Gonzo first D’back to have number retired


PHOENIX — Luis Gonzalez will always be a hero to Arizona’s fans for one hit he had off Mariano Rivera. The way he carried himself, on and off the field, forever earned him a spot in their hearts.

An overwhelming fan favourite, Gonzalez became the first player to have number retired in the relatively-short history of the Diamondbacks before heir game against San Diego on Saturday. Standing at home plate with family and friends as his No. 20 went up next to Jackie Robinson’s above the right-field stands at Chase Field as cheers of "Gonzo!" rang out.

"Baseball has meant so much to me," Gonzalez said. "It has given me so many opportunities and memories both on and off the field."

For all of you little kids out there, I want to tell you, dream big. If you work hard and never give up, anything is possible," said Gonzalez, currently the franchise’s special assistant to the president and CEO. "And for all of you fans who are here today, I want to say thank you for sharing this special day with me."

With purple No. 20s painted near the batter’s circles, Gonzalez was feted at home plate, surrounded by his wife, Christine, and their triplets, other family members and friends, his high school and college coaches, along with Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick and president Derrick Hall.

Gonzalez was presented with a framed jersey and a painting depicting his famous hit in the 2001 World Series, followed by a tribute played on the video screen above the centre field wall. Gonzalez thanked the fans and everyone in the organization, then went out after the ceremony to his familiar spot in left field to acknowledge the fans out there.

"I can’t think of a better player to have his number retired by the Diamondbacks," former Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo said during one of the video tributes that played throughout the game.

Though he played for six different teams during his 19-year career in the majors, Arizona where Gonzalez made his most indelible mark.

"Gonzo" played seven seasons in the desert and had the most famous hit in Diamondbacks history, dinking a single off Rivera, the New York Yankees closer, to drive in the winning run in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, Arizona’s only championship.

Gonzalez was more than just a one-hit wonder, though, a player who epitomized the organization with a never-quit approach to the game on the field and for his approachability and community service off it.

"One of the things we talked about (with media) was having interaction with the fans, the people that support us … and Gonzo was as good as anybody, probably, we all know with that," Diamondbacks interim manager Kirk Gibson said. "Not only did he have numbers and play the game properly, but he understood the big picture as well as anybody."

He was pretty productive, too.

The five-time all-star hit .283 with 2,591 hits, 354 homers and 1,439 RBIs with Houston, the Chicago Cubs, Detroit, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida and Arizona. He also had 596 career doubles, 15th all-time, and was one of 17 players to eclipse 2,500 hits, 500 doubles, 350 doubles and 1,000 RBIs.

Gonzalez left as Arizona’s all-time leader in 11 different categories, including games played (1,194), hits (1,337), homers (224) and RBIs (774). He hit .298 with Arizona before the Diamondbacks decided not to pick up the option on his contract in 2006.

"Although my playing days are over, I can’t imagine being a part of a better organization," said Gonzalez, currently Arizona’s special assistant to the president and CEO.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.