Altobelli, skipper of '83 Orioles champs, dies

March 3rd, 2021

Joe Altobelli, a baseball lifer who replaced Earl Weaver and managed the Orioles to the 1983 World Series title, died Wednesday, the team confirmed. He was 88.

“The Orioles are saddened to learn of the passing of former manager Joe Altobelli, who led Baltimore to a World Series championship in 1983, his first season at the helm,” the club said in a statement. “A tremendous leader, Altobelli’s compassion, skill and baseball expertise contributed to the Hall of Fame careers of Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, and Cal Ripken, Jr. We send our sympathies to Altobelli’s family and many friends throughout the game.”

The Orioles tabbed Altobelli as Earl Weaver’s replacement when the future Hall of Fame skipper retired for the first time, following the 1982 season. Under Altobelli's direction, the ’83 Orioles went 98-64 on the way to the franchise’s sixth American League pennant before defeating the Phillies in the World Series in five games. It remains the franchise’s most recent championship.

The Orioles finished in fifth place in the AL East the following year and fourth in 1985, when owner Edward Bennett Williams cut ties with Altobelli and coaxed Weaver out of retirement. Altobelli then returned to coaching, first with the Yankees from ’86-87, then the Cubs from ’88-91. He served as Chicago’s interim manager for one game in ’91 in between the firing of Don Zimmer and the hiring of Jim Essian.

Previously, Altobelli managed 11 years in the Orioles' system. His other big league managerial tenure came with the San Francisco Giants from 1977-79, during which Altobelli posted a 225-239 record.

All told, Altobelli went 437-407 over parts of seven seasons as a big league manager. He is remembered in Baltimore for bringing a striking contrast to Weaver’s fiery temperament to the manager’s seat and for helping mold many of the team's 1970s and ‘80s era stars during his years instructing in the Minors. The bulk of Altobelli’s influence in that realm came with the O's affiliate Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, where he managed the likes of Bobby Grich, Don Baylor, Dennis Martinez, Mike Flanagan, Scott McGregor and others.

The Red Wings finished first four times in six seasons during Altobelli’s tenure as manager from 1971-76. He returned to the Red Wings after his big league coaching days and remained involved with the organization for decades, staying after they shed their Orioles affiliation in 2002 and working as an executive and broadcaster from ‘91-2009. Altobelli was commonly referred to as Rochester’s “Mr. Baseball”; per the Red Wings, he is the only man to play, coach, manage and serve as general manager for the team.

Current Orioles skipper Brandon Hyde began his daily press briefing Wednesday by offering his condolences to Altobelli’s family.