Julio Cruz, second baseman on White Sox’ 1983 division champion, dies at 67

“Igniter, catalyst, caring teammate” scored winning run in division clincher at Comiskey Park.

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Julio Cruz, the second baseman who crossed home plate with the run that clinched the White Sox’ 1983 AL West Division championship, died Tuesday. He was 67.

Julio Cruz, the second baseman who crossed home plate with the run that clinched the White Sox’ 1983 AL West Division championship, died Tuesday. He was 67.

Chicago White Sox

Julio Cruz, the second baseman who crossed home plate with the run that clinched the White Sox’ 1983 American League West Division championship, died Tuesday. He was 67.

Cruz, who played 10 seasons with the Mariners and Sox from 1977-86 before working as a Spanish-language broadcaster from 2003-21 in Seattle, “passed away peacefully” at his home, according to a statement from his family. He had battled prostate cancer since 2016.

Acquired by general manager Roland Hemond for Tony Bernazard in a June trade with the Mariners, Cruz helped spark the Sox to their first postseason appearance since 1959. A switch-hitting lifetime .237 hitter who stole 343 bases in a 10-year career, Cruz batted .251 with 24 stolen bases, 40 RBI and 46 runs scored in 99 games for the Sox in 1983. Cruz gleefully scored on Harold Baines’ sacrifice fly for a walk-off victory over the Mariners before 45,646 fans on Sept. 17, setting off a wild celebration at Comiskey Park.

That would remain a snapshot of the 1983 season for the Sox. Cruz would go 4-for-12 with two stolen bases in the ALCS loss to the Orioles a few weeks later.

“The ‘Cruzer’ was the catalyst of that 1983 Western Division championship team,” chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. “When Roland Hemond acquired him that summer, the team just took off. Julio became our igniter, and his positive energy was contagious in the clubhouse, in the dugout and on the field.

“The White Sox’ organization sends its heartfelt condolences to Julio’s family and many friends.”

Cruz will be remembered as a fan favorite in Seattle and Chicago and by teammates for his big smile and caring personality.

“For fans, Julio was such an important part of the White Sox and in particular the 1983 team,” said Tony La Russa, his manager with the Sox. “We traded for him to ignite the offense, which he did.”

Cruz, who usually batted ninth in 1983, also went by the nickname “Juice.” He and leadoff man Rudy Law formed a speedy back-to-back tandem in La Russa’s lineup.

“He had electric ability as a player but was such a big part of those teams because of his personality,” La Russa said. “He was a caring guy and because of that had an emotional connection with his teammates on and off the field. This is a very sad day. He was much too young to leave us, and he will be missed.”

Cruz is the third member of the 1983 team to die in recent months. LaMarr Hoyt and Hemond passed in November and December, respectively.

“It is always shocking at our age to learn someone you hadn’t seen in a while has passed away,” said Greg Walker, the first baseman on the 1983 team. “We were brothers together, teammates. He came into our clubhouse in 1983 and changed our team by bringing so much energy to the ballpark each and every day. Julio had a big heart and a bunch of energy that rubbed off on everyone. People don’t understand how close we came to winning it all in 1983, and Julio was a huge piece of that success.”

A member of the original 1977 Mariners, Cruz was involved in community causes including cancer awareness, Toys for Kids and youth baseball, the Mariners said. He is survived by his wife, Mojgan, and sons Austin, Alexander and Jourdan.

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