IN 1954, as his Cleveland Indians were en route to a then AL-record 111 wins, Al Lopez was asked if he was having fun. "Fun?" said Lopez. "How can you have any fun managing?" It might not have been the most enjoyable profession for Lopez, who died on Sunday at age 97, but managing suited him well. Besides winning the '54 pennant, he led the White Sox to the AL flag in 1959, making him the only manager to finish ahead of the Yankees from 1949 through '64.
In '54 LIFE called Lopez "a quiet, anxious man who undergoes agonies during games but seldom leaves the dugout." That self-control was his greatest asset on the bench. He rarely yelled at his players. ("They're old enough to know what's good for them," he said.) In return, they bought into whatever style he was preaching. In Cleveland he won with great pitching and home runs; in Chicago it was defense and speed.
Lopez was a fair-hitting catcher so good at handling pitchers that his 1,918 games caught stood as the record for 40 years. But it was primarily for his managerial skills that he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977. In 1998 Al Rosen, who played third base for Lopez in Cleveland, said, "He was the consummate gentleman, and you knew he was always in your corner."