Obituary: Jose Moreno (1957-2019)

RIP to Jose Moreno, who played for three MLB teams in three seasons in the 1980s. He died on September 6 at the Hospital General Plaza de la Salud in the Dominican Republic. He was 61 years old. According to the news site Liston Diario (in Spanish), Moreno had suffered from lung problems and had limited mobility for the last 20 years. Moreno played for the New York Mets (1980), San Diego Padres (1981) and California Angels (1982). He also spent 14 seasons playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

Jose Moreno gives thanks when the Dominican team Leones del Escogido retired his number. Source: Liston Diario

Jose de los Santos Mauricio Moreno was born in Santo Domingo in the Domonican Republic on November 1, 1957. According to a 1978 Philadelphia Inquirer story on him, his father walked out on the family, leaving his mother to support a total of nine children. Moreno went to school through eighth grade and then joined an army baseball club, which is where the Philadelphia Phillies discovered him.

“We saw him there, playing third base. We saw he had a good frame, and he ran very well, quick hands, good feet, strong arm, a straight-up fielder and very good actions with the bat,” said Ruben Amaro Sr., who essentially developed the Phillies Caribbean scouting system. “He was a good kid, introverted, didn’t drink or smoke. We could see that he did not have a personality that would create a problem.”

He came up as a second baseman, but Moreno also spent considerable time at third base and in the outfield in his career. He was signed by the Phillies organization when he was 18 and was assigned to the Auburn Phillies of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1975. In 58 games, he stole 23 bases while being thrown out just 3 times. He also hit .268 and hit 3 home runs.

The Phillies added him to their 40-man roster in 1977. By 1978, Moreno had moved up to AA Reading and got a brief stay in AAA with the Oklahoma City 89ers. He had established himself as a stolen base threat who could be a fair hitter, draw a good number of walks and even hit with a little power. He was a right-handed hitter when he signed, but the Phillies made him into a switch hitter to take better advantage of his speed.

Moreno gained a measure of confidence as the Phillies brought him up through the minors. In Spring Training in 1978, Moreno introduced himself to shortstop Larry Bowa and said, “Next year, I play with you.” At the time, he was considered the only position player prospect the Phillies had with a chance of displacing one of their current starters.

Plans change in baseball, and the Phillies in March 1979 traded Moreno and Richie Hebner to the Mets for pitcher Nino Espinosa. The Mets sent him to AAA Tidewater, where he hit .256 with 20 stolen bases. He got his first taste of the majors in 1980 when the Mets promoted him in May. His first hit was an RBI single off the Cardinals’ George Frazier on May 28, and his first home run came off the Giants’ John Montefusco on June 18. In 37 games, mostly as a pinch hitter, he hit .196 with 2 homers and 1 stolen base. That December, he and pitcher John Pacella were traded to the Padres in exchange for pitcher Randy Jones.

Moreno spent most of that strike-shortened 1981 season playing for the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League, and he had his best season. In 107 games, he led the team in all extra-base-hit categories, with 25 doubles, 11 triples and 11 home runs. He stole 30 bases (second only to Alan Wiggins’ 73 steals) and hit a career-high .305. He joined the Padres for 34 games, again mostly as a pinch hitter. He also played 9 games in the outfield and didn’t commit an error in right or left field. At the bat, he had 11 hits for a .229 average and stole 4 bases in 5 attempts.

Jose Moreno (center) is congratulated by Hawaii Islanders teammates Dave Stegman and Tim Flannery after a 3-run homer. Source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, April 22, 1981.

The Padres left Moreno unprotected in the Rule V draft that December, and he was picked by the California Angels. He appeared in 11 games for the Angels in 1982, but he only had 5 plate appearances, as most of those games came as a pinch runner. He went 0-for-3 with 3 runs scored, 2 walks and 2 times caught stealing.

Moreno spent two more years in the Angels system and also played in the Mexican league, ending his professional career in 1985. In his 3 seasons in the major leagues, he appeared in 82 games and had a slash line of .206/.250/.330, with 20 hits, 15 RBIs and 5 stolen bases. He homered twice and scored 14 runs. Moreno had a .274 batting average in 9 seasons in the minor leagues, with 190 stolen bases.

In between his play with MLB and MiLB, Moreno also played in the Dominican Professional Baseball League (LIDOM) between 1974-5 and 1989-90. Most of that time was spent with the Leones del Escogido, but he also played a couple of seasons with the Azucareros del Este. According to the article from Liston Diario (see link below), his #10 was retired by the Leones.

For further information (In Spanish): https://listindiario.com/el-deporte/2019/09/06/581495/fallece-a-los-61-anos-de-edad-el-expelotero-jose-mackey-moreno?fbclid=IwAR0ALlEi8vl_4KbUlnQN5WMMztVud-sEsnnoDg_NbjxQ0AaulXOx8JX5wA8

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