Desert Star

Gonzalez remembered for bringing success to Arizona

December 03, 2013
2014 Hall of Fame candidate Luis Gonzalez. (Brad Mangin/NBHOF Library)

Heralded as a consummate professional hitter, he brought a World Series title to Arizona, while providing a spark in the middle of lineups for 19 years. 

Now, Luis Gonzalez finds himself on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot, one of 36 players on the 2014 ballot for the Class of 2014. 

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 8. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2014. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 27 in Cooperstown. 

“You learned a lot from those guys [like Luis Gonzalez],” major leaguer Stephen Drew said. “The success he had in his career – he had 19 seasons…in the major leagues – so that’s pretty phenomenal in itself.” 

Luis Emilio Gonzalez was born Sept. 3, 1967, in Tampa, Fla. Gonzalez attended the University of South Alabama and was drafted by the Houston Astros in the fourth round of the 1988 MLB Draft. 

Gonzalez soared up the ranks of the minor leagues and debuted with the Astros as a September call-up on Sept. 4, 1990, at age 23. 

Known for being an extra-base hitting machine, “Gonzo” made his time in Houston count. He laid the groundwork with the Astros and kept progressing toward greatness.  

[Scouting reports on Luis Gonzalez]

Prior to reaching Arizona, Gonzalez’s path led him to Chicago, back to Houston and then Detroit. He landed in the desert prior to the start of 1999 season when the Tigers traded him for pitcher Karim Garcia. 

Starting to blossom into a perennial star in 1999, Gonzalez recorded a 30-game hit streak in his first year with Arizona. He led the National League in hits with 206, carrying a .336 average as well. 

The 2001 season proved to be Gonzalez’s most prolific year. After winning the Home Run Derby during All-Star Game festivities in Seattle, Gonzalez captured a Silver Slugger Award for his work with the wood during the regular season. 

“People knew me for some of the things I did in 1999 and 2000,” Gonzalez said. “But 2001 really set me on the map, I would say.” 

For the season, Gonzalez batted .325, hit 57 home runs and drove in 142 runs. He was the man batting in the No. 3 spot of the lineup that opposing pitchers feared when they played Arizona. “In 2001, I just took off,” Gonzalez said. “All of the sudden, I got to that next level.” 

Gonzalez is probably best-known for his 2001 postseason heroics and most notably, his World Series Game 7 series-winning hit. 

With the bases loaded, one out and the game tied in the bottom of the ninth,  Gonzalez was due to face one of the game’s best closers, Marino Rivera, who had never blown a World Series save opportunity. In front of a sold-out Bank One Ballpark, Gonzalez delivered – looping a single over the drawn-in infield to score Jay Bell with the winning run.   

“My biggest thrill in my career was winning a world championship,” Gonzalez said. “I had one shot at it in my [19] years, and we ending up winning it.” 

Gonzalez left Arizona as the franchise’s all-time leader in runs, hits, extra-base hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in and total bases – and still holds all those records to this day. 

To round out his playing days, Gonzalez had two one-year stints with the Dodgers and Marlins, in 2007 and 2008, respectively. 

Gonzalez finished his career with a .283 batting average, while uncorking 354 home runs to drive in 1,439 runs. His 596 two-baggers rank 15th all-time in the baseball annals. 

“There’s probably (only) a handful of guys in baseball who permeate a clubhouse like [Luis Gonzalez] did with [Arizona],” former Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said of Gonzalez. 

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
1990 22 HOU 12 23 21 1 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 5 .190 .261 .286
1991 23 HOU 137 526 473 51 120 28 9 13 69 10 7 40 101 .254 .320 .433
1992 24 HOU 122 416 387 40 94 19 3 10 55 7 7 24 52 .243 .289 .385
1993 25 HOU 154 610 540 82 162 34 3 15 72 20 9 47 83 .300 .361 .457
1994 26 HOU 112 450 392 57 107 29 4 8 67 15 13 49 57 .273 .353 .429
1995 27 TOT 133 541 471 69 130 29 8 13 69 6 8 57 63 .276 .357 .454
1995 27 HOU 56 234 209 35 54 10 4 6 35 1 3 18 30 .258 .322 .431
1995 27 CHC 77 307 262 34 76 19 4 7 34 5 5 39 33 .290 .384 .473
1996 28 CHC 146 555 483 70 131 30 4 15 79 9 6 61 49 .271 .354 .443
1997 29 HOU 152 631 550 78 142 31 2 10 68 10 7 71 67 .258 .345 .376
1998 30 DET 154 620 547 84 146 35 5 23 71 12 7 57 62 .267 .340 .475
1999 31 ARI 153 693 614 112 206 45 4 26 111 9 5 66 63 .336 .403 .549
2000 32 ARI 162 722 618 106 192 47 2 31 114 2 4 78 85 .311 .392 .544
2001 33 ARI 162 728 609 128 198 36 7 57 142 1 1 100 83 .325 .429 .688
2002 34 ARI 148 633 524 90 151 19 3 28 103 9 2 97 76 .288 .400 .496
2003 35 ARI 156 679 579 92 176 46 4 26 104 5 3 94 67 .304 .402 .532
2004 36 ARI 105 451 379 69 98 28 5 17 48 2 2 68 58 .259 .373 .493
2005 37 ARI 155 672 579 90 157 37 0 24 79 4 1 78 90 .271 .366 .459
2006 38 ARI 153 668 586 93 159 52 2 15 73 0 1 69 58 .271 .352 .444
2007 39 LAD 139 526 464 70 129 23 2 15 68 6 2 56 56 .278 .359 .433
2008 40 FLA 136 387 341 30 89 26 1 8 47 1 2 41 43 .261 .336 .413
19 Yrs 2591 10531 9157 1412 2591 596 68 354 1439 128 87 1155 1218 .283 .367 .479

Andrew Kivette was the 2013 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development