Under his father Felipe Alou‘s tutelage in Montreal, Alou turned into a self-assured power hitter and quiet team leader. But the Expos could not afford to re-sign their young star after the 1996 season and Alou inked a $25 million, five-year free-agent deal with the Florida Marlins. It was the first step of a whirlwind salary-dump merry-go-round that eventually anchored Alou in the Astros outfield. Alou was named team MVP in his first year with the Marlins, leading the club to their first championship with 23 homers, a team-high 115 RBIs, and three homers in the World Series. But in a salary dump ordered by Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga after the season, Alou was sent to the Houston Astros for three minor league pitchers a month after the series ended.
Thanks somewhat to his bloodlines — Alou’s two uncles, Matty and Jesus, also played in the major leagues — Alou was selected by the Pirates with the second pick of the 1986 free-agent draft. He finally made it to the majors on July 26, 1990 — the same day as his cousin Mel Rojas. (The two made history: never before had two cousins ever been called up for the first time on the same day.) But Alou played only two games for the Bucs. Pittsburgh needed pitching for the pennant drive, and sent Alou, Scott Ruskin and Willie Greene to Montreal for Zane Smith in early August.
Alou’s star wasn’t quite ready to rise. Greene got the spotlight as the prized prospect in the deal, and Alou injured his shoulder while diving back to first base in the Dominican winter leagues. The resulting surgery caused him to miss all of 1991. But he got his chance to play in 1992, and performed well in the Expos outfield until a hamstring injury felled him in July. Alou’s average stood at .316 — but after his return he hit just .247, finishing second to Eric Karros in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting.
Nevertheless, Alou’s remarkably quick swing had impressed the Expos. He was awarded a full-time job in left field when Montreal traded away Ivan Calderon before the 1993 season, and played regularly until suffering a gruesome leg injury while rounding first base at Busch Stadium in September. Alou’s spikes caught in the Astroturf, breaking the fibula in his left leg and dislocating his ankle to boot. The injuries required the insertion of two metal screws in his leg. But he fought back from the injury for his finest season in an Expos uniform in 1994. Finally healthy, he hit .339 with 22 homers and 78 RBIs before the players’ strike ended the season and finished third in NL MVP balloting behind Jeff Bagwell and Matt Williams. In July, he was named to his first All-Star Game, making the Alous the eighth father-son combo to both appear in the Midsummer Classic.
Injuries again caught up to Alou in 1995, as surgery on both shoulders in August ended his season. But yet another successful comeback in 1996 saw Alou set career highs with 143 games played and 96 RBIs, finishing his season by being the final regular-season hitter in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. It was also one of his final appearances in an Expos uniform. After the season, he signed a lucrative free-agent deal with the Marlins.
Over the next two years, Alou stayed healthy and responded as an All-Star contributor for the Marlins in 1997 and the Astros in 1998. In his first year with Houston, Alou set career highs in nearly every major offensive category, including home runs (38) and RBIs (124), finishing third behind super sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in the NL MVP voting.
But the injury bug bit again in 1999, when Alou somehow fell off a treadmill a week before spring training and tore the ACL in his left knee. The Astros expected their slugger to return before the end of the season, but those hopes were dashed when he fell off a bike in late August and landed on his injured knee. In 2000, Alou returned with a vengeance, hitting .355 (second highest in the NL) with 30 homers and 114 RBIs in just 126 games.
In 2001 Alou delivered another great season to Houston, with 27 homers and 108 RBIs and he made the All-Star Game. But the Astros did not tender Alou a new contract so he signed a 3-year, $27 million dollar with Chicago Cubs.
He started his Cubs career in 2002 on the DL again with a strained right calf. He played 132 games, but never really regained his form and had his least productive year since 1995.
Then Alou began working with a personal trainer to help him get back into shape and to prevent further injuries. It seemed to work. In 2003 Alou rebounded with 22 homers and 91 RBIs. With the help of an outstanding young pitching staff the Cubs managed to make the playoffs.
During the NLCS Alou was involved in a play that assured that the Cubs world championship drought, which extends back to 1908, would last another season. The Cubs were one game away from clinching their first World Series birth since 1945. It was the 8th inning and the Cubs were leading. Alou went into foul territory to catch a foul near the stands. Unfortunately, a fan by the name of Steve Bartman leaned out above Alou, snatched the ball from the air above him, and kept the Marlins alive. The Marlins went on to win the game and take the series in game 7. Bartman was booed out of the ballpark and a security escort was to assure his safe exit from Wrigley Field.
In 2004 Alou had his best year for the Cubs, with a career-high 39 homers with 106 RBIs and made the All-Star Game for the second time in three years as a Cub.
But the Cubs, with Alou in left and Sosa in right, were determined to get younger, or at least different, on the flanks in 2005. They made no attempt to sign him to a new deal. The Giants apparently had no such concerns about an aged outfield and they signed Alou to join Barry Bonds and Marquis Grissom in theirs. This also allowed Alou to play for his father, Giants manager Felipe Alou.