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Rochester baseball legend Joe Altobelli has died

Mar 3, 2021

Credit Rochester Red Wings

A Rochester baseball legend has died.

The Rochester Red Wings announced on Wednesday that Joe Altobelli, known as Rochester’s “Mr. Baseball” died from natural causes at the age of 88.

Altobelli filled more roles for the organization than anyone else, serving as a player, coach, manager, general manager, assistant to the president and radio analyst.

Altobelli was born in Detroit and had a 59-year professional baseball career right after high school. In 1966, while playing for the Red Wings, he moved his family to Rochester and he permanently made the area his home.

Sports writer Scott Pitoniak knew Altobelli well. He says Rochester was special to Altobelli. 

“He just preferred to be here rather than someplace else, " said Pitoniak. "He always said it was because of the warmth of the people. ‘The winters are cold but the people are warm,’ as Joe would like to say.” 

 

In 1960, he led the International League in home runs (31) and RBI (105) while with the Montreal Royals. As a Red Wing, “Alto” hit 47 homers from 1963-66 hitting while winning a Governors’ Cup in 1964 and an International League Pennant in 1966.

Altobelli also played parts of three seasons in the major leagues with the Cleveland Indians (1955,1957) and Minnesota Twins (1961).

His coaching career began with an 11-year stint in the Baltimore Orioles minor league system culminating with managing the Red Wings in Rochester from 1971-1976.

Altobelli led the Red Wings to first place finishes in 1971, 1973, 1974 and 1976, capturing the Governors’ Cup in 1971 and 1974, the Junior World Series in 1971 and the International League pennant in 1976.

His 502 wins are the most in team history and he is a three-time International League Manager of the Year.

In 1981 and 1982, Altobelli was a member of the New York Yankees coaching staff working under managers Gene Michael, Bob Lemon, and Clyde King.

In 1981, the Yankees captured the American League pennant before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. Altobelli also worked as a coach for the Yankees in 1986 under manager Lou Pinella.

The Baltimore Orioles hired Altobelli as their manager in 1983 and he led them to their first World Series title since 1970. Altobelli was named the 1983 American League Manager of the Year.

His last stop as a major league coach was with the Chicago Cubs where he had the opportunity to work under manager Don Zimmer from 1988-1991.

In the fall 1991, Altobelli returned to Rochester to lead the Red Wings as their general manager, a title he held until his retirement from that role in January 1995.

Rochester Community Baseball President Naomi Silver says the team lost its greatest ambassador, a man she considers a father figure.

“It's a sad day for all of us, a much beloved person in our hometown is gone, but he’ll never be forgotten,” said Silver. “He grew to be a very wise person and I think we all treasured whatever he had to offer to us.” 

A celebration of Joe Altobelli’s life will be held at Frontier Field on a date to be determined later this year.