Julio Lugo, the former MLB shortstop, has died at age 45 in his native Dominican Republic, his family confirmed Monday. His loved ones told reporters they believe the cause of death was a heart attack.
Lugo, who was a World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox in 2007, was one day shy of his 46th birthday.
Julio Lugo Spent 10 Years in the Majors
The shortstop’s professional baseball career began in 1994, when he was picked up by the Houston Astros late in that year’s draft. He made his major league debut in 2000, after a few years in the franchise’s farm system.
Before that, he had spent his youth playing sandlot baseball for the Youth Service League in Brooklyn, according to one source.
Lugo was dismissed from the Astros in 2003, after he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. He was later acquitted after his wife testified that he did not mean to hurt her.
It is not clear if the woman from the 2003 incident is Surki Lugo. Some sources claim Julio Lugo did not marry Surki until 2007, and it’s unclear if he was previously married.
Less than a week after being dismissed from Astros baseball, Lugo was signed by the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he once hit four homeruns in as many games — a highlight of his career.
After three seasons in Tampa, and a brief stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lugo was signed to the Boston Red Sox in December 2006 for a four-year, $36 million contract.
On his arrival at Fenway, Lugo was the Red Sox’s leadoff batter, but fell down in the order after struggling to reach base consistently.
The shortstop was able to reverse his bad fortunes as the 2007 season wore on, batting .444 over a 14-game streak in July, a feat that would become his career-best.
Lugo was with the Sox when they shut out the Colorado Rockies to become World Series champions in 2007, winning in four games.
But 2008 turned out to be a rough year for Julio Lugo — he led the American League in errors at 16, accounting for nearly a third of all the errors made by any Red Sox player that season. He was later placed on the disability list for a torn meniscus, for which he later underwent surgery.
In 2011, the shortstop was playing with the Atlanta Braves. There, Lugo was ruled safe in an infamous call at home plate, 19 innings into a July game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Lugo’s run handed the Braves a walk-off victory, but the safe call endures in the minds of baseball fans as one of the worst in recent memory.
Julio Lugo ended his major league career with a .269 batting average, 80 homeruns, and 475 RBIs.
Little information about Lugo’s post-MLB life was immediately available Monday. But on his Instagram page, the late shortstop appeared to be coaching one of his sons for a career in baseball.
Lugo’s family has said they believe the cause of death was a heart attack, though it’s not clear if Dominican authorities have yet performed an autopsy to confirm. Lugo was not known to be in ill-health prior to his death, aside from the 2008 knee injury.