Markusen: The 1978 firing of Alvin Dark

From SABR member Bruce Markusen at The Hardball Times on March 29, 2013:

More than a few managers will take up residence on the hot seat this year. Both of the New York bosses, Joe Girardi and Terry Collins, are in the final years of their contracts; a particularly cruel summer could spell the end of either man’s tenure in the city. On the other coast, the free-spending Dodgers face such a heavy air of expectation that if they fail to make the postseason Don Mattingly could be out of work come October.

In Philadelphia, Charlie Manuel is fighting off suggestions that it’s time to retire. If the aging Phillies don’t, at the very least, stake claim to a wild card spot, Manuel could be facing a forced retirement at season’s end. In the meantime, a first-year manager like Walt Weiss in Colorado is facing immediate pressure because he is working under the restrictive terms of a one-year contract.

Yet, none of these men are in imminent peril. Certainly none are in danger of losing their jobs during what’s left of the Cactus or Grapefruit League seasons. The act of firing the manager during spring training is an exceptionally rare event. In fact, it has happened only four times in the modern history of the game.

The most recent occurrence involved Joe Kerrigan and the Red Sox in 2002. Named as the interim skipper in 2001, Kerrigan had already been given a new contract by the Red Sox’ front office. But when the team was sold, the outlook changed; the new regime decided that a shift was in order. The Sox fired Kerrigan, replacing him with Grady Little.


In each of these cases, the manager was fired during the course of spring training for a very specific and public reason. In contrast, there was the more nebulous situation that dates back to the spring of 1978, some 35 years ago, when the reasons for a managerial change involved multiple levels of dissatisfaction.

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Originally published: March 29, 2013. Last Updated: March 29, 2013.