Former Giants general manager Rosen dies at 91

AL MVP named Executive of the Year after rebuilding SF club in '80s

MESA, Ariz. -- Al Rosen, the architect of the Giants teams that launched the franchise's renaissance in the late 1980s and revitalized Major League Baseball in San Francisco, died Friday night. He was 91.

Rosen distinguished himself in the 1950s as a premier third baseman, winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 1953 and making four All-Star teams as a member of the Cleveland Indians.

To the Giants and their fans, he was just as powerful and proficient as the club's general manager. In fact, Rosen is the only person in baseball history to have been MVP as a player and Executive of the Year as a member of a front office. He received the latter distinction in 1987.

"He was a great man," said A's manager Bob Melvin, whom Rosen obtained for the Giants in a trade before the 1986 season. "Not only that, but also a great player, a great GM and a guy that was well-respected by everyone in the baseball world. He accomplished so much in his career all the way around. It's a sad day."

Upon joining the Giants in September 1985, Rosen, who had been president and CEO of the Yankees (1978-79) and Astros (1980-85), hired manager Roger Craig. That happened to be the only 100-loss season in franchise history. But, said former catcher Bob Brenly, "They came in there and changed the culture." While Craig tightened clubhouse discipline and energized players with his "Humm Baby" spirit, Rosen, who was dismissed by Houston shortly before the Giants brought him aboard, assembled a team that jelled into a contender.

Craig called Rosen "a first-class man and a great general manager. He was always coming into my office asking me what I wanted or needed to make the club better."

Under Rosen and Craig, San Francisco finished above .500 for five consecutive seasons (1986-90), a stretch it hadn't matched or exceeded since the glory days of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal in the 1960s.

In 1986, Rosen drafted infielder Matt Williams and oversaw the rise of first baseman Will Clark and second baseman Robby Thompson from the Minors. Williams developed into an elite run producer, Thompson became known for his scrappy attitude and Clark developed into a local legend. Rosen also traded for essential complementary players such as Candy Maldonado and Melvin. That team spent 48 days in first place and finished third in the National League West with an 83-79 record, ending a streak of three consecutive sub-.500 finishes. Just as importantly, the club nearly doubled its season attendance, from 818,697 in 1985 to 1,528,748.

Rosen outdid himself the following year, acquiring slugger Kevin Mitchell, left-handers Dave Dravecky and Craig Lefferts and ace right-hander Rick Reuschel in midseason deals. Propelled by a 36-17 finish, the Giants won their first division title since 1971 but lost the NL Championship Series to St. Louis, 4 games to 3.

The Giants returned to the postseason in 1989, ending a 27-year drought by winning the NL pennant. Rosen bolstered that team by trading for center fielder Brett Butler, catcher Terry Kennedy and closer Steve Bedrosian. Mitchell was elected the NL's Most Valuable Player and Reuschel finished 17-8 while starting that year's All-Star Game.

The ownership change from Bob Lurie to Peter Magowan before the 1993 season ended Rosen's tenure with the Giants. He remained a highly respected figure within the organization.

"We were saddened to learn that former Giants president and general manager Al Rosen passed away," Giants president and chief executive officer Larry Baer said in a statement. "We express our deepest condolences to his wife, Rita, and to the rest of his family and will have them in our thoughts and prayers. We will miss him and always remember him as part of our very important Giants family."

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.