The Uribe Name Lives On

by Keith Glab,
December 8, 2006

Jose will be missed; Uribe will live on

He only stood at 5'10" tall, yet his middle name was "Alta."  Okay, so that was short for Altagarcia, but you get the idea; Jose Uribe was the type of ballplayer who always stood a little taller than the roster guide showed, and always got a little more talent out of his body than you might guess.

The former Cardinals, Giants, and Astros shortstop was killed Friday in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic.  Ex-teammate Brett Butler described him as "a rambunctious player with a great smile."

This was not the first tragedy to befall the Uribe family.  His first wife died giving birth in 1989.  Jose later remarried, and had "at least" 14 children total, according to longtime friend Glovis Reyes.

Born Jose Altagarcia Gonzalez Uribe, the switch hitter probably wouldn't have been a starting shortstop had he played today.  The all-glove no-hit shortstop has become a dying breed.  But even though Uribe didn't have good-looking numbers, he often contributed on offense.  In his second full season, Uribe walked 61 times, including 19 intentional passes, good for fourth best in the NL.  He finished his 10-year career with 84 IBB.  Uribe wasn't a good hitter by any means, but these intentional passes show that he was among the best #8 hitters of his era.  

Part of that success was due to his clutch play.  Uribe hit 29 points higher with men on base than with the bases empty over his career.  His ability to drive in runs from the #8 hole partly offset his inability to get on base in front of the pitcher.

There was one season in which Uribe could say that he was a good hitter, but that was 1987, the year that nearly every shortstop in baseball hit like an outfielder.  Uribe hit .291 with a career-high five homers in 309 at bats.  His OPS+ was 107.  It was also Uribe's most efficient year on the bases, having swiped a dozen in fourteen attempts.

But Uribe was good with the glove nearly every year.  While he struggled with errors in his first season as a starter, he became very sure-handed the very next year, finishing with a fielding percentage 14 points above the league's average.  He always had terrific range and turned double plays exceptionally well.

By 1992, however, Uribe had gotten a little pudgy in the middle.  He had never exactly been an astounding physical specimen before, but his skill had always masked any physical shortcomings.  The Giants decided to have Uribe split time with 22-year old Royce Clayton and show him the ropes.  Uribe wound up out-hitting the youngster significantly.  While they were both solid defensively, Clayon made the plays look better because of his youth and agility.  The Giants liked what they saw and did not offer Uribe a contract for 1993.

He landed in Houston, with a young team showing loads of promise.  One of the promising youngsters was their starting shortstop, Andujar Cedeno, who hit .283 at the age of 23 that season.  In a macabre coincidence, Cedeno, also a Dominican, was killed in a car accident just over six years prior to Uribe's.  Jose would reach base in 35.5% of his 66 plate appearances that season, then retire at the age of 34.

Yet with some 14 or more offspring, and second cousin Juan Uribe currently starting at shortstop for the Chicago White Sox, we can rest assured that the Uribe name will live on in baseball for decades to come.     

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at