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Jose DeLeon

Sport: Baseball

Born: December 20, 1960

Town: Perth Amboy

Jose DeLeon Chestaro was born December 20, 1960 in Rancho Viejo, Dominican Republic. He was one of four baseball-playing brothers. Two were catchers and he and another siblings were pitchers. All had powerful arms, but Jose had a forkball in his arsenal, which was untouchable when facing young hitters. Jose’s family moved to Perth Amboy in the 1970s and he struggled in school. He was a 6’3” sophomore at age 18, with little hope of graduating. However, that season, his grades were good enough to pitch for the baseball team. He went 10–3 for the Panthers, fanned more batters than any other prep pitcher in New Jersey and tossed a brilliant one-hitter, but lost for lack of run support. This theme would follow Jose throughout his baseball career.

Jose returned to the DR that spring and, because he was not a U.S. citizen, successfully petitioned to become eligible for the draft. He was selected in the third round of the 1979 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jose reached the majors in 1983 at the age of 22. He went 7–3 for the Pirates in 15 starts with a pair of shutouts and took a no-hitter into the 9th inning. He had already 11 games with the AAA Hawaii Islanders earlier in the season. The Pirates were in rebuilding mode when Jose pitched for them. He went 9–32 over the next two seasons, despite averaging nearly a strikeout an inning. Jose was the NL leader in losses in 1985 with 19.

In 1986, the Pirates traded Jose straight-up to the White Sox for rookie Bobby Bonilla in a July deadline deal. The Bucs got the better of that one, but Jose went 15–17 for Chicago in 1986 in 1987 when the club had a sub-.500 record. The St. Louis Cardinals liked what they saw and traded Lance Johnson, Ricky Horton and cash for Jose before spring training in 1988. Having come off a pennant in 1987, the team felt it had the best staff in the NL.

Injuries to other pitchers denied St. Louis division titles, but Jose had two superb seasons for the Cards, going 13–10 and 16–12 and topping 200 strikeouts in 1988 and 1989. His 208 K’s were tops in the NL in 1989. St. Louis bottomed out in 1990, and Jose led the league in losses again, with 19—losing 14 of his final 15 decisions. Longtime friend Tony Pena believed that Jose felt he was destined to lose regardless of how well he pitched. Manage Joe Torre agreed, feeling he had finally lost all of his confidence. Jose said as much himself and was never a consistent starter again.

Jose spent two more years with the Cardinals, eventually pitching his way into the bullpen. He was released during the summer of 1992. The Phillies signed Jose and then traded him to the White Sox in 1993 for another faded star, Bobby Thigpen, Jose retired after splitting the 1995 season with the White Sox and Expos with an 89–116 record, 1594 strikeouts and a respectable 3.76 career ERA. Pitching well for bad teams is usually reflected in a player’s final numbers. In Jose’s case, he was the first pitcher in history with more than 1,500 strikeouts and fewer than 100 wins. Kerry Wood joined him as the second seven years later.

 

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