By Trey Wilson
As we prepare for our 20th Season Celebration in 2018, we are turning to the fans to decide the Fans’ Choice All-Time Altoona Curve Team. Fans will vote for one manager and a player at each position to pick the 11 representatives on the Fans’ Choice All-Time Altoona Curve Team. The voting will also go toward a yet-to-be-announced promotion for the upcoming season.
Fans can cast their votes by clicking here.
We will first break down the managers that the fans will be voting for. We have narrowed down a list of seven finalists, and you fans will narrow the list down to one. Of these finalists, all seven have led the Curve to the postseason, three have moved on to the division series and two have won a league championship. Five of the seven finalists are currently coaching in the major leagues.
Record: 213-211 (.502)
We begin with Dale Sveum, who was the second manager in franchise history, leading the Curve from 2001-2003. In his third and final season in Altoona, the Curve qualified for the Eastern League postseason for the first time in franchise history. The team went 78-63 that year, their best season by record at the time, and earned the Southern Division’s Wild Card spot before falling to Akron in the Division Series, three games to one. After that season, he was tabbed by Baseball America as the Eastern League’s top managerial prospect.
The following year, Sveum joined the major league staff of the Boston Red Sox as their third base coach, helping lead the team to their first World Series title in 86 years. From 2006-2011, he served in various major league coaching roles with the Milwaukee Brewers, including taking over as interim manager in September 2008. Sveum got his chance to manage in the big leagues full-time when he was hired to lead the Chicago Cubs in 2012, and he held that spot for two seasons. He became the third base coach for the Kansas City Royals in 2013 and took over as their hitting coach in May 2014, winning the ALCS that year and the World Series in 2015.
Record: 161-122 (.569)
In his two seasons leading the Curve, Tony Beasley posted the best winning percentage of any skipper in team history. In 2004, the Curve posted their best-ever regular-season record and won their first division title, winning the South Division by 5.5 games over Erie. With a sweep of the SeaWolves in the division series, the Curve advanced to their first championship series in team history, but were swept by the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Beasley served as a coach for the United States in the 2004 All-Star Futures Game. The team qualified for the postseason again in 2005, but lost the best-of-five division series in five games to Akron.
Prior to joining the Curve, Beasley had managed short-season Williamsport and Single-A Hickory in the Pirates’ minor league system. In 2006, he joined Frank Robinson’s big league coaching staff with the Washington Nationals and returned to the Pirates’ organization as the minor league infield coordinator in 2007. He was then the Pirates’ third base coach for three seasons before rejoining the Nationals’ organization as the manager of the Harrisburg Senators in 2011. The following two years, he was the manager for Triple-A Syracuse and was the organization’s field coordinator in 2014. Beasley has been the third base coach for the Texas Rangers since 2015.
Record: 213-209 (.505)
Tim Leiper took over as the team’s fourth manager in 2006 and led the club for three seasons. In his first year, the Curve qualified for the Eastern League playoffs for the fourth straight year, the most in team history, going 75-64 before losing the division series to Akron in five games. Despite posting a winning 73-68 record in 2007, the Curve missed the playoffs.
Leiper began his coaching career in 1996 with the New York Mets’ organization and also spent time with the Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles before taking over as the Pirates’ Adv.-A manager in Lynchburg in 2005. Following his stop in Altoona, Leiper spent two years managing in the Florida Marlins’ system before being named their minor league defensive coordinator for 2011 and 2012. He joined the Toronto Blue Jays’ staff as Senior Adviser in 2013 and became the big league club’s first base coach in 2014, a position he still holds today.
Record: 144-140 (.507)
Matt Walbeck became the Curve’s fifth manager in team history when he took over in 2009 and the club finished 18 games under .500, going 62-80, finishing last in the Southern Division. His second year proved to be quite a turnaround, as he led the team to their second-best regular-season record in franchise history and their second division title, going 82-60. The team beat Harrisburg in four games in the division series and went on to top Trenton in the ELCS to bring the Curve their first championship in team history. He was named the Eastern League of the Year for the second time in his career in 2010.
Prior to joining the Curve, Walbeck spent four seasons managing in the Detroit Tigers’ organization, including leading Erie in 2007. He spent 2008 as the Texas Rangers’ third base coach before coming to Altoona in 2009. After his two seasons with the Curve, Walbeck was hired as the manager for the Atlanta Braves’ Single-A team in Rome for the 2011 campaign.
Record: 74-68 (.521)
After missing out on the playoffs in four straight seasons, Tom Prince led the Curve back to the postseason in 2015 for the first time since 2010. A nine-year player in the Pirates’ organization and long-time coach or manager in their system, Prince guided Altoona to the Western Division Wild Card before falling in four games to Bowie in the division series. Prince also served as a coach for the United States in the 2015 All-Star Futures Game in Cincinnati.
Prince has spent 24 total years with the Pirates’ organization and 34 in professional baseball. He began his coaching career in 2004 with short-season Williamsport before finishing that season as the manager for A-Adv. Lynchburg. He returned to Williamsport as a manager for the next two seasons and spent six years as the skipper for the GCL Pirats from 2007-2012, winning the Gulf Coast League championship in his last year. He was the Pirates’ coordinator of instruction for 2013 and managed A-Adv. Bradenton in 2014 before taking over in Altoona. In 2016, Prince was named the Pirates’ minor league field coordinator and joined Clint Hurdle’s major league staff in 2017 as the Pirates’ bench coach.
Record: 76-64 (.543)
In 2016, Joey Cora took over as the skipper for Curve with a more decorated resume than any manager in team history. The former American League All-Star infielder had plenty of major league coaching experience before coming to the Curve, and led the team to their second consecutive postseason berth. The Curve went 76-64 in 2016, winning the Western Division Wild Card for the second straight season before being bounced in the division series in four games by Akron. The Curve took over the top spot in the Western Division on June 26 and held that spot for 55-of-63 games before falling back to second on the next-to-last day of the regular season.
Cora began his coaching career in 2000 with the Daytona Cubs, helping the team to a Florida State League championship. He was hired for his first minor league managing job the next year by the New York Mets, leading rookie-level Kingsport for two seasons. He spent one year as the manager of the Montreal Expos’ Single-A team in Savanna in 2003. Cora joined his first major league coaching staff in 2004, working under manager Ozzie Guillen with the Chicago White Sox. Cora spent the first three years as the third base coach, was the team’s bench coach for five years and managed the final two games in 2011. Cora won a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005. He followed Guillen to the Miami Marlins in 2012 and spent five games that year as their interim manager. He spent time working in television with MLB Network before joining the Curve in 2016. Cora is now the Pirates’ third base and infield coach.
Record: 74-66 (.529)
A native of Indiana, Pa., Michael Ryan returned to his home region to manage the Curve in 2017. In his first as the club’s manager, Ryan led the Curve to the postseason for the third straight year, the longest streak in the Eastern League, and won the team’s third regular-season division title. The Curve swept the Bowie Baysox in the Western Division Series and followed with another sweep of the Trenton Thunder, a 92-win team in the regular season, in the Eastern League Championship Series to bring Altoona its second league title in franchise history.
Ryan was a coach for the Curve in 2012 under manager P.J. Forbes before earned his first managerial job with the Single-A West Virginia Power in 2013, where he led the club to an 82-58 record and a second-half division championship. He returned to the Power in 2014 and was promoted as the manager of the A-Adv. Bradenton Marauders in 2015. Back with Bradenton in 2016, Ryan led the Marauders to a first-half division title and the team went on to win the Florida State League championship.
There is your look at the seven finalists for the Fans’ Choice All-Time Altoona Curve Team. Be sure to cast your votes here.