Catch It: 5 Seasons Of Cherished Memories With Joe Altobelli In Rochester, New York

BALL, GLOVEWelcome to CATCH IT! — Joe Castellano’s personal observations about what’s going on in the world of sports outside of The Sports Virus Podcasts

Today the baseball world lost a great man when former World Series winning manager Joe Altobelli passed away at the age of 88.

I had the privilege of spending five seasons working alongside Joe in the radio booth covering the Rochester Red Wings (1998-2002). He was a kind soul with an easy going personality. Everyone loved Alto.

Every night he had great baseball stories to tell, whether it be from winning the 1983 Series with the Baltimore Orioles or from his days managing the San Francisco Giants. I loved to reminisce about my hometown Giants with Joe, asking him what it was like to manage Jack Clark (my favorite player when I was in high school) or about his memories of Mike Ivie’s grand slam against the Dodgers in 1978. He had the Giants in first place for a while that season.

He always told Cal Ripken stories and was proud of playing him every inning of every game during his record playing streak.

Joe could also tell stories about his playing days (I can still hear him describing how he broke his toe nail every season with a foul ball and it would grow back by Christmas) and about the legendary teams he managed in Rochester in the 1970’s. He made Rochester his home and eventually became known as “Mr. Baseball” in Rochester.

He was so passionate about teaching the game. Another source of pride for him was when (as a Cubs coach) he helped develop Mark Grace from an average defensive first baseman to a gold glover.

I learned so much about the game of baseball from Joe. From how a manager should run a pitching staff, to defensive positioning, to lineup strategies, I had a lesson every broadcast and I was soaking it up. Sometimes he would just ask a question like “Would you send the runners here?” That would turn into another teaching moment for me and the listeners.

He was also an expert on how to deal with being in AAA when a Major League career might seem like a pipe dream for a player or even a broadcaster. “Don’t wish your life away” was his mantra. I never forgot that because even though one might wish for the future, the present is what’s important.

It’s a bummer that the Red Wings didn’t win another title with Alto in that booth. We won the Governor’s Cup in 1997, the year before he started broadcasting with me. Then the team fell flat in the years when we were together. But, that doesn’t diminish the joy we had and the cherished memories I have of that special time in my life.

Thanks Joe and rest in peace.

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Artwork courtesy of: Suzie Armagost.