Jose Alberto Laboy
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 170 lb.
Minor league veteran Coco Laboy had an excellent rookie season for the Montreal Expos in 1969 after being selected in the expansion draft from the St. Louis Cardinals. He was the team's starting third baseman on Opening Day against the New York Mets on April 8th and hit a three-run homer off Ron Taylor in the 8th inning that put the Expos ahead to stay. He kept the job all year, as he hit .258 with 29 doubles and 18 homers in 157 games. His 83 RBIs led the team and he was named to the 1969 Topps All-Star Rookie Team. Ted Sizemore was voted the 1969 National League Rookie of the Year by the BBWAA, but The Sporting News chose Coco as its top rookie instead of Sizemore.
However, after that great first season, he slumped to a .199 batting average in 137 games in 1970, with only 5 homers, and lost his starting job to Bob Bailey. Part of the problem was that pitchers found out he was vulnerable to the breaking ball, and he got a lot fewer fastballs to hit after his rookie season. He played three more seasons for Montreal, from 1971 to 1973, and recovered a bit the first two years, hitting .252 and .261, although he never regained the power he had displayed as a rookie. One of the highlights for him in 1972 was being the starting third baseman when Bill Stoneman threw the second no-hitter of his career against the Mets on October 2nd; he had also started the game on April 17, 1969, when Stoneman had pitched his first gem, against the Philadelphia Phillies, and he was the only Expos player, apart from Stoneman, to start both games. His final season in 1973 was tougher, though, as he hit only .121. He never played for another major league team, and surprisingly, his five seasons and 420 games with Montreal are the most of any position player to have spent spent his entire career with the team.
Laboy was originally signed out of Puerto Rico in 1959 by the San Francisco Giants and scouts Alex Pompez, Pedro Zorrilla and Frank Genovese. His first team in organized baseball were the Fresno Giants of the California League for which he hit .270 in 71 games in 1959; he also played 50 games for the Artesia Giants of the Sophomore League that first year, hitting.291. He then hit over .300 his next two seasons, but in 1962, playing for the El Paso Sun Kings of the Texas League, he was limited to 13 games by a back injury incurred while sliding. He hit .389 in his limited time that year, but the Giants released him after the season, thinking that the injury was career-ending. But Coco did not want to quit and he signed with the Cardinals as a result. He continued to hit well over the following years, including hitting .340 for the Raleigh Cardinals in 1964, .308 for the Tulsa Oilers in 1966, and .297 for the same team the following year. He never got a shot at the majors with the Cards, though, because they were a very strong team at the time, reaching the World Series in 1964, 1967 and 1968. In 1968, he spent a third straight season with Tulsa in the Pacific Coast League, hit .292 with 44 doubles and 15 homers, and drove in 100 runs, but still couldn't make it to the Show. It was thus a blessing for him to be taken by the Expos at the tail end of the expansion draft after the season and to finally get an opportunity to play at the highest level.
He could alway hit in the minors, even when he struggled in the big leagues. In 1972, he hit .327 with the AAA Peninsula Whips, and .263 for the same team the following year. he was also a dependable fielder and continued to spell the defensively-challenged Bailey at third base after he lost the starting job. He payed winter ball for many years with his hometown team, the Leones de Ponce, and the San Juan Senators in the Puerto Rican League.