Category Archives: Harry Dalton

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Harry Dalton

Editor’s Note: Please welcome Jon Daly to the site. Jon puts in long hours down at BaseballThinkFactory.org and is no relation to anyone who has golfed professionally.

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Claim to fame: After graduating from Amherst College and spending a stint in the Air Force, Dalton took a front-office job with the Baltimore Orioles. Jim McLaughlin, the iconoclastic scouting director, hired him. Eventually, McLaughlin left after a power struggle with Paul Richards over the signing of pitcher Dave McNally, and Dalton took over for him. Lee
MacPhail was the Baltimore general manager in the early Sixties. When Spike Eckert was elected Commissioner, he needed someone who actually knew about baseball in his office and he tabbed MacPhail. Thus was while Baltimore was trading Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson. Dalton’s first task as GM was to finish up the deal and he tried to get another player for the Orioles.

Dalton became the auteur for three teams; Baltimore (‘66-‘71), California (‘72-‘77, and Milwaukee (’78-’91.) His teams won five American League titles and two World Series, and Milwaukee had the best record in the AL East during the shortened 1981 season. All told his teams had a W-L record of 2175-1965, good for a .519 winning percentage. Dalton was the Sporting New Executive of the Year twice. Only George Weiss and Walt Jocketty have won the award more often. More information about Dalton can be found in Daniel Okrent’s excellent Nine Innings, which I bought as a high schooler with money from my job at Roy Rogers’ and still own and will occasionally flip through to this day. It looks at baseball through the prism of a getaway day game at County Stadium between Baltimore and Milwaukee in 1982.

Eligibility: Veterans Committee or Golden Era Committee. Dalton last appeared on the VC ballot in 2007 and received eight votes. It is hard to keep track of eligibility rules of the VC, but Dalton may be eligible this year by the Golden Era Committee. I had not heard of this latter committee before researching this. According to the Hall’s website: “The Golden Era Committee (“The Committee”) shall refer to the electorate that considers retired Major League Baseball players no longer eligible for election by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), along with managers, umpires and executives, whose greatest contributions to the game were realized from the 1947-1972 era.” I would consider Dalton’s best years to be those he spent with Baltimore.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Baseball is a general manager’s game and has been for some time. Right now, Moneyball is in the theaters. Yet, there are only a handful of general managers enshrined in Cooperstown; Branch Rickey, Ed Barrow, George Weiss, and this year’s inductee Pat Gillick.

A lot of credit for the Nixon-era success of the Orioles goes to Earl Weaver, and rightly so. When Weaver and Dalton worked in the Oriole farm system, they collaborated on what was to become the Oriole Way; playing baseball the right way, and not in some clichéd sense. If you go strictly by who coached for him, Earl Weaver is the only prominent guy from those days who leaves much of a legacy of future managers. George Bamberger, Frank Robinson, Ray Miller, and Billy Hunter all coached under him. Davey Johnson played for him. Tommy Lasorda’s managerial tree has Mike Scioscia and Joe Maddon. But Lasorda and Anderson seemed to staff their coaching ranks with loyal lifers.

But it wasn’t just Weaver and his coaches. The front office had some long-lasting influence. Dalton had John Schuerholz and Lou Gorman work under him in Baltimore. He worked under Frank Cashen who was the president of the club. A baseball outsider, he was Jerry Hoffberger’s right hand man in his other ventures then Hoffberger bought the team. When Dalton left for California to pursue Gene Autry’s dollars, Cashen assumed the GM role. I’m guessing he learned a lot from Dalton. He eventually went to New York and turned the Mets around.

I couldn’t find anyone who worked for the Angels that later became a GM, but his Brewer employees included two future GMs in Sal Bando and Dan Duquette. Some of Schuerholz’s underlings in KC and Atlanta (like Drayton Moore) have become GMs, but it looks like Cashen’s branch has been fruitful. Billy Beane admired Dalton’s work and Beane spawned Ed Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta. Cashen’s successor GM’s in Queens worked under him: McIlvaine, Harazin, and Hunsicker. Theo Epstein, Omar Minaya, Jim Hendry, and Tim Purpura can trace their lineage to these Mets execs.

With men like McLaughlin (who tried to systematize scouting), Weaver, Paul Richards, and Dalton, it was like a regular Manhattan Project or Algonquin Roundtable of baseball whose effects reverberated well beyond the Charm City. Dalton had a great track record, but I think what makes him historically great is the widespread influence that he and his acolytes
have had on baseball.

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Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? will relaunch on a weekly basis the first Tuesday after the postseason ends.

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosers, Curt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenHarold BainesJack MorrisJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiLarry Walker,Manny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon GuidryRon SantoSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaWill Clark