World Series hero Luis Gonzalez officially became a D-back on this day in 1998
On Dec. 28, 1998, the D-backs -- who were at that point just one year into their existence as an MLB team -- acquired a journeyman outfielder and a World Series hero when they traded Karim Garcia to the Tigers after Detroit signed Gregg Jefferies to a two-year deal.
Luis Gonzalez was that journeyman outfielder.
Through that point in his career, Gonzo was a nine-year MLB veteran who had never hit better than .300, had never hit more than 23 home runs in a season and had never made an All-Star team. He broke into the bigs with the Astros, played for the Cubs, bounced back to the 'Stros and eventually made his way to Detroit, where the Tigers decided they'd rather have Garcia, a 22-year-old corner outfielder with all of nine career home runs to his name.
Gonzo made the most of his new opportunity in Phoenix, hitting a career-best .336 in his first season with the D-backs. He led the NL in hits that season with a career-best 206, mashed a career best 26 home runs and was elected to his first All-Star Game. The man was trending up and he wasn't about to stop at the end of the 1999 season.
To follow up that performance, Gonzo belted 31 homers in 2000 and played in all 162 regular-season games for the D-backs. Then, he upped the ante again in '01 by cranking 57 (!!!) dingers and again apperaing in all 162 games, this time leading the D-backs to the postseason.
By the time early November rolled around, pretty much everyone had forgotten that Gonzo wasn't born wearing purple pinstripes. And so it was only fitting that with the bases loaded and the score tied in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, it was Gonzo who stepped in the box to face dreaded Yankees closer Mariano Rivera:
And with that hit, Gonzo became that World Series hero.
If the warmth of Hot Stove season was lulling you into a deep hibernation set to last until Opening Day, remember that pitchers and catchers report in eight weeks, and that journeyman outfielder your team signs next week could be your next World Series hero.