After an undistinguished playing career that amounted to 166 games in three years at the big league level, Joe Altobelli learned the Oriole Way as a manager in Baltimore’s minor league system for 11 seasons. In 1977 he was hired to manage the San Francisco Giants, where he fully intended on building a club like Earl Weaver had in Baltimore.
“Defense is first and foremost in my mind,” Altobelli said in the spring of ’77.”I think defense creates an attitude on a team which creates the proper atmosphere.”
Altobelli improved the Giants in his second season, pushing them to 89 wins, but in the tough National League West he was unable to unseat the Dodgers and Reds, and late in the ’79 campaign, with the G-Men limping to a fourth place finish, he was axed. He took a job managing Columbus (Yankees’ Triple-A club) in 1980 and guided them to the International League pennant (he had twice won that flag with Rochester in the O’s organization). The next two years he served on the coaching staff of the Yankees, under four different managers.
In 1983, Altobelli was welcomed back to Baltimore after Weaver retired. In his first season as Orioles’ manager, Altobelli led the team to the World Series, where they defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in five games. The team finished a disappointing 5th in 1985, and when they were barely playing above .500 in May of 1986, Altobelli was fired and replaced by Weaver, who came out of retirement. He served as a coach with the Chicago Cubs for three seasons, but other than a one-game interim stint, he never managed again.