Bruce Alger, the face of the New Market Rebels and the Valley Baseball League’s commissioner, lost his battle with cancer and passed away on Thursday morning, the Rebels announced via social media on Thursday.
He was 68.
Alger, who had been the VBL commissioner since 2017, spent 56 years as a part of the New Market Rebels organization in various capacities and served as the team’s president and general manager since being appointed to the post for a second time in 2001.
“It was heartbreaking news,” Mike Jones, the Rebels’ executive vice president, said on Thursday afternoon. “Bruce meant so much to a large number of people. Of course, we knew he had had cancer before and we had known to some degree that it had come back this summer. But still, you're never prepared for that final news of it. He will be sorely, sorely missed, and not just in the baseball world but in the community and his church. He was just a very involved man in the community.”
Alger’s journey with the Rebels began in 1965 when as a youth he spent his summers hanging numbers on the old scoreboard at Rebel Park. After taking over the president/GM position for a second time in 2001, Alger led New Market to two VBL championships – in 2002 and 2018 – and the Rebels also earned runner-up finishes in 1981 and 2003 under his guidance.
He served as the “Voice of the Rebels” for 47 years and as the team’s public address announcer maintained a running gag in which he’d wildly inflate the attendance at each of New Market’s home games.
Alger served on the VBL’s Board of Directors for nearly 30 years, including seven as the league’s executive vice president before he was appointed the Valley League’s new commissioner during the middle of the 2017 season.
His profile on the Rebels’ website lists far too many community endeavors to include in this story, and Alger, a 1971 graduate of Stonewall Jackson High School (now Mountain View), lent his time to a multitude of local government, public safety, business, historical and church organizations.
“Bruce Alger is what every one of us should strive to be,” said Porky Bowman, the general manager of the Woodstock River Bandits and an executive administrative assistant for the VBL. “He was a great man.”
Alger, whose wife Lynne died of breast cancer in 2016, was first diagnosed with a form of blood cancer around two years ago, Jones said. Jay Neal, president/CEO of the Strasburg Express and the Valley League’s executive vice president, said Alger’s cancer came back “with a vengeance” this past summer.
Bowman said that although Alger never let on about his battle with cancer during the 2021 VBL season, “you could tell he was in a lot of pain.”
Neal said on Thursday that he’d last spoken to Alger a week and a half ago and that the VBL commissioner, despite his poor health, wanted to talk Valley League business.
“He was in command of the place and he showed everybody out, and then we talked about some things. Bruce was one of those absurdly organized people, so he had to show me where all the Valley League files were in case I ever needed to find something. It was amazing,” Neal said.
“I loved the man,” Neal continued. “He was just a great guy. I told his son, he’s the kind of guy that when he got to heaven’s gates, I think Jesus came out and said, ‘You know what? I’ve been waiting on you.’ He was just that special. There’s no question where he is and he’s doing fine. I talked to his son, C.B., a little bit ago and they do, they know exactly where he is. And he has missed his wife so much after she passed away, so he’s doing great. It’s not so easy for us to have to get used to not having him around but golly, what a man. What a man.”
Bob Wease, the longtime owner/manager of the Harrisonburg Turks, said he’d last spoken to Alger two days ago.
“I had no sense of it. He said he was weak and didn’t feel too good, but we talked about us going to Chicago together to go to the [Summer League] Baseball Meetings together and he was looking forward to us going to Chicago and making the long drive and telling lies all the way up,” Wease said. “We did it every year (traveling) to wherever the baseball meetings were going to be. He was a great guy. He really was.”
Jones described Alger, a father to four adult children, as a person who had an “unmatched” knowledge of baseball and was easy to talk to.
“You talk to him once, you feel like you’ve known him forever,” said Jones, who has served on the Rebels’ Board of Directors for over 15 years. “Very cordial, very well-spoken, very articulate, and gave a calming presence to those that he spoke to. Just an excellent, excellent human being, excellent man and strong in his faith, which is comforting at times like this.”
Bowman, who had known Alger since 1973, said he was “still in shock” from Thursday’s news. He called Alger a frontline leader who left a legacy of “fairness” in the Valley League and said there were “so many life lessons” he learned from his longtime friend.
“When we first took over the River Bandits, the nonprofit, I got elevated to the general manager position and (Alger) said, ‘Let me tell you something, if a kid commits to you, be committed to the kid.’ That stuck with me forever,” Bowman said. “He’d been through it. Being around as long as he had, if I had a question (he’d say), ‘Oh yeah, do it this way.’ … He was very professional in everything he did. He left us all as better people for having known him and listened to him.”
Wease called Alger a “perfect” commissioner for the Valley League, one who “always had an open ear” and would “understand where you were coming from regardless of what the problem was.”
“He did such a great job for us,” Wease said. “He was great. And I remember Bruce when I was playing at New Market in 1962 and 1963. And Bruce at that time was just a little boy running around there. I remember it plain as day. But I had a hard time this morning. … I started crying. It’s a tough situation and his best friend passed away last night, too. Isn’t that unbelievable that both of ‘em passed away on the same day?”
Alger, who lived adjacent to Rebel Park, made baseball – and the Rebels, in particular – his passion, Jones said.
“He lived it,” Neal said. “And it is gonna be really, really strange going to Rebel Park to play the Rebels and not hear Bruce Alger’s voice. We’ll get used to it, and Bruce would want us to get used to it. He absolutely wants the Rebels to go on and be strong and all those things. But it’ll take some time. I can’t imagine what it’s gonna be like to walk in out there without him there.”
Daily News Record reporter Greg Madia contributed to this story.