Dennis Martínez.
“I struggled mightily my first two years in the minor leagues,” Grich told the Baltimore Sun. “I was really doubting my abilities and just really lost. And he just hung in there with me and talked to me so many times to keep my spirits up. I don’t know how many other managers would have taken the time or cared that much.”
Mr. Altobelli preached team unity. On one bus trip through the Appalachian Mountains, he pulled the entire club out of a roadside diner that would not serve Baylor and other Black players.
Mr. Altobelli coached for the Yankees and Chicago Cubs after leaving the Orioles. In 1991, he managed a single game for the Cubs and ended with a career managerial record of 437-407.
He returned to Rochester as general manager of the Red Wings, then served as a radio analyst for the club from 1998 to 2008 and became a beloved elder statesman of the city’s sports scene.
His wife of 52 years, Pat Altobelli, died in 2003. Survivors include six children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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