Obituary: Alberto Lois (1956-2019)

R.I.P. to Alberto Lois, who appeared briefly in the majors as an outfielder and pinch-runner. According to numerous Spanish-language reports, Lois died on March 12 at the age of 62. He died in San Pedro de Macorís, where he had lived for many years. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1978-79) before his career was tragically cut short by a car accident.

Alberto Lois Pie was born in Hato Mayor del Rey, Dominican Republic, on May 6, 1956. According to a 1976 profile on him, he got his start like so many youngsters from the Dominican Republic, playing on sandlots with rolled-up socks as balls and sticks as bats. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pirates on March 12, 1974, when he was 17 years old. He was offered a good bonus by scout Howie Haak, he later recalled. He was originally signed as “Alberto Louis,” but he later would change the spelling of his last name when people kept mispronouncing it as “Lewis” instead of “Louise.” He started with the A-ball Charleston Pirates later that year and managed a .260 batting average in 119 games. Though he didn’t have a lot of power — his slugging percentage was .344 and he hit more triples (5) than home runs (4), he did steal 37 bases.

Lois kept improving as he rose through the ranks. He batted .302 in 1975 with the Salem Pirates, another A-ball team, and stole 24 bases. He split time in AA and AAA in 1976 and ended up with a combined .316/.347/.456 slash line. The power was starting to come around, in the way of 12 triples and 5 homers. The speed was astounding — he was clocked on a 60-yard dash at 6.55 seconds, second in the Pirates’ whole organization and only behind prospect Miguel Dilone. His AA manager said that he didn’t give Lois a steal sign. He gave him a “don’t steal” sign in certain circumstances and let the speedster pick his spots otherwise.

According to his SABR biography, Lois was getting on the bad side of some people in the Pirates organization with injury problems and perceived attitude problems. He was showing up late to Spring Training and occasionally showed up to games drunk.

Lois appeared in just 42 games in the minors for the Bucs in 1977 and 73 in 1978. He had a chance to make the big-league squad out of Spring Training in ’78, even getting a couple of hits off Steve Carlton in one game, but it didn’t work out. He got his promotion to the majors in September 1978. Lois was used sparingly — one game as a pinch-runner, another as a defensive replacement — before starting his only MLB game on October 1 versus Philadelphia. He went 1-for-4 with a triple off Jim Kaat in his first MLB at-bat.

Lois appeared in 11 games for the Pirates in 1979, but he never recorded a plate appearance. He was used exclusively as a pinch-runner as the eventual World Champions were scratching for wins in August and September. He did have a few highlights, though. He pinch-ran for Willie Stargell and scored the winning run on a passed ball in a 6-5 win over the Phillies on August 20. The marathon game included a nearly four-hour rain delay in the 6th inning. About 250 fans were left in Three Rivers Stadium to cheer for Lois as he scored.

Alberto Lois greets Willie Stargell after “Pops” hit a walk-off home run off the Montreal Expos. Source: Star Gazette, Sept. 19, 1979.

Lois returned to the Dominican Republic for winter ball. It was there that his career unexpectedly and tragically ended in a car accident in late January, 1980. The initial reports simply stated that Lois had a broken right arm and might lose the sight in his right eye, along with other minor injuries.

His SABR bio goes into more details, stating that Lois was driving a truck with nine of his friends following a birthday party. He drove the truck into a train that was parked in the middle of the road on its tracks, apparently with no lights or signals. Six of his passengers were killed, and Lois was thrown from the vehicle. He was unconscious for six days. Doctors who performed eye surgery on him that April told him that he would not be able to resume his career.

Lois was a career .286 hitter in the minors over parts of six seasons. He stole 125 bases and had 429 hits, including 38 doubles, 37 triples and 28 home runs. In the majors, he appeared in a total of 14 games, with 1 hit in 4 at-bats. He scored 6 times and stole one base.

Lois is said to have lived a rather quiet life in the Dominican Republic following the end of his playing days. In 2003, he was one of the coaches for Latin Baseball Inc., a baseball academy designed to help give Dominican children the skills to make it in pro baseball.

Obituary (in Spanish): https://listindiario.com/el-deporte/2019/03/13/557206/fallece-exjugador-alberto-lois

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