On Aug. 3, 1994, Jose Rojas, 89, died of that most noble of
causes: old age. About 300 people crowded into a Santo Domingo
funeral home the next day to mark the passing of this carpenter
and blacksmith, to celebrate a life well lived, to say goodbye
to the patriarch of a baseball family.
After the service most of the mourners went in peace, but
Rojas's son Jesus Alou was in an uncharacteristic hurry. He was
driving to Cristo Redentor cemetery, on the outskirts of the
city, to ensure that everything was ready for the burial. As
Alou and a friend navigated the traffic that chokes the capital
of the Dominican Republic, they listened to horse races on the
Suddenly the sound went dead.
"Radio broken?" asked Alou's friend, Gary Hughes, the Florida
Marlins' scouting director.
"Oh, no," Alou said in his soft, high-pitched singsong. "They're
just having a moment of silence for my father."
"Now, that's big," Hughes marveled. "A moment of silence at the
track for Don Abundio."
To almost everyone, Jose Rojas was Don Abundio. "Abundio," Jesus
Alou says, "comes from abundance," and when you consider Rojas's
progeny -- both their number and the numbers they put up -- has
any nickname linked to baseball ever been more appropriate?
Rojas never saw a major league game, but his sons and grandsons
had played in 5,808 of them through last Friday. With all due
respect to the DiMaggios and the Ripkens, to three generations
of Boones and to Griffeys Sr. and Jr., the descendants of Don
Abundio are the most abundant baseball family of all.
The baseball roots of the Rojas family are deep and sprawling,
better suited to a 19th-century Russian novel than a
20th-century expanded box score. The family's connection to the
game spans four countries (the Dominican Republic, the U.S.,
Canada and Mexico) and a combined 58 major league seasons. Three
of Don Abundio's six children with his wife Virginia Alou --
Felipe, Matty and Jesus Alou -- were prominent major leaguers,
and Felipe's son Moises Alou is an All-Star leftfielder with the
Montreal Expos. Before he married Dona Virginia, Don Abundio
fathered two children by a woman who died young and whose name
was not known by most of his family. One of the grandsons
descended from that liaison is Expo relief pitcher Mel Rojas.
Climb this family tree with caution: You can bark your shins on
almost any branch. Some of Don Abundio's descendants are
surnamed Rojas; some, Alou. Some use both names -- or switch
back and forth. "I use Alou when I call the airlines for
reservations, because I get a better seat," says Matty, now the
Dominican scouting supervisor for the San Francisco Giants. When
he played in a benefit softball game outside Santo Domingo in
February, Moises Alou was introduced as Moises Rojas Beltre,
because Rojas is his father's family name and Beltre is his
mother's family name.
Truly, you can't tell this family without a scorecard.
So leading off is Felipe Alou, 60, the righteous one, the first
native-trained Dominican to play in the major leagues, the
outfielder who in 17 seasons (1958-74) had 2,101 hits, the 1994
National League manager of the year (with the Expos), the man
who has had four wives and 11 children, three of whom he named
There is Matty Alou, 56, the sly one, who had 231 hits in one
season (1969) for the Pittsburgh Pirates and a career .307
batting average from 1960 to '74.
There is Jesus Alou, 53, the dutiful one, who was not as skilled
a batsman as his older brothers yet played in the majors 15
years between 1963 and '79 and now oversees the Marlins'
scouting and development operation in the Dominican Republic.
There is Felipe's son Moises Alou, 28, the tough one, who
suffered a severely dislocated left ankle and broken leg while
running the bases on Sept. 16, 1993, and came back to stroke the
game-winning hit for the National League in the 1994 All-Star
Felipe had two other ballplaying sons and namesakes: the first
Felipe, who died in 1976 and is eternally 16, and the second
Felipe, who is now 16 and could set off a bidding war between
two of his uncles' teams, the Giants and the Marlins, when he
becomes eligible to turn pro on Nov. 29, his 17th birthday.
There is yet another of Felipe's sons, Jose, 31, who was a .300
hitter in the Florida State League until the late '80s, when a
bum shoulder and the curveball turned him into a patrolman on
the graveyard shift with the Delray Beach, Fla., police.
There are Don Abundio's grandsons, the Rojas brothers: relief
pitcher Mel, 28, who this season was elevated from setup man to
closer in the Expo bullpen; and outfielders Francisco, 38, who
played in the Giants' system in 1977 and wound up in the Mexican
leagues; and Jose, 26, who was signed by the Detroit Tigers in
1988 and was released the next year.
Finally there is Jay Alou, Jesus's son, a former junior varsity
player at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., who has played
more violin than baseball and would like to become a doctor.
Still, at 21, he went to the Expo minor league camp in March
instead of pursuing his medical education.
Sooner or later a Kennedy will find his way into politics, and
sooner or later an Alou is going to play baseball. "Alou," says
Jay, the Hippocrates on hold, "means baseball."
In the U.S. the game is an heirloom, handed down through
generations like good china. But if you come from the Dominican
Republic, you can't afford to treat the game with a
field-of-dreams conceit. Fishing -- now there is something to pass
on to your children. The Rojas-Alou family was of modest means
(Dona Virginia's father was a gardener for Dominican strongman
Rafael Trujillo) so Jose Rojas taught his children to fish. And
they taught their children to fish. Felipe Alou says Don Abundio
never played baseball. Matty says his father did play but quit
at 15 when he saw a friend die after being struck by a bat
during a game.
When those or any other Alou stories differ slightly, there is
no point trying to reconcile them. No family sees with one pair
of eyes. No family speaks with one voice.
"I can say for sure my father never threw a ball to me," Felipe
says. "In America a father can't wait to throw a ball to his
child, but it's not the same in the Dominican Republic. Moises
learned to play in the Mota [youth] League. They knew he could
be a baseball player; I didn't. My father never came to the
States to see me play. The only time he was off the island was
in 1964, when I took him to Caracas for interleague play between
the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. He flew home the second
day because he was afraid the three or four cows he'd left with
a neighbor weren't being tended properly.
"My father did three things for me: He bought me a pair of
spikes when I was 14, though later he cut off the cleats and
wore those shoes to work in his shop because he didn't have any
other shoes. He gave me permission to sign my contract. And he
was behind me till the day he died."
Felipe, the first Dominican manager in the major leagues, left
Montreal for that sad and quick journey home to bury his father
last August, but he denied Moises permission to attend his
grandfather's funeral. "This team can win without one Alou," he
told his son, "but it can't win without two." The night after
Don Abundio died, Moises hit a home run to help the Expos beat
the St. Louis Cardinals.
"You know, life is funny," Jesus Alou said as he drove away from
the cemetery after a visit there one morning last February.
"Whatever happened to this family was destiny. It was never
forced to go in any direction. It was destiny."
Felipe Alou dozed fitfully as the bus rumbled east through the
Louisiana night. He was sitting in the back of the vehicle
because, in 1956, nine years after Jackie Robinson broke in with
the Brooklyn Dodgers, this was still where you sat if you were
black and traveling by public conveyance from Lake Charles, La.,
to Cocoa Beach, Fla. Alou, who was about to turn 21, had only
recently discovered he was black. Don Abundio was black. Dona
Virginia, whose father had emigrated from Spain, was white.
Felipe had never thought much about his skin color until Jim
Crow did the thinking for him. In his first professional
baseball season in the States, he had had just nine at bats in
five games before officials of his Lake Charles team realized
that discrimination laws in other Evangeline League cities
prohibited Alou and two other blacks on the team from playing
there. That was why Alou was shoehorned into the rear of a bus
on his way to the Florida State League.
He didn't know anything about Cocoa Beach except that it was in
Florida. And he didn't know much about Florida other than that
it contained Miami, where he could use the other half of the
round-trip plane ticket the Giants had given him and forget this
crazy country. For three days on the bus he lived on water and
the peanuts he bought at rest stops. For three days he lined up
to drink from the proper fountains and use the correct toilets.
For three days he thought about quitting baseball. But when the
bus stopped at five o'clock one Friday morning in May at a bench
in the middle of nowhere, which the driver assured him was Cocoa
Beach, Alou got off. He began hiking toward some distant
buildings, toward the Alou baseball destiny.
During his summer in Cocoa Beach, Felipe Alou would set down
stories of baseball and race in precise weekly letters to his
family, and he would embellish and add grace notes to the tales
when he was home during the winters. To his brothers, who didn't
know much about baseball in the U.S., Felipe's stories were
fabulous. For a penny the brothers could buy two
Spanish-language baseball cards and read about Ralph Branca or
Allie Reynolds or the great Cleveland Indian pitching staff of
the early 1950s, but Matty says that back when the boys were
growing up, their knowledge of the big leagues was so vague that
they weren't even sure these men were paid to play.
"Every year Felipe's stories were a big part of the homecoming,"
Jesus says. "He would tell us the things he did, the good steps
and the bad steps he took, the bad experiences with racism. That
never scared me. To me it sounded like an adventure, just part
of the trip. We didn't know about the world."
They had grown up in Haina, which is about seven miles from
Santo Domingo but only a 350-foot line drive from the Caribbean
through a thicket of underbrush. The boys used machetes to hack
out a path to the promontory they called Goat Point, after the
half-wild goats that lived there. When the brothers weren't
fishing for grouper and snapper or skipping stones into the sea,
they were home helping their father in his carpentry shop or
playing ball in the yard. Sometimes the ball was a coconut husk
they tossed underhand, though more often they used half a rubber
ball. They stitched first baseman's mitts from thin strips of
canvas and cut bats from tree limbs, lathing them in the shop.
The backyard rules were simple: You batted until you struck out.
Felipe hit 206 home runs in the major leagues, but in a sense he
and his brothers never left the yard. The three of them combined
to play 25 big league seasons with at least 400 at bats, but
only Felipe struck out as many as 60 times in a season, and he
did it in just three of his 17 seasons. In fact, in 1970, Matty
struck out only 18 times in 677 at bats.
"But back then, no parent in this country believed baseball was
a serious thing," says Virginia Alou, who turned 80 in May.
"That was not work."
Dona Virginia had plans for all six of her children -- Felipe,
Maria, Matty, Jesus, Virginia and Juan: She wanted them to be
professionals, and baseball was only a game. Matty quit school
after the eighth grade and longed to go to sea, but the others
were studious. Jesus took secretarial courses at night and might
be the only scout able to take shorthand. Felipe spent a year at
the University of Santo Domingo. Although he starred in track as
well as baseball, he was going to be a doctor.
But this family destiny kept tugging him in another direction.
Felipe went to the Pan American Games in Mexico City in 1955 to
run the sprints and throw the javelin. He wasn't even on the
Dominican baseball team until the eve of the Games, when the
leftfielder slugged one of Trujillo's security people and was
sent home. Felipe, who was drafted to take his place, wound up
batting cleanup and playing first base and outfield and had four
hits in the final game as the Dominican Republic beat the U.S.
for the gold medal. He had promised his parents he would return
to school, but Horacio Martinez, the baseball coach at the
University of Santo Domingo and a Giant scout, said Felipe would
make a fine big leaguer. The Giants bet a $200 signing bonus on
it in 1955.
"We owed 200 pesos to Bienvenido Ortiz, the grocer," Felipe
says. "That was $200 at the time. Beans, rice, dried cod -- he
would put it on the account. After I got the money, we paid that
debt. When I signed, the family was able to eat better."
Baseball quickly became the family business. Matty forgot the
sea and decided to follow in his brother's footsteps, signing
with the Giants two years after Felipe. He was grateful his
brother had cleared the way, because when he took the bus from
the spring training complex in Sanford, Fla., to play Class D
ball in Michigan City, Ind., he knew precisely which rest rooms
were meant for him.
Felipe made the Giants during the 1958 season, the second
Dominican-born player in the major leagues (the Giants had
called up Ozzie Virgil two years earlier, but Virgil had grown
up in New York). Felipe batted .275 his second full year, but
when a sportswriter praised him, he said, "Wait till you see my
brother." Matty arrived in the majors in 1960 and hit .310 his
second year. When the writer repeated Felipe's compliment to
Matty, he said, "Oh, no, Felipe was talking about our younger
brother Jesus." Jesus was called up by the Giants in September
1963 and hit .298 two years later.
On Sept. 10, 1963, San Francisco was playing the New York Mets
at the Polo Grounds. Felipe was the regular Giant rightfielder.
Matty and Jesus entered the game as pinch hitters and stayed in
to play centerfield and left, respectively. For the only time in
the annals of baseball, three brothers were playing in the same
major league game.
"We weren't aware we were making history," Jesus says. "I don't
even remember it exactly. It was like my second or third day in
the majors. There was a thrill, but it was the thrill of the
game, of finally getting to all these beautiful ballparks filled
with all these people. We had played hundreds of games together
for Escogido [of the Dominican Winter League]."
In a sport drunk on its own history, that September day made the
Alous unforgettable collectively. But they were also memorable
individually. Hundreds of players passed through the majors
between 1958, when Felipe arrived, and '79, when Jesus retired.
But if you are old enough to remember weekday World Series
games, you can close your eyes and still picture the Alou
brothers in their batting stances: Felipe, bat held high before
his short, violent stroke; little Matty, waving a 36-inch,
36-ounce bat that seemed almost as big as he was, chopping
opposite-field singles, guiding the ball as if he were playing
tennis; Jesus, tall and limber, with a head that swiveled on his
neck like a doll's and with a long, looping swing.
Felipe batted .327 and led the National League with 218 hits and
122 runs for the Atlanta Braves in 1966. Matty won the batting
title that season by hitting .342 for Pittsburgh, the start of
an eight-year run during which he averaged .320. Jesus had 27
doubles and hit .306 with the Houston Astros in 1970. The
brothers finished with 5,094 hits among them, 241 more than
Joe, Dom and Vince DiMaggio (but 517 fewer than Paul and Lloyd
"Felipe was the best man at my wedding, and I played with Matty
in the minors, so I know the family well," says Manny Mota, who
spent most of his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Dodgers
and has been a coach with the club since retiring as a player in
1980. Last February he was sitting in a lawn chair near a
softball field where Dominican big leaguers past and present
-- Pedro Guerrero and Raul Mondesi, Joaquin Andujar and Juan
Guzman -- were limbering up. "They should be judged on something
more than numbers," Mota said of the Alou brothers. "They opened
the door for all of these guys on the field. Felipe was really
the first, the guy who cleared the way. He was an inspiration
for everybody here. He was a good example. That was the family
tradition. They were well behaved, and they worked hard."
"We watched our steps and our mouths," Felipe says. "We didn't
do anything to put the family in jeopardy. My father used to
say, 'The only thing I know is I have three men over there.'"
It was March 1976, and Moises Alou sat in front of the open
coffin, burning the image in his brain: Why Felipito? Why was
his oldest brother dead? Why was Felipito lying there in a
gray-and-white checked suit when he had never worn a suit
before? Moises had questions, a thousand questions, and for the
first time Felipito could not answer them. Moises was nine.
From across the room Felipe Alou observed through his tears. He
was a Montreal baserunning and outfield instructor when someone
came to the spring training field in Orlando to tell him there
was an urgent phone call, and Felipe knew Don Abundio had died.
Odd how memories of Expo pitcher Steve Rogers's control
problems now mingle with Felipe's recollection of the telephone
call that brought news that night of the death of his first-born
child, a 16-year-old who had jumped into a shallow, murky
swimming pool in Santo Domingo and had not come up.
"Moises was the only one of the kids who didn't cry at the
funeral," Felipe says. "This nine-year-old, this man, sitting in
a chair like he was guarding the coffin, this tough s.o.b., was
not flustered. I broke down, but I knew then this was going to
be some kid."
Moises's father and mother divorced when he was two, and
Felipito, only seven years older than Moises, had become a
surrogate parent. He took the other children fishing. He would
not let Moises leave the table until Moises had cleaned his
plate. Felipito was already a prospect, an excellent pitcher and
outfielder who took Moises to watch him play, just as Moises now
takes his son, three-year-old Moises Felipe, to Expo games.
Felipe Sr. was with the Braves when he left his first wife to
marry Beverly Martin of Atlanta, and they had three daughters,
Christia, Cheri and Jennifer. Later, after a divorce from
Beverly, Felipe married Elsa Brens, a Dominican, and fathered
Felipe Jose and Luis Emilio Rojas. Ten years ago, after another
divorce, Felipe married Lucie Gagnon, a French-Canadian, and
they had two children, Valarie and the third Felipe. Alou is
deeply religious -- "He speaks in parables," New York Yankee
pitcher John Wetteland, a former Expo, says -- and his four
marriages seem incongruous.
"People ask how a man who likes to be home with his family gets
married four times," Felipe says. "All of the evils that go on
in life, the evils of the life of a traveling ballplayer, I
wasn't immune to that. But I loved all my wives and children.
And all my children were by my wives. There were no children on
the street, as we say in the Dominican Republic. I wasn't there
all the time, but I knew their shoe sizes. There are 10 kids
now, and they've never been at the same place at the same time.
But they're all friends. They all visit each other. They all
went to school. In this time of drugs and alcohol and corruption
and lies and so on, I haven't seen any of that from them.
"I've been a lucky man. I had two children in my 50's, and God
gave us other Felipes. [Felipito's death] was a tremendous
loss-only in the past few years have I been able to speak about
it-but it helped me confront life in a more decisive way."
Alou couldn't return to the game the year Felipito died. He and
his friend Alfredo Cordero would jump in Alou's old car and
drive hard and far and aimlessly, trying to bury the bitterness
in the asphalt. Alou used to be afraid of sharks, but when he
went scuba diving after his son's death, he didn't give them a
thought. How much more could life hurt him?
Moises felt a child's pain and wished a child's wish. He wanted
his parents to get back together. Didn't all his friends have
two parents with them? Felipe would write and call Moises. He
would see Moises occasionally during the winters. The boy's
school tuition was paid. There was food on the table. But Felipe
never made a fortune in baseball, the way Moises has -- last
week he signed a one-year, $3 million contract -- and there
wasn't much spare money at home. Moises never owned a bicycle.
His mother couldn't afford one.
"But I was the happiest kid in the world," Moises says. "My dad
would pick me up sometimes when he was home, and we'd go to a
beach house in Salinas and go fishing. We'd drive around, and
people would stare at us. People would come up and want to shake
his hand. You know how good that makes a kid feel? Maybe
afterward it was, 'O.K., see you in a couple of months,' but I
felt proud when I was with him. He was the most famous player,
maybe the most famous person, on the island, and he was my
Felipe was not, however, his son's teacher. Moises came
relatively late to baseball. He played on the basketball team in
high school. What he learned about the family business came from
his uncle Jesus or his baseball coaches in the Mota League.
Moises attended Canada College in Redwood City, Calif., like his
brother Jose before him, and there he developed as an
outfielder. Pittsburgh drafted him in 1986. Four years later,
when the Expos acquired Moises as part of a package for pitcher
Zane Smith, someone asked Felipe Alou, then managing Class A
West Palm Beach in the Expo system, how good his son was. Felipe
said Moises was going to make a good fourth outfielder.
Felipe was more used to managing other people's sons than his
own, even though he'd had Jose in West Palm Beach for two
seasons. When Felipe became manager of the Expos in May 1992,
Moises had at least three closed-door meetings with his father
to find out why he wasn't playing more. Felipe benched him in
'93 after pitchers figured out Moises was a first-pitch fastball
hitter and began fooling him with first-pitch sliders. Felipe
also caught Moises, in Philadelphia, violating a team rule that
prohibited players from taking beer with them when they left the
clubhouse. Shortly after the beer incident The Sporting News
wanted to take a picture of the Alous together for a Father's
Day story, but Moises hissed, "I won't have my picture taken
with that man." Moises, who had 18 home runs and 85 RBIs in '93
before breaking his leg, felt like he had been grounded.
"If it had been [centerfielder] Marquis Grissom, I'm sure my dad
wouldn't have used him as an example," Moises says. "The thing
you have to understand about my dad is, he's straight. When
little Felipe and Luis [Felipe Alou's sons with Elsa Brens] are
in Montreal and the team is out taking BP, they wait in his
office. His kids, the brothers of one of the best players on the
team, and he won't let them walk around the clubhouse because he
thinks it might bother the other players or management....
"I think his 10 kids have turned out good because he's a good
person. We're very close now. We go fishing together a lot. He's
a good manager to play for, because he tells you where you
stand. Maybe one day I'll even learn to understand him."
Felipe says there is no longer anything for Moises to
understand. Felipe subscribes to the theory that at the
beginning and end of their careers, players are in the hands of
their managers; but when a player becomes a regular -- like
Moises, who hit .339 with 31 doubles, 22 home runs and 78 RBIs
in 107 games last year and was batting .319 entering last
weekend-he's on his own. "I thank God for the kind of son he
gave me: fearless, aggressive and with a lot of baseball
talent," Felipe says. "I use both hands. The left hand is soft.
The right hand is strong. Moises has freed himself from my right
hand. But I do watch him. We don't want anything to happen that
will hurt our family name."
Alou standards are high. You do not foul a trail you have
blazed. When 16-year-old Felipe Rojas, Moises's half brother,
wore his cap backward during a softball game last winter with
big leaguers like Felix Jose and Stan Javier, Moises upbraided
him for being cocky. An Alou is never cocky. "I hate this
can't-miss thing about my brother," Moises says. "I want to make
things harder for him, make him appreciate things more."
The can't-miss kid plays for the Academia de Beisbol Franklin
Rodriguez team on the same field in Santo Domingo where Felipe
Alou used to play. A lithe 5'10-1/2", 170 pounds, Felipe Rojas,
the first switch-hitter in the family, is easy to spot. "Jesus
tells me it scares him to see the boy do everything so well,"
Felipe Alou says. "Like a 25-year-old, not a 16-year-old. He is
in such control of his body." As Felipe Rojas approaches first
base during a baserunning drill, he is the only player who
instinctively veers wide to get a better angle to make the turn.
Felipe Rojas also stands out because he is wearing new baseball
pants and a fitted Expo cap, not an adjustable drugstore model.
Under its brim he has written, in English: I'M GOING TO FIGHT
FOR YOU -- #17, 18, 51. Those are the uniform numbers of his
father, his half-brother Moises and his cousin Mel.
"I think he's going to the same college Jose and Moises went
to," says his uncle Jesus, the Marlin scout.
"I'm going to sign Felipe Rojas," says his uncle Matty, the
Giant scout. "His mother and my wife are close. No way are they
going to take that kid away from me. I believe in bloodlines."
There is, of course, a true Alou fish story.
On the May 1992 afternoon that Felipe Alou was hired as a major
league manager, he sat in Expo general manager Dan Duquette's
office, "smelling like fish, like hell," Felipe says. Duquette
had asked him to drop by his office that day, an off day, but
Alou first went fishing, casting high, hard ones on Lac St.
Pierre, an hour outside Montreal. Duquette told Alou he was
going to fire manager Tom Runnells, who had been hired by Dave
Dombrowski, Duquette's predecessor, in 1991. For a few hours
Alou, who had joined Runnells as the Expos' bench coach in '92,
argued on behalf of his manager.
Runnells is going, period, Duquette finally said. Do you want it
"Eventually," Alou says, "I said yes." Having managed in as many
games and in as many places over the previous 30 years as anyone
-- winters, summers, Venezuela, Mexico, the U.S., the Dominican
Republic -- he was confident he could do the job. He had a flair
for handling pitchers. He was fair. He was tough, so tough that
he once suspended his brother Jesus, then a player-coach at
Escogido, when Jesus intervened in a dugout dispute between
Felipe and Pedro Guerrero after Guerrero had balked at being
"I managed against him in the Florida State League," New York
Yankee manager Buck Showalter says of Felipe, "and when I heard
him talking to his players, I thought he was God."
But there were no disciples. Alou had had two earlier tours as
an Expo coach, from 1979 to '80 and in '84, and had managed a
year at Double A and four at Triple A, but his second tour at
West Palm Beach, between 1986 and '91, seemed to brand him as an
A-ball lifer. When Dombrowski was ready to fire Buck Rodgers in
1991, only two members of the Expo organization -- Gary Hughes
and consultant Angel Vazquez -- pushed Alou. "The biggest
mistake I've made in my career was not recognizing his ability
then to be a terrific major league manager," Dombrowski says.
"He's one of the best in the game."
"Dombrowski was not alone," Alou says. "There are 28 teams. It
doesn't take much to entice a Class A manager to leave. I don't
think people are prejudiced, but to give a Latin manager -- a
black manager, at that -- a team and that kind of
responsibility, you think twice. I was given the team with the
most talent in baseball, but it wasn't ready to win games yet.
[Larry] Walker, Grissom, Alou, [Wilfredo] Cordero ... my job was
to make sure they developed into stars. But if you hire a Latin
manager and these players don't develop, it reflects on all
Latins. Your manager has to have a program, be a citizen, relate
to the community. You have to ask what relationship a black
Latin will have with the community."
The question was answered the day after Alou -- who lives with
his wife and her parents in the Montreal suburb of Laval during
the season -- was hired. There was no stink. The front-page
headline in La Presse, a French-language Montreal daily, read:
EXPOS HIRE LAVAL MAN. Felipe Alou was instantly embraced as one
of French Canada's leading citizens. The Expos, who were three
games under .500, responded immediately, going 70-55 the rest of
1992. The next year Montreal won 94 games, one less than the
team record. Felipe Alou made baseball in Montreal worth
"Managing is like fishing," Alou says. "Whether or not you catch
a fish is ultimately up to the fish. You just have to prepare
and make the effort."
On the day Don Abundio died, Felipe Alou's Expos had the best
record in baseball. Nine days later the 1994 season ground to a
halt. This spring, in baseball's new economic climate, the Expos
let free-agent Walker go and traded Grissom, Wetteland and ace
Ken Hill. Felipe Alou, like Sisyphus, had to start over again.
And he did so in typical Alou fashion -- without complaint and
with diligence. Heading into last weekend his young team, which
had the lowest payroll in the major leagues on Opening Day, was
23-19 and only four games behind the Philadelphia Phillies in
the National League East race.
Maybe one day it will happen again. Moises Alou is only 28, and
16-year-old Felipe Rojas, who plans to start calling himself
Felipe Alou when he signs with a major league team or goes to
college in the U.S., bears the mark of greatness. At the end of
April, Jay Alou, the ex-violinist and former jayvee baseball
player, was told by the Expos to consider another line of work.
He's thinking about getting a master's in physical therapy. But
maybe 13-year-old Luis Emilio Rojas, Felipe Rojas's brother, a
stocky kid who already shows good hands and uncommon power, will
abandon third base and try the outfield for at least a couple of
In the year 2005 a major league outfield somewhere might read,
from left to right, or right to left: Alou, Alou, Alou.
The saga is not over. With Familia Rojas-Alou, there are still
plenty of fish to fry. On a brilliant day last October, Felipe
Alou took little Felipe, the third Felipe, the nephew of Matty
and Jesus Alou, the cousin of Mel Rojas, the half brother of
Moises Alou and the grandson of Don Abundio and Dona Virginia,
down to Goat Point. For the first time in his life, the
2-1/2-year-old boy picked up stones and threw them into the
blue-green Caribbean, like his father and uncles and brothers
had before him.
The kid has an arm.
COLOR PHOTO:PHOTOGRAPHS BY RONALD C. MODRA Dona Virginia's sons (in photo, from left) Matty, Felipe and Jesus blazed a path to the majors that grandson Moises (opposite) followed. [Virginia Alou sitting in wicker chair and holding photo of Felipe Alou, Matty Alou and Jesus Alou]
COLOR PHOTO:JONATHAN DANIEL[see caption above--Moises Alou batting]
COLOR CHART:PARAGRAPHICS As an aid to the reader, the tangled Rojas family tree was pruned of branches unrelated to baseball -- a sport that, even for Felipe (with Moises), ranks behind fishing as the best way for Dominicans to bridge the generation gap. [Rojas family tree]
COLOR PHOTO:PHOTOGRAPHS BY RONALD C. MODRA [see caption above--Felipe Alou and Moises Alou in boat]
COLOR PHOTO:DAVID WALBERGThe National League Manager of the Year in '94, Felipe had 2,101 hits in 17 seasons as a player. [Felipe Alou as a manager]
COLOR PHOTO:HERB SCHARFMAN [see caption above--Felipe Alou sliding into base as a player]
COLOR PHOTO:JAMES DRAKE Even a .300 hitter like Matty didn't always make contact, but he still connects with the locals as a scout. [Matty Alou missing pitch]
COLOR PHOTO:PHOTOGRAPHS BY RONALD C. MODRA [see caption above--Matty Alou sitting at bar]
COLOR PHOTO:TONY TRIOLO Jesus, out as an Astro in '70, is an insider as a scout (below, left) for the Marlins in his homeland. [Jesus Alou being called out at second base]
COLOR PHOTO:PHOTOGRAPHS BY RONALD C. MODRA [Jesus Alou watching Marlin players]
COLOR PHOTO:AL TIELEMANS After the Expos unloaded their high-salaried players, Mel Rojas became Uncle Felipe's closer. [Mel Rojas pitching]
TWO COLOR PHOTOS:PHOTOGRAPHS BY RONALD C. MODRA Jay fiddles with music and med school dreams, but baseball runs through the veins of Felipe Rojas. [Jay Alou playing violin; Felipe Rojas running]