"Felipe was the best man at my wedding, and I played with Matty in the minors, so I know the family well," says Manny Mota, who spent most of his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and has been a coach with the club since retiring as a player in 1980. Last February he was sitting in a lawn chair near a softball field where Dominican big leaguers past and present—Pedro Guerrero and Raul Mondesi, Joaquin Andujar and Juan Guzman—were limbering up. "They should be judged on something more than numbers," Mota said of the Alou brothers. "They opened the door for all of these guys on the field. Felipe was really the first, the guy who cleared the way. He was an inspiration for everybody here. He was a good example. That was the family tradition. They were well behaved, and they worked hard."
"We watched our steps and our mouths," Felipe says. "We didn't do anything to put the family in jeopardy. My father used to say, 'The only thing I know is I have three men over there.' "
It was March 1976, and Moises Alou sat in front of the open coffin, burning the image in his brain: Why Felipito? Why was his oldest brother dead? Why was Felipito lying there in a gray-and-white checked suit when he had never worn a suit before? Moises had questions, a thousand questions, and for the first time Felipito could not answer them. Moises was nine.
From across the room Felipe Alou observed through his tears. He was a Montreal baserunning and outfield instructor when someone came to the spring training field in Orlando to tell him there was an urgent phone call, and Felipe knew Don Abundio had died. Odd how memories of Expo pitcher Steve Rogers's control problems now mingle with Felipe's recollection of the telephone call that brought news that night of the death of his first-born child, a 16-year-old who had jumped into a shallow, murky swimming pool in Santo Domingo and had not come up.
"Moises was the only one of the kids who didn't cry at the funeral," Felipe says. "This nine-year-old, this man, sitting in a chair like he was guarding the coffin, this tough s.o.b., was not flustered. I broke down, but I knew then this was going to be some kid."
Moises's father and mother divorced when he was two, and Felipito, only seven years older than Moises, had become a surrogate parent. He took the other children fishing. He would not let Moises leave the table until Moises had cleaned his plate. Felipito was already a prospect, an excellent pitcher and outfielder who took Moises to watch him play, just as Moises now takes his son, three-year-old Moises Felipe, to Expo games.
Felipe Sr. was with the Braves when he left his first wife to marry Beverly Martin of Atlanta, and they had three daughters, Christia, Cheri and Jennifer. Later, after a divorce from Beverly, Felipe married Elsa Brens, a Dominican, and fathered Felipe Jose and Luis Emilio Rojas. Ten years ago, after another divorce, Felipe married Lucie Gagnon, a French-Canadian, and they had two children, Valerie and the third Felipe. Alou is deeply religious—"He speaks in parables," New York Yankee pitcher John Wetteland, a former Expo, says—and his four marriages seem incongruous.
"People ask how a man who likes to be home with his family gets married four times," Felipe says. "All of the evils that go on in life, the evils of the life of a traveling ballplayer, I wasn't immune to that. But I loved all my wives and children. And all my children were by my wives. There were no children on the street, as we say in the Dominican Republic. I wasn't there all the time, but I knew their shoe sizes. There are 10 kids now, and they've never been at the same place at the same time. But they're all friends. They all visit each other. They all went to school. In this time of drugs and alcohol and corruption and lies and so on, I haven't seen any of that from them.
"I've been a lucky man. I had two children in my 50's, and God gave us other Felipes. [Felipito's death] was a tremendous loss—only in the past few years have I been able to speak about it—but it helped me confront life in a more decisive way."
Alou couldn't return to the game the year Felipito died. He and his friend Alfredo Cordero would jump in Alou's old car and drive hard and far and aimlessly, trying to bury the bitterness in the asphalt. Alou used to be afraid of sharks, but when he went scuba diving after his son's death, he didn't give them a thought. How much more could life hurt him?