James David Bristol
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 175 lb.
- School University of North Carolina, Western Carolina University
- High School Baylor School
Dave Bristol was a minor league infielder from 1951 to 1961, missing 1954 due to military service, and a minor league manager from 1957 to 1965. He was a smart young man, earning a scholarship to attend Western Carolina University and then the University of North Carolina, obtaining a degree in education while studying in the winter time. He was not much of a prospect as a player, and was already a player-manager when he had his best seasons, hitting .332 with 46 RBI while drawing 43 walks in 85 games for the Hornell Redlegs of the New York-Penn League in 1957, then putting up a .312 average with 26 doubles and 10 homers for the Geneva Redlegs of the same league in 1958. He saw the writing on the wall as a player before the 1962 season with the Macon Peaches, when a young hotshot named Pete Rose beat him for the second baseman’s job. He was solely a manager after that. He was quite successful as a manager, earning league titles in 1960, 1961 and 1964, the latter with the Reds’ top farm club, the Pacific Coast League’s San Diego Padres.
He then joined the Cincinnati Reds coaching staff in 1966 and was promoted to manager on July 13th, replacing Don Heffner, a position he held through 1969. The Reds improved under his tenure, but failed to win a pennant; he was let go in favor of Sparky Anderson, who would lead the Reds to a decade of success in the 1970s. Still, he can be credited with putting the first pieces of the Big Red Machine in place, by moving Pete Rose to the outfield, integrating the young Tony Perez and Johnny Bench into the line-up, and bringing together Wayne Granger and Clay Carroll to form the first of the dominating bullpens that would caracterize the team over the next decade.
Left without a job after the 1969 season, Bristol signed on as a coach with the 1970 Montreal Expos, but a few weeks later was hired to manage the Seattle Pilots. The team was in turmoil, having gone through a very trying inaugural season in 1969 and was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. During spring training, the team was sold to new owners in Milwaukee, WI and became the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers finished tied for 4th with their expansion brethren the Kansas City Royals in the AL West in 1970, but with a very poor record that was only made to look decent in comparison with the woeful last-place Chicago White Sox. The team then returned to the cellar in 1971 and got off to a terrible start in 1972, prompting Bristol's firing after only 30 games. He was replaced by coach Roy McMillan on an interim basis on May 28th, and then by Del Crandall. From 1973 to 1975, he was a member of the Montreal Expos coaching staff under manager Gene Mauch.
In 1976, Bristol was hired to manage the Atlanta Braves under brash and colorful young owner Ted Turner. Turner wanted to make his team a glamor one, signing expensive free agents such as pitcher Andy Messersmith for the 1976 season and outfielder Gary Matthews in 1977, and expecting success to follow instantly. The Braves were among the first teams to broadcast most of their games on a cable television channel - which Turner owned - but the product on the field was quite disappointing. After a last-place finish in 1976, Turner became angered by the team's poor start in 1977 - 8-21, including an ongoing 16-game losing streak - and gave Bristol a ten-day leave of absence on May 11th. Taking a page from 19th Century owner Chris Von der Ahe, Turner installed himself as the manager in spite of his complete lack of baseball experience. The novelty lasted one game, a 17th consecutive loss, until National League President Chub Feeney intervened and persuaded Turner to end this silly experiment which was bringing ridicule to the game (and which was also against Major League rules, as managers or players were forbidden to hold ownership shares in any team). Coach Vern Benson took over the team's reins for the next game and ended the losing streak while Turner convinced Bristol to return to complete the season.
The episode actually enhanced Bristol's reputation, and he landed a job as a coach with the San Francisco Giants in 1978, a year when the team surged to respectability after years in 5th place. Manager Joe Altobelli was unable to maintain the magic in 1979 and was fired late in the season, giving Bristol another opportunity to lead a team. The team’s top brass figured that Altobelli’s laid-back style was responsible for the Giants’ seeming lack-of-focus in 1979 and that a more rigid manager like Bristol was just what was required to return to the previous year’s success. The Giants had a lot more talent than the Brewers and Braves, but the 1980 season was a tough one, with Bristol's old-style ways clashing with the new generation of players such as popular young stars Jack Clark and John Montefusco. The Giants finished a disappointing 5th, and Bristol was fired at the end of the year, to be replaced by Frank Robinson. His reputation as a manager had been damaged beyond repair, as he had become a caricature of a disciplinarian completely out-of-tune with the more laid-back and player-centered atmosphere of the 1980s.
|Cincinnati Reds Manager
|Milwaukee Brewers Manager
|Atlanta Braves Manager
|Atlanta Braves Manager
|San Francisco Giants Manager