Diamondbacks Honor a LegendPosted by Jeff Summers on Aug 7, 2010 in 2010 Regular Season | 0 comments
“The Detroit Tigers acquired outfielder Karim Garcia from the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Luis Gonzalez and cash considerations.”
No one could have expected the results of that seemingly innocent transaction from December 28, 1998. At the time the transaction was more about exchanging pieces that would subsequently be turned over in subsequent trades.
The Diamondbacks thought they had their outfield set with Bernard Gilkey, Steve Finley, and David Dellucci. At best Gonzalez would be the fourth outfielder if he could beat out youngster Dante Powell. The more realistic scenario had the Diamondbacks trading Gonzalez for another player.
Somewhere between December 1998 and Opening Day 1999, the Diamondbacks decided to keep Gonzalez. It was perhaps the smartest decision they ever made. From 1999-2006 Luis Gonzalez became the most beloved and arguably the best position player in franchise history.
For seven years Gonzo trotted out to left field to the cheers of adoring fans. In that time he became the franchise leader in hits, doubles, home runs, and pretty much every other offensive statistics.
It was not just his on-field play that endured him to the Arizona fans. There were countless stories about how Gonzalez would take time out of his spare time to meet children, make appearances, donate his time and money to anyone in need. Gonzalez became the face of a franchise.
At the conclusion of the 2006 season the Diamondbacks notified Gonzalez that his services were no longer needed. It was a blow to Gonzo and to the faithful Diamondbacks fans. Gonzalez would sign a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers just so he could return to Arizona and show the team what a mistake they made.
After a year with the Dodgers, Gonzalez signed a contract with the Florida Marlins where he finished his career. Upon retiring Gonzalez was contacted by Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall who offered Gonzo a job with the team.
From the moment Gonzalez agreed to return to the Diamondbacks, the question has always been, would the team retire his number 20 uniform? That question was answered earlier this year when the team announced they would hold a special ceremony on August 7, 2010 to recognize the accomplishments of Luis Gonzalez.
In the week leading up to August 7, the team in conjunction with Fox Sports Arizona celebrated some of the great moments in Arizona Diamondbacks history and the part Gonzalez played. The body of work was impressive.
As these memories were replayed it became clear how important Gonzalez had been to this team and to this city. It just seemed right to have his number retired.
The pre-game ceremony was tastefully done with the Diamondbacks showing several highlights of Gonzalez’s service. There were well wishes from former owner Jerry Colangelo and several of Gonzo’s teammates.
The Gonzalez family was also well represented with his wife and children in attendance as well as his grandmother, brother, and other members. Luis also invited his high school and college baseball coaches to attend so that he could publicly thank them for believing in him.
For the first time since Opening Day, Chase Field was sold out. The fans gave Gonzalez several standing ovations as he spoke, as his number was unveiled on the right field facade, and when he trotted out to left field before the game began.
It was a tremendous honor to be in attendance and see the first number retired in Arizona Diamondbacks history. In what could not even be scripted in Hollywood, the Diamondbacks took the lead only to lose it then win it on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth by Chris Young. And the home run was to left field where Gonzo stood for the better part of the Diamondbacks young history.