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Farewell, Pito: Reflecting On José Abreu’s White Sox Career

by Joe Ruffalo

Well, there you have it.

We all knew this day was coming, yet still, everything about José Abreu’s departure doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s because Pito is preparing to join Houston on a three-year deal (per Bob Nightengale), where he will serve as yet another offensive catalyst to an already potent Astros lineup. Or, perhaps, sadness comes from knowing that he deserved better during his nine seasons here on the South Side. Regardless of one’s feelings, the truth is that the Chicago White Sox have just lost the heart and soul of their current squad. And whether or not it was the right decision to part ways with the face of the franchise, things aren’t going to be the same around 35th and Shields next year.

When you do decide to return to Guaranteed Rate Field in 2023, you may notice the words “Passion, Pride, and Tradition” boldly hanging between three levels of the concourse ramps. While they do make up a classic slogan for the team when put together, these words are also a reminder of the hard-work and sacrifice that countless generations of South Siders have made to create a better life for themselves and their families. 

José Abreu was never a stranger to these values, even when his homeland of Cruces, Cuba, was thousands of miles away from Bridgeport. Pito’s decision to play for the Chicago White Sox was one that required unthinkable sacrifice – a decision that could have easily ended in tragedy. As revealed in a 2015 column by Michael E. Miller for Chicago Magazine, Abreu endured a frightening twelve-hour boat ride while defecting from Cuba with six of his family members. As the small vessel crashed through treacherous fifteen-foot waves, the family, held together by José, would often huddle together, praying that they would make it to their destination alive. Former White Sox catcher Adrian Nieto shared that “Jose was scared for his life in that little boat…He told me many times: ‘If it’s everybody’s life or mine, I’m going to make sure my parents and my sister live before I do.’”

While details from Abreu’s backstory may come as a surprise to certain fans, his stoicism does not. Through consistent displays of strength, perseverance, and loyalty, Pito was the gold standard, and he always led by example. Even after enduring personal hardships, battling through injuries, and finding ways to produce on many underperforming White Sox teams, José’s effort and commitment were never in question. The fans knew it, and so did all of his teammates. It’s the reason why he became so revered from the moment he put on the uniform in 2014. 

José’s mother always wanted her son to wear an unusual number, like 79, so that people would have a way of remembering him. At this point, given his accolades and reputation, it’s hard to imagine that the number could ever be forgotten. Hopefully, someday, we’ll be able to join together as a fanbase and celebrate it in a better light. Until then, my only hope is that when the Houston Astros open their series in Chicago on May 12, 2023, every person inside Guaranteed Rate Field is on their feet giving him a thunderous ovation. And maybe, just maybe, we can all get the “José” chant going again, for old times’ sake. It’s the least we can do for a first-class player, and an even better human being. 

Thanks for the memories, Pito.

Hope that you enjoy a few of my favorite José Abreu photos that I have captured over the years.

José Abreu acknowledges his supporters while standing on deck. Photo taken on June 16th, 2021.
José Abreu shadow boxes in the dugout prior to first pitch. Photo taken on June 16th, 2021.
José Abreu tips his cap after becoming the 19th player in franchise history to collect his 1,000th career hit as a member of the Chicago White Sox. Photo taken on August 24th, 2019.
José Abreu hits the 214th home run of his career, tying Carlton Fisk for fourth place on the franchise’s all-time list. Photo taken on June 17th, 2021.
José Abreu steps up to the plate against the Los Angeles Angels. Photo taken on May 2nd, 2022.
Tools of the trade. The bat and helmet belonging to Chicago White Sox slugger José Abreu lay near home plate. Photo taken on April 27th, 2022.
Mal Tiempo. Photo taken on August 1st, 2021.
José Abreu poses for a photo with Yoán Moncada, Sharon Rice Miñoso, and Charlie Miñoso during Minnie Miñoso’s plaque unveiling ceremony at Guaranteed Rate Field. Photo taken on July 30th, 2022.
José Abreu makes solid contact during game two of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. Photo taken on July 3rd, 2019.
José Abreu heads back to the White Sox dugout during the team’s 9-1 loss at home against the Royals. Photo taken on August 4th, 2021.
José Abreu showers teammate Yasmani Grandal with Gatorade after the catcher hit a walk-off single against the Tampa Bay Rays. Photo taken on June 16th, 2021.
Pito in action. Photo taken on September 16th, 2021.
José Abreu finds the strength to stand up and head to first after taking a hit by a pitch in game one of the team’s doubleheader against the Tigers. Photo taken on July 3rd, 2019.
José Abreu takes the field in preparation for a mid-season matchup at home against the Detroit Tigers. Photo taken on July 21st, 2016.
José Abreu launches his 12th home run of the season against Ryan Yarbrough of the Tampa Bay Rays. Photo taken on June 16th, 2021.
Fans watch moments before José Abreu belts his 222nd career home run, moving him into sole possession of third place on the White Sox all-time home run list. Photo taken on August 14th, 2021.
José Abreu points at a young fan after catching a ball tossed into the stands. Photo taken on May 5th, 2019.
José Abreu takes a pitch to the shoulder during a Spring Training game against the Padres at Camelback Ranch. Photo taken on March 2nd, 2020.
José Abreu is gifted a painting in commemoration of his 2020 AL MVP Award. Photo taken on October 3rd, 2021.
José Abreu smiles with his teammates after defeating the Los Angeles Angels. Photo taken on May 2nd, 2022.

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just Jimmy

In this day and age where players sell their services to the highest bidder, much like the hired guns of the Old West, some players just don’t belong in other jerseys. Pito is one of those players that should’ve retired as a White Sox player. I think he deserved better, he was loyal to the team, and was a ambassador of the team, big part helping new Cuban players adjust and become acclamated. As much as I’m excited to see what Vaughn can do with a full season of just having to worry about 1B, I will truly miss Jose.

Joe Bell

When Abreu is cranking out home runs and RBIs like we all know he will, and Vaughn is fading during the last few months of the season as he usually does, the fans will be totally ticked off that they let Abreu walk. This was done because Reinsdorf wanted to reduce payroll by signing has beens (Clevinger) or keep playing struggling players (Moncada/Grandal) or minor leaguers paying the league minimum. Personally I have no confidence that this team will be in the playoffs for a long time coming.

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