Hall of Fame should embrace Felipe Alou

When speaking of future candidates of Latin descent for the Hall of Fame, the list includes Pedro Martinez, Mariano Rivera and Ivan Rodriguez, as well as Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa.

But it's possible that none of the above have more genuine credentials than San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou, who is largely ignored when it comes to talking about Cooperstown.

For nearly 50 years, the Dominican-born Alou has been involved in baseball as a player, coach and manager, forging a successful and exemplary career both on and off the field.

In 1956, Osvaldo "Ozzie" Virgil became the first Dominican major leaguer, coming up with the New York Giants. That same year, the Giants signed Alou, who would soon become the first Dominican player with name value in the big leagues.

Alou abandoned his plan of becoming a doctor after helping the D.R. win the gold medal in the 1955 Pan American Games, where he also was part of his country's track and field team. He signed with the Giants for $200.

Although his playing career would not be considered Hall of Fame material, Alou did hit .286, with 206 home runs and 852 RBI in 2,082 games with the Giants, Braves, Yankees, Expos and Athletics, from 1958 and 1974. He was no ordinary Joe as a player. He was a three-time All-Star and twice finished in the top 10 in the NL MVP voting (fifth in 1966, 10th in 1968).

He also twice led the league in hits (218 in 1966, 210 in 1968), finished within the top seven in batting three times, and in 1966 was arguably the majors' best leadoff man, hitting .327 with 31 home runs, six triples, 32 doubles, 122 runs scored and 74 RBI with the Braves. He was the 31st player in history to reach 200 home runs and 2,000 hits in the majors.

Felipe and his brothers Matty and Jesus made history on Sept. 10, 1963, at the Polo Grounds, when they hit one after another in the Giants' lineup against the Mets. On Sept. 23 of the same year, against the Mets at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the Alou brothers wrote another historic chapter when they appeared together in the three outfield positions for the Giants.

Three years after his retirement as a player, Alou debuted as a minor league manager in the Expos' system. Despite his success in the minors, he toiled there for 12 years before finally getting a shot at being a major league manager in 1992, when he replaced Tom Runnells as the Expos' skipper.

Alou was Manager of the Year with Montreal in the strike-shortened year of 1994, and his Expos were a great producer of young talent that flourished under his leadership. Montreal finished with a major league-best 74-40 record, and the strike may have cost the Expos the chance at reaching what would have been their only World Series.

Since debuting as a major league manager in May 1992, Alou is 1,015-1,001 with Montreal and San Francisco and has finished in the top three for Manager of the Year three times. Alou is one of only four players in baseball history with at least 200 home runs as a player and 1,000 wins as a manager, along with Frank Robinson (586, 1,048), Joe Torre (252, 1,949) and Dusty Baker (242, 1,149).

Alou's future with San Francisco is not clear. The club has an option for 2007, but the Giants have not revealed if they will exercise it. Alou's contract stipulates that if the option is not picked up, he would become a team consultant. But the 71-year-old Alou is not thinking retirement.

"One thing is constant. I'll never willingly resign from being a major league manager, which for me is an honor. I'll go only when they don't want me anymore," Alou recently told ESPNdeportes.com.

At this point, a year more or a year less, it really doesn't matter. Alou's next stop, based on merit and a fair judging of his contribution to baseball, should be the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.