Hall Pass Spotlight:

Dave Bristol

NCSHOF MEMBER (Class of 2006)


Truth be told, Georgia Tech didn’t really have a chance.

Yes, Dave Bristol was a talented football player — good enough to garner a scholarship offer from the Yellow Jackets. But when the Cincinnati Reds, the team he grew up listening to on WCKY Radio, came calling, there was really no hesitation.

Bristol wasted no time in signing that minor league contract and promptly embarked on 44-year odyssey in baseball that saw him manage the Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants. He also had stints with four different teams as a third-base coach, including twice with the Reds.

“I was fortunate to manage some of the best players to ever play the game of baseball,” Bristol told WCPO.com in 2018 when he was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. “They talk about history with the Reds organization. Hopefully, I made a little bit of it.”

Indeed, he did. Bristol had three winning seasons at the Cincinnati helm, posting a record of 298-265 before being replaced by Sparky Anderson at the end of the 1969 campaign.

Anderson would go on to preside over the heyday of the “Big Red Machine” which won four National League pennants and two World Series from 1970-76. Bristol played a big part in developing the players at its core, though — players like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez.

“You can’t dwell on it; you can’t crawl in a hole somewhere,” Bristol told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2016 when asked about the disappointment of not getting to manage the Reds during that  era. “It’s baseball and it happens. You have to keep moving.”

Perez, who played first and third base, remembers Bristol hitting ground balls to him in practice every day. “He helped me so much,” the seven-time MLB All-Star told WCPO. “I’m in the Hall of Fame because of Dave Bristol.”

Bench paid tribute to his former manager’s leadership skills and baseball savvy when Bristol was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame.

“Dave is now being recognized for his building of the ‘Big Red Machine,’” Bench is quoted as saying on the HOF website. “He developed the likes of Rose, (Tommy) Helms, Perez and many more and instilled in his players a drive to excel.

“A tough competitor and a love for baseball that was off the charts – he lived and breathed the game.”

After managing the Reds, Bristol was hired as the struggling Seattle Pilots’ second skipper in 1970. The team moved to Milwaukee during spring training of that year, with Bristol lasting a little over two seasons.

He spent two tumultuous years with the Atlanta Braves in 1976-77. That’s where, with the team on a 16-game losing streak in 1977, owner Ted Turner sent Bristol on a “scouting” trip and took the helm – although MLB officials quickly intervened. Bristol came back and finished the season.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Bristol’s final managerial stop was with the San Francisco Giants where he spent a little more than a year before Frank Robinson replaced him after the 1980 season ended. His career record was 657 wins and 764 losses.

Bristol, who spent nine years in the minors doing double duty as a player and a manager, winning five league championships, has made his home in Andrews, North Carolina for decades.

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