One of the catalysts for the Chicago White Sox 1983 American League West Champions has passed away. Julio Cruz, the switch-hitting second baseman of the “Winning Ugly” Sox died this past Tuesday at the age of 67.
Cruz first played for the Seattle Mariners during their inaugural season of 1977. Following his retirement, he went on to do Spanish broadcasts of Mariners’ games starting in 2003.
After coming over to Seattle from the California Angels via the 1976 expansion draft, Cruz eventually was traded to the White Sox in ’83 for Tony Bernazard and would stay with the club until his playing days came to an end several years later.
Nicknamed “Juice”, Cruz was an integral part of the ’83 team which went on to win 99 games that season and took the division by 20 games over second place Texas. Teammate and Rookie of the Year that season Ron Kittle said,
"“You couldn’t find a more energetic guy. He was unique in many ways, but always full of energy. Julio “Juice”, got along with everybody and loved baseball.”"
One of the great images in White Sox history is that of Cruz crossing home plate with the division-clinching run in a game against the Mariners. Harold Baines lofted a sacrifice fly to center and as Cruz crossed home plate, he leaped in the air with his fist raised and the celebration at Comisky Park was on.
Julio Cruz made his impact felt with the Chicago White Sox organization.
Cruz made his major league debut on July 4, 1977, against the White Sox and went two for three in the game. In his seven years in Seattle, Cruz stole 290 bases, including a stretch from 1978 to 1982 when he swiped no less than 43 each season. He finished the ’78 campaign tops in the AL in stolen base percentage (85.51%) and fielding percentage for second basemen (.978).
During the ’83 season, Cruz played 99 games for the Sox and batted .251 with 40 runs batted in and 24 steals. He would finish his tenure on the southside with a .224 batting average, 117 RBI and 53 thefts.
Cruz leaves behind his wife Mojgan and three sons, Austin, Alexander, Jourdan and their families. He is the third person from the ’83 team to have passed away in the last few months, following the deaths of pitcher LaMarr Hoyt and general manager Roland Hemond.
When not involved in baseball, Cruz was very active in several community and charity organizations. He was the Mariners first SEAT 21 honoree, which is an award recognizing those whose works symbolize the humanitarian efforts of Roberto Clemente.