Player Profile: Jose Desa
A brief profile of the career of Jose DeSa.
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The name Joe DeSa has all but faded into the sands of baseball oblivion. It is time to reach in and try to pull him out.
DeSa was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with baseball flowing through his blood. He spent much of his childhood training with his uncle, Major Leaguer John Matias, and collecting every copy he could find of the Topps baseball cards that bore his uncle’s image.
As a child his family fell apart and he moved to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandmother. There he honed his baseball skills but become diverted by football. Many colleges were pursuing DeSa as a defensive back when Cardinals’ scout Dave Bartosch happened upon a scrimmage. Not long after first watching DeSa play, Bartosch sold the Cardinals so well that they drafted him 3rd in 1977.
For three years, DeSa tore up the Minor Leagues, earning honors as one of the top first basemen in the Texas League. Finally, it was time for his shot at the Majors. DeSa debuted in 1980 versus the Astros. He would appear in a handful of games before being sent back down to AAA. The Cardinals were in love with his abilities but a major roadblock stood in his way: Keith Hernandez. It was a roadblock he wouldn’t overcome until 1984 when he signed with the White Sox. But again he would be overshadowed. Bobby Bonilla shot up from underneath him and squelched any shot he had at active duty. In 1986 the Sox released him.
His worst fear was coming true: he was becoming a career minor leaguer. And just as his disappointment was setting in, Kansas City called him up and offered him a roster spot. They wanted him to play Winter Ball and join the team in 1987. It was what DeSa had been waiting for but he would never make it with the Royals. On December 19, 1986, DeSa and his Winter Ball teammates were celebrating a crushing victory. There was drinking and partying followed by a long drive home. The night was foggy and details of the events are equally murky. The official findings are that DeSa stopped to get gas and reentered the highway going the wrong way. Moments later another car collided with his car head on. Both DeSa and the driver of the other vehicle were fatally wounded.
DeSa would leave us a career minor leaguer always just an inch from his dream and always pushed back by someone eeking past his abilities.