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Jesus Alou

March 1, 2011

According to the Gods: a 2011 Team-By-Team Preview

New York Mets

Judging from this 1976 card, you’d have to think that Jesus Alou led a charmed life. The back showed many years in the major leagues, including some at the beginning of his career with the Giants and in the company of his two brothers, Felipe and Matty. More recently, after a stint with the Astros, he’d returned to the Bay Area to collect two World Series championship rings as a member of the Oakland A’s. In early 1975, the A’s decided they no longer needed his services as a part-time right-handed singles hitter, but the Mets swooped in and signed him. He seems content, even happy, to be in a Mets uniform. This card, in fact, has always stood out to me for the placid, merry look on Jesus’ face. I liked it as a kid, in part because it contrasted so strikingly with the Jesus Alou card from the previous season, which showed in extreme close up a balding, suffering man in the midst of turmoil. By contrast, this photo suggests that in the next moment Jesus Alou will stroll off to partake of one or another of life’s many little pleasures, maybe a pregame snack or some cartoons or a nap or a relaxed, laughing conversation with some grounds crew guys. So what can we take from this card in terms of predicting the fortunes of the 2011 Mets? To be thorough on the matter, it should be noted there are some elements of the card that don’t bode well for this year’s Mets, such as Jesus Alou’s tepid efforts for the 1975 edition of the squad as shown on the back of the card: just 3 extra base hits (all doubles) in 102 at-bats, part of a relatively empty .265 batting average, and you could also mix in the knowledge that the year this card came out, Jesus Alou was no longer on the Mets, or anywhere else in the majors, and that he couldn’t be found anywhere in the league the following year, either. There are signs, in other words, that things might not work out for the 2011 Mets, and these cloud the crystal ball that is this 1976 Jesus Alou card, but it also seems relevant that Jesus Alou, like his more famous namesake, made an improbable return from what seemed to be a permanent oblivion: two years on from seeming to appear on his last baseball card, he resurfaced with spectacular visual flourish in the rainbow uniform of the Houston Astros, and in his quietly miraculous resurrection season of 1978 he batted .324, a career high. It seems clear, with all this evidence of the charmed life of Jesus Alou, not least of which being Jesus Alou’s capability on this 1976 card to calmly rejoice in his own good fortune even as he is on the brink of a major league exile of a length from which few, if any, have ever returned. So have the faith of Jesus and enjoy, Mets fans. Your 2011 Mets will lead a charmed life.

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How to enjoy the 2011 baseball season, part 2 of 30: Approach the game memory by memory (e.g., at the Ultimate Mets Database fan memory page) and number by number (e.g., at Mets By the Numbers)

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2011 previews so far:
St. Louis Cardinals

6 comments

  1. I grew up in NJ, my two younger sisters and I loving baseball and rooting for the Mets (1962 – ). For whatever reason – mostly the upbeat sound of a trio of names – we dubbed ourselves Jesus, Matty, and Felipe, playing out our roles in foul territory during my dad’s weekly church league softball games. My sister Lisa, age 3, got to be Jesus.

    Am heading to Port St Lucie soon with a weird sense of optimism. I love your prediction for the 2011 Mets. Thanks for a great post.


  2. After four seasons which can accurately be described as “brutal” I think the Mets deserve a charmed year.


  3. The Mets are so ass-backward that with the organization crashing down around them, and faced with very low expectations, they probably will have a good year.


  4. According to Baseball-Reference.com, in his first year as a pro, Jesus Alou played in the class D Nebraska State League on the Hastings Giants. A teammate there was one Gordon Achilles. Sadly, despite this collection of historical talent, Hastings finished 5th (in a six team league). Jesus hit .667 while Achilles could only muster a .233. Both Achilles and the Hastings franchise disappeared at the close of the 1959 season. Make your own theological inferences.

    Coincidentally, the 1959 Nebraska State League season is further documented in a chapter of Pat Jordan’s “A False Spring”.


  5. “So have the faith of Jesus and enjoy, Mets fans.”

    As a Mets fan, I can tell you we almost always have (often uncalled-for) faith, but seldom enjoy…


  6. Your Jesus Alou post led me on a fascinating journey into the Land of the Alous.

    Feeling, as usual, curious about the stats behind the player you wrote about, I went immediately to br.com and re-discovered the faint knowledge about the Alou brothers I knew as a child thirty years ago.

    What a fascinating trio: three brothers from the far off, tropical Dominican Republic arrive in the U.S. to form a fairly substantial portion of one club’s roster (Giants) and emerge from there to spread around the league and cause a decent amount of havoc on opposing pitching, almost like a baseball version of the AIDS virus.

    One had certifiable pop, proven by a 30 homer season, one had four straight Pujols-like seasons of batting over .330 (think about that for a second…genuinely amazing considering most people have never heard of any Alous or possibly even the name Alou), and even the quietest hitting Alou, Jesus, still sprinkled his career stats block with several mild-mannered .300 seasons, just the way one would perfectly sprinkle garlic salt on a slice of pizza.

    Not to mention I re-realized that from one of this brood’s loins emerged the great Moises Alou, who, as anyone from Houston will surely attest was one of the truly mystifying, yet outstanding players from the fin-de-siecle Astros of the late 90s, and a man who managed to barehandedly crush baseballs while simultaneously looking like he wasn’t quite sure where he was most of the time (his lack of batting gloves adding to this illusion).

    I find this to be one of the great stories of our time.



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