Monday marked the official end of an era on the South Side as Chicago White Sox starJosé Abreu signed a three-year deal with the Houston Astros.
The contract brought to a close one of the most remarkable careers in club history. Abreu defected from his native Cuba and joined the White Sox for the 2014 season. He quickly became a star, winning the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year and serving as one of the lone bright spots during a dark period for the White Sox. He later won the AL MVP award in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, becoming the first White Sox player to win the award since Frank Thomas in 1994.
It seems almost a foregone conclusion that Abreu’s No. 79 will one day be retired and he may even receive a statue on the Guaranteed Rate Field concourse.
Until then, let’s look back at five of his greatest moments in a White Sox uniform.
5. Welcome to the South Side – April 25, 2014
White Sox fans remember the moment. Bases loaded in a 6-5 game vs. the Tampa Bay Rays, Grant Balfour on the mound, and José Abreu at the dish.
“That ball hit hard!” “Get over his head!” “Way back!” “He looks up…You can…put it on the BoooAAArd.” “Yeeeeees!”
It was his second home run of the game as he also homered off Chris Archer in the third inning. That home run — his first of the night and eighth of the season — tied the rookie record for home runs in the month of March/April. The kill shot to end the game gave Abreu his third multi-home run game in his short 24-game career and the outright rookie record. His nine home runs in March/April passed Albert Pujols (2001), Carlos Delgado (1994), and Kent Hrbek (1982). The next legendary first baseman for the White Sox franchise was here and he was making noise quickly.
4. Kiss The Ring — September 9, 2017
José Abreu will leave the franchise tied for second with Paul Konerko (5) for most 30+ HR and 100+ RBI seasons, just behind Frank Thomas’ eight seasons. On September 9, 2017, it seemed like Abreu was going to do what he already did in two of his three prior seasons; hit his 30th HR of the season. On his first at-bat of the night versus White Sox legend, Jeff Samardzija, Abreu hit a 103.7 mph missile over the right-center field wall for his 29th home run on the season.
His next at-bat on a 2-1 count against Samardzija? Abreu got a hanging breaking ball over the middle of the plate … that he lined down the line for a double. After besting Samardzija in their first two meetings, Shark got the best of Pito and struck him out in the 5th.In the 7th, with Samardzija removed from the game, Abreu stepped in against future White Sox legend, Josh Osisch, and lofted a single into left field. The Sox weren’t done scoring though, as a Nicky Delmonico home run made it 10-1 and extended the game to give Abreu one more at-bat.
Abreu stepped into the box with runners on first and third, in the bottom of the eighth inning against Roberto Gomez, and on a 0-2 count, he took a chest-level 95 mph fastball out to the right-center gap.
“Keep on going, José!” cheered Steve Stone and Hawk Harrelson on the broadcast.The camera sees Giants centerfielder, Gorkys Hernandez reach down lazily at the base of the wall and fire the ball to the cut-off man. While the ball is in travel, the camera cuts to Abreu who is rounding second base while circling his arms to power himself up.”Yes!”, Hawk exclaims as Abreu slides into third for his 11th career triple and 5th of the season.Abreu became only the sixth player in White Sox history to hit for the cycle, and the first White Sox to hit the cycle since José Valentín in 2000. For the accomplishment, White Sox owner, Jerry Reinsdorf gifted Abreu a Cycle Ring.
And don’t worry, Abreu hit home runs #30 and #31 the next day.
3. August 21-23, 2020: 6 HR in three games, and four HR in four straight at-bats against Cubs
José Abreu walked into Wrigley Field on August 21, 2020 with 0 career home runs and a slash line of .250/.315/.313 at The Friendly Confines. But after his 14 ABs in a standard 3-game set v. the Cubs, Abreu’s slash line soared to .317/.382/.667. How?
Here are his 14 ABs in Wrigley in 2020.
1st AB: Groundout
2nd AB: Home Run
3rd AB: Flyout
4th AB: Lineout
5th AB: Home Run
6th AB: Single
7th AB: Walk
8th AB: Home Run
9th AB: Home Run
10th AB: Home Run
11th AB: Home Run
12th AB: Groundout
13th AB: Popfly
14th AB: Walk
That is what August Abreu did. Over his career, Abreu has an OPS of .971 in the month of August. His next best OPS by month is .853 in September/October. This is not a Top 5 José Abreu moment because it happened v. the cross-town rival, it is a Top 5 Moment because White Sox fans knew that when the calendar flipped to August, Abreu would be at his finest
2. Pito Hustle – May 16, 2021
This moment is on here for two reasons. To show José Abreu’s ability to play every day and his never quit attitude. On May 14, in Game one of a Doubleheader, Abreu and Kansas City’s Hunter Dozier collided after Dozier ran into Abreu as he was trying to field an infield pop-fly. Abreu left the game with a facial contusion, laceration, and a bruised knee. With the luck of most White Sox injuries, fans assumed the worse. Manager Tony La Russa did say that Abreu wanted to play in Game 2 on Friday, but was held out.
Most then questioned Abreu playing just a day later on the 15th, but he proved the doubters wrong as he homered off Mike Minor. The next day was the real statement from Abreu. You could NOT hold him out. You can NOT sit him down. He WILL play through everything and anything. In the bottom 9th inning of a 3-3 game on the 16th, Yasamni Grandal was facing Wade Davis with Abreu standing on 3rd. On a 2-1 count, Davis threw a curveball that got away from Royals catcher, Cam Gallagher. Abreu sprinted home, Gallagher searched for the ball, Abreu slid, Gallagher slid and Abreu was safe. He won the game for his team using his battered legs, his strong will, and his undying hustle
1. Abreu wins 2020 AL MVP – November 12, 2020
Six years before this moment, José Abreu was in a similar position. He had just finished his first season in Major League Baseball and was seen as the frontrunner to become the American League Rookie of the Year. At the same time, details about Abreu’s escape from his home in Cuba started to emerge through reports from The Chicago Tribune’s Jared Hopkins.
“Him being on a little boat with just two motors and these two huge ships got in between them. He said the waves were 15 feet high and he thought they were going to drown.”, Adrian Nieto, a former White Sox teammate of Abreu described.
Later in 2017, more details emerged from Abreu’s journey to America. After taking that harrowing boat ride from Cuba to Hati, Abreu had to take a flight from Hati to Miami and he had to destroy his fake identification on the plane.
“Little by little I swallowed that first page of the passport. I could not arrive in the United States with a false passport,” Abreu said.
After being the greatest player in his home country for eight years, he chose to take a life-threatening journey to a new country to play at the highest level of his profession and to give his family a life they never thought they could have. Making it to Miami would have made his journey a success for José. Signing with the White Sox was his dream. Becoming the unanimous American League Rookie of the Year left him speechless, “I don’t have any words to describe this moment”
So what would be named American League Most Valuable Player do to José? Maybe his crying in disbelief on live television for nearly a minute and a half would explain how much it all meant to him. Saying José Abreu is a White Sox legend does not do enough to define the extent of his legacy. If White Sox fans had their choice, José Abreu would not have sat out in his last game at Guaranteed Rate Field, he would have been sitting through his jersey retirement ceremony.