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Al Lopez, 97; Hall of Famer Led White Sox, Indians to Pennants

October 31, 2005|From Associated Press

Al Lopez, the oldest living member of baseball's Hall of Fame, died Sunday in Tampa, Fla. He was 97.

Lopez, a catcher and manager who led the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox to American League pennants in the 1950s, had been hospitalized since Friday, when he suffered a heart attack at the home of his son, Al Lopez Jr.

Hall of Fame spokesman Jeff Idelson said that, with Lopez's death, former New York Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto, 88, has become the oldest living member of the Hall.

Lopez hit .261 with 51 homers and 652 RBIs during a 19-year career in which he was one of baseball's most durable catchers and set the record for most games caught in the major leagues at 1,918. The record was broken by Bob Boone and Carlton Fisk.

Lopez was best known for being the only American League manager to lead teams that finished ahead of the New York Yankees between 1949 and 1964. He helped the Indians to the 1954 pennant and, until last week, was the last manager to lead the White Sox to the World Series. That was in 1959 when the Sox lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"We're saddened by the news," White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said through a spokesman Sunday.

"Al lived a long and good life. We're so pleased we were able to win the World Series this year and that he was able to see it before he died," Reinsdorf said.

The two-time All-Star's first full season in the majors was 1930, and he played 18 seasons for Brooklyn, Boston, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. He managed the Indians from 1951 to 1956 and the White Sox from 1957 to 1965 and 1968 to 1969.

Every off-season, Lopez returned to Tampa, where he was born in 1908.

Lopez caught Bob Feller, Dizzy Dean and Dazzy Vance, but he never forgot working as a teenager with Walter Johnson, who won 417 games and possessed a legendary fastball. During spring training in 1925, the Washington Senators hired the 15-year-old Lopez to catch batting practice for $45 a week.

Although he held the record for most games caught until Boone caught his 1,919th game in 1987, Lopez was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977 as a manager with a .581 winning percentage.

The Indians won a then-AL record 111 games in 1954, and his 1959 "Go-Go" White Sox won Chicago's first AL pennant since 1919. His teams finished second to the Yankees every other season that decade.

Lopez's second stint as manager of the White Sox ended May 2, 1969, when he resigned for health reasons with a career win-loss record of 1,422-1,026.

Widowed by the death of his wife, Connie, in 1983, Lopez is survived by his son, three grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

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