Mixed emotions greeted the news that Julio Cruz had passed.
Of course, I couldn’t help but feel sadness for the death of the man. Cruz succumbed to cancer at the age of 67 on Tuesday.
I smiled, too because the way Cruz played made a lot of people happy, including myself and legions of White Sox fans.
The news brought me back to that wonderful night of September 17, 1983 at Comiskey Park.
The game was delayed 38 minutes at the outset and lowly Seattle was putting up a fight, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the 45,646 on hand. After all, a win would clinch the Sox the West Division title and their first postseason berth since 1959.
It was only fitting that Cruz, the player who invigorated the team, scored the winning run on Harold Baines’ walkoff sacrifice fly.
Cruz gleefully crossing the plate with his fists raised in triumph with that historic run is one of the most iconic pictures in White Sox history.
Nicknamed “Juice,” he certainly juiced the White Sox after he was acquired from Seattle for Tony Bernazard on June 15.
The Sox were 28-32 when he arrived. The Sox finished the season 99-63. You do the math.
Sadly, the run Cruz scored was the peak for him with the Sox and the “Winning Ugly” Sox for that matter.
But if you need one moment to encapsulate who Julio Cruz was, look no further than that picture of him crossing the plate on Sept. 17, 1983.
Some @SoxNerd tidbits on Cruz:
*Cruz made his big league debut for the Mariners against the White Sox on July 4, 1977 in the Seattle Kingdome. That game was the first the Sox played indoors and Oscar Gamble’s homer was the franchise’s first under a roof.
*Cruz’s first hit was a single off Francisco Barrios. He was thrown out trying to steal by Jim Essian shortly thereafter.
*A switch-hitter, Cruz slashed .251/.311/.311 in 99 games for the 1983 “Winning Ugly” White Sox. He stole 24 bases in 30 attempts.
*Cruz’s first homer in Seattle was an in-the-park shot off the White Sox Ron Scheuler on June 26, 1978 at the Kingdome. … Cruz also homered off Sox pitchers Steve Trout and Jerry Koosman
*Cruz began the 1983 American League Championship Series vs. Baltimore 1-for-9. He did his best in that heartbreaking Game 4, going 3-for-3 with a walk and two steals in the 3-0 loss in 10 innings at Comiskey Park. … Cruz was the last player to steal a base in the postseason at Comiskey.
*Cruz’s only home run at Comiskey Park was a grand slam off Boston’s Bob Ojeda on April 28, 1984.
*Ed Sherman, a former Chicago Tribune White Sox beat writer, had poignant recollections of Cruz on his Facebook page. It’s public so check it out!