Rochester Red Wings legend, Joe 'Mr. Baseball' Altobelli dead at 88

Rochester Red Wings legend, Joe 'Mr. Baseball' Altobelli dead at 88 Photo: News10NBC.

Updated: March 03, 2021 07:02 PM
Created: March 03, 2021 10:04 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester Red Wing legend Joe "Mr. Baseball" Altobelli has passed away from natural causes.

Altobelli was a Red Wings player, manager, general manager and broadcaster.

The team confirmed the news in a post on Wednesday morning. Altobelli was 88.

He won a championship during his three years as a Red Wings player, but his time as the wings manager was even more impactful; under him, the Wings won two Governor's Cup Championships and finished in first place four times in six years.

His 502 wins are most all-time amongst Red Wings managers, but former Democrat and Chronicle beat writer, Jim Mandelaro, says that the compassionate and giving side of Altobelli made him an even better person than he was a baseball manager.

"A friend of mine said that he started a conversation with Joe and said that he was a Red Wings intern, and mentioned that he wanted to get into broadcasting, Joe said 'Come by tomorrow and I'll do a few practice innings with you so you can have a cassette tape,' and he did that," Mandelaro said. "Joe was a better man than he was a manager, and he was a great manager."

Red Wings Owner Naomi Silver echoed similar sentiments.

"He made such a great impression on Rochester and the people of Rochester, just the way he embraced this community," Silver said. "I can't remember a time in my life when Joe wasn't part of it in some way, from my childhood to when I lost my dad when I was 15 and Joe was there. He and my dad were very close and Joe was so loyal, a very loyal person, that tie was never broken."

Through all of his success in baseball, the Red Wings were always his home, and with that, Rochester became his adopted hometown.

He's remembered fondly by the person who took over for him as general manager of the Wings, Dan Mason.

"In 16 years of going to school, I never had a better teacher than Joe Altobelli," Mason said. "He was a mentor to me but also to so many other people, he was revered by everyone he came in contact with. He was extremely humble for a guy that was so accomplished. He'd be driving down the road in his car with Alto-26 on the license plate and people would honk and he'd wave and he'd pull into Wegmans and people would mob him there and ask for autographs and he always had time for people. He had this larger-than-life presence about him and yet he was one of the most humble people I've ever met in my life."

Altobelli's number 26 was the first number retired by the Wings.

He was named International League Manager of the Year three times.

See the Wings' statement in part below.

"On behalf of the Altobelli family, the Rochester Red Wings announce with a heavy heart today that Joe Altobelli has passed away from natural causes at the age of 88. Known as Rochester’s “Mr. Baseball” Altobelli filled more roles for the organization than anyone else serving as a player, coach, manager, general manager, assistant to the President and radio analyst. Joseph Salvatore Altobelli was born on May 26, 1932, in Detroit, Michigan where he earned All-City recognition for his baseball, football and basketball prowess before embarking on a 59-year professional baseball career right after high school in 1951. In 1966, while playing for the Red Wings, he moved his family to Rochester and called the Flower City his home ever since."

In addition to his mark in Rochester, Altobelli went on to manage in the Major Leagues, notably, he managed the Baltimore Orioles to a World Series title in 1983. The team posted its own tribute to Alto.

A champion on the field, Altobelli was beloved in the community. News10NBC profiled him in a story last year when he sent a letter and a signed photo to a 10-year-old boy who had initially sent a letter of his own to the baseball legend.

See the Red Wings' full statement here.

Watch the full interview with Naomi Silver in the video in the player below:

Watch the full interview with Dan Mason in the video in the player below:

Watch the full interview with Jim Mandelaro in the video in the player below:

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