Altobelli, Rochester team up again


ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Joe Altobelli fulfilled a promise he made to himself more than 10 years ago when he returned to the Rochester Red Wings as their general manager.

Altobelli, who managed the Baltimore Orioles to their 1983 World Series title, came back to what he calls his hometown team yesterday. The Red Wings are the Orioles' Class AAA affiliate in the International League.

"When I first left here in 1977 when I got the job in San Francisco to manage . . . the thought occurred to me way back then that someday I would be back in Rochester," Altobelli said at a news conference at Silver Stadium. "I thought it would be managing. Here I am."

Altobelli played for the Red Wings from 1963 to 1966 and managed them from 1971 to 1976. As manager, he led them to four first-place finishes and the Junior World Series title in 1971.

Altobelli, 59, a native of Detroit, has considered Rochester his hometown since 1966. He and his wife, Pat, have raised six children here, all of whom are still in the area.

Altobelli has been honored by the Red Wings and their fans several times. He is a charter member of their Hall of Fame, and his name is synonymous with baseball in Rochester.

Altobelli may be the perfect point man for the Red Wings, who are beset by a debt on the $4.5 million renovation of Silver Stadium and are working with city and county officials to determine ways to ensure the team's survival in Rochester.

Altobelli said his goal is to bring fans to Silver Stadium, and they may flock to see the man associated with the two best teams -- 1971 and 1976 -- in Red Wings history.

"There's nothing wrong with Joe being a well-known person in Rochester," Red Wings president Elliot Curwin said. "That's an asset. . . . At any time I think the baseball team needs a friend in the community. I think why not use Joe Altobelli to help the baseball team?"

A minor-league general manager is not involved in player personnel decisions. Yet Altobelli appreciated the irony of his return to the umbrella of the Orioles organization.

"These are Orioles players," he said. "But I'm the general manager of the Rochester Red Wings that happen to be working with the Baltimore Orioles. There's nothing wrong with that. Most of my years in baseball have been in the Orioles organization."

The late Edward Bennett Williams called Altobelli a "cement-head" and later said he had no regrets firing him.

In Rochester, Altobelli is a legend. The Red Wings selected him over a former general manager in the Class A New York-Penn League.

"He brings a wealth of knowledge in all avenues of baseball," Curwin said. "Being a hometown person, he knows the city. We felt he would be the perfect man."

Despite his lack of front-office experience, both Altobelli and Curwin said his job would be to run the team, not be its figurehead.

"I'll have to continue to impress them and work at my job," Altobelli said.

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