In his lifetime, Dave Bristol held four major jobs and five minor ones — and was fired from every job he had. That, however, does not speak ill of his work ethic. He managed four teams in baseball’s major leagues and served as third base coach for five different teams.
Those who follow baseball will understand that few major league managers ever retire and that perhaps more than 99 percent get fired from every big league job they hold, so there is no onus to being turned loose. If, for any reason, a big league manager does not produce a winner in an expected time, out he goes!
So out Dave went — from Cincinnati, Milwaukee , Atlanta , and San Francisco . After each firing, he was hired to manage again, except for the last time. That’s when he turned to coaching. He managed 11 years and coached 12 years, giving him 23 years of working in one of the most elite jobs in athletics. His coaching jobs included two stints with the Reds, three years in Montreal, a year in San Francisco, and five seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, during which he coached third in the 1983 World Series. While coaching in Cincinnati, he worked as third base coach for two of the players he brought up through the minors and managed at Cincinnati, Pete Rose and Tony Perez.
For his performances and for his durability, Dave Bristol goes into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame this evening, to take his rightful place with other Tar Heel athletic greats.
A crowning achievement in his career, however, came on his nine-year managerial rise through the minor league system of the Cincinnati Reds. During that time, he honed the skills of most of the players – including Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tommy Helms, Lee May, and Tony Perez – who became multiple World Series winners as Cincinnati ’s Big Red Machine.
One of the interesting things about Dave’s managerial career came the time Ted Turner fired him as Atlanta ’s manager in 1977 and took over the job himself. The Braves lost the game the night he fired Dave, and the commissioner of baseball called Turner the next day and said he would not permit him to manage his team. Dave was already home in Andrews when Turner called to rehire him after the game that night. Turner said simply, “We’ll see you tomorrow night,” just as if nothing had happened, and Dave returned to the managerial post the following evening.
Dave was well liked by executives in the majors. When he was fired permanently by the Braves in 1977, while the press conference was going on to announce his firing, Speck Richardson, general manager of the San Francisco Giants, telephoned the Atlanta ball park and said, “Tell Dave he has a job,” and he coached for the Giants the next year and then managed them for two more seasons.
Born in Macon, Georgia , Dave has spent his life in Andrews, where with his father he has raised horses and wild boars. He and his wife, Betty Greenwood, have two living children, Cissy Dyer and Lance. Two others, Mike and John David, are deceased.
“I am excited going into the North Carolina Hall of Fame,” Dave said. “It’s a pleasure being in it with so many fine athletes.”
by Bob Terrell (May 2006)
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