Though he didn't play very often, Jose Gonzalez found his way on the field for some of the largest moments of the season in 1988. The 23-year old Gonzalez was the second-youngest player to appear in a game for the 1988 Dodgers, behind Ramon Martinez, and often appeared as a defensive replacement in the outfield. He was on the field when the Dodgers clinched the division, when they won the pennant, and for the final out of the World Series.
How acquired: Gonzalez was signed in September 1980 by the Dodgers as an amateur out of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, just two months shy of his 16th birthday.
Prior MLB experience: Gonzalez appeared in 99 games for the Dodgers from 1985-1987, though he started just 23 of them. Gonzalez hit .217/.269/.358 in 132 plate appearances in those first three seasons.
Gonzalez scored the winning run as a pinch runner in the ninth inning against the Mets on Sept. 7, 1985, just his second major league game. The game was sock day at Dodger Stadium, and happens to be the earliest baseball game I can vividly remember attending, as a nine-year old. My brother Greg even enjoyed the game despite getting stung in the lip pregame by a bee that migrated from Tommy's to the Dodger Stadium parking lot via a can of Coca Cola.
1988 age: 23
1988 stats: Gonzalez didn't see much time with the Dodgers in 1988, with just 26 plate appearances. He had two hits in 24 at-bats, including a double. Gonzalez did appear in 37 games, often as a pinch runner or defensive replacement in the outfield. He made one start, and that came in game 158 on Sept. 27, the day after the Dodgers clinched the division. Gonzalez stole three bases without getting caught on the season.
Gonzalez hit .306/.387/.424 with 44 steals in 84 games with Triple-A Albuquerque, his third season with the Dukes, and was anxious to play in the big leagues. He was called up on June 10 when Pedro Guerrero went on the disabled list with a back injury.
"All I ever think about is being a Dodger, that's all I ever wanted to be when I grew up," Gonzalez told Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times in June. "But I know I can do it, I can play in the major leagues, and if not here, then with some other team. I don't want to be in triple-A year after year (this was his third season at Albuquerque). Somehow, I have to get out of there."
Regular season game of the year: Gonzalez hit is only extra-base hit of the season (and just one of two hits on the year) on July 4, a pinch hit double against future teammate John Tudor of the Cardinals, and scored the winning run. But for Gonzalez, his game of the year was Sept. 28 in San Diego. Gonzalez entered the game as a defensive replacement for Mike Davis in the ninth inning, and one inning later Gonzalez caught a fly ball off the bat of Keith Moreland of the Padres to end the 10th inning, giving Orel Hershiser a record 59 consecutive scoreless innings.
Despite not entering the game until the ninth inning, Gonzalez played all three outfield positions in the game, an eventual 2-1 loss in 16 innings.
NLCS performance: Gonzalez made the 24-man playoff roster, though he did not get a single plate appearance against the Mets. He did however appear in five of the seven games, including four games as a late-inning defensive replacement for Kirk Gibson in left field. Gonzalez also appeared as a pinch runner in Game 3 and Game 5.
World Series performance: Gonzalez appeared in four games against the Athletics, including thrice as a defensive replacement in the outfield. The four games in which he appeared happened to be the four games the Dodgers won. Gonzalez also got to bat in the World Series, twice in fact, but struck out both times, on seven total pitches.
Post-1988 playing career: Gonzalez finally got his chance to play semi-regularly in the big leagues in 1989, as he started 62 games in the outfield and hit .268/.326/.360 in 286 plate appearances. That season accounted for more than double the PA Gonzalez had an any other season. He was 0-for-28 in 42 games with the Dodgers in 1991, then was traded to the Pirates in July for Mitch Webster. A month and a half later Gonzalez was selected off waivers by the Indians. He played his final season in 1992 for the Angels, and appeared in 33 games.
Gonzalez appeared in 159 games in his career in which he did not bat, one of the largest totals of the live ball era.
Gonzalez played independent league baseball as late as 2001, when he was 36.