Joe Abreu reacts to a bad play.
A Portuguese-American Major League Baseball infielder born in Oakland, California, Joseph Lawrence Abreu
was the sixth of nine children in his family. His parents emigrated from Madeira, Portugal in 1906. Joe had three brothers who were professional boxers. Joe was a keen amateur magician
, his interest having been piqued after former Detroit Tigers pitcher and professional magician Carl Zamloch (a.k.a. “The Great Zam”) put on a magic show at his high school. Joe was hooked, and a few years later went to Zamloch to learn more skills as a magician. Joe claimed to know over four hundred card tricks by the time he started his career with the Cincinnati Reds.
Joe was a standout shortstop under coach Elwood “Doc” Hess at McClymonds High School in West Oakland. After graduating in 1934, he coached a local American Legion Baseball team, which went to the semi-finals. During the summer of the following year, he worked as a handyman in a wholesale liquor firm in San Francisco, and played semi-professional baseball with the Central Banks of the Berkeley City League, catching the attention of many professional scouts. On January 4, 1939, Joe married Berenice A. Marshall.
In 1936, Joe began his professional career with the Yakima Pippins and helped them win the Northwest League pennant. The following season, he played for the Spokane Hawks and the Oakland Oaks. In 1938, he began playing with the Oaks fulltime, and led them in home runs. He played for the Fort Worth Cats of the Texas League for two years. In 1941, he played with the Milwaukee Brewers in the Chicago Cubs organization, during which he injured his sciatic nerve and broke his right thumb.
On his way to spring training with the Brewers the following season, he received a telegram informing him that he had been sold to the Los Angeles Angels. He was with the Angels for a week when another telegram came, and he learned he had been sold to the Birmingham Barons. The Barons immediately sent him to the Cincinnati Reds, and by April, he got to play in the major league with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the first game he played for the Pirates, he hit a home run off of Aldon “Lefty” Wilkie. By July, he had been traded to the New York Yankees and assigned to their Class-AA team, the Newark Bears, his sixth team of the season.
Joe joined the U.S. Navy in 1943, and was stationed at Livermore Naval Air Station in California. While in service, he continued to play baseball in the Army and Navy League, and was quickly selected as an All-Star. He played an abundance of baseball with Livermore Naval Air Station, which was managed by Reds’ catcher Ray Lammano. They won 150 games and lost 45 while Joe was with them, and major leaguers Bill Rigney, Cookie Lavagetto, Ray Lamanno, and Ray Scarborough were on his team.
After the war, Joe returned to baseball, both playing for and managing the Wellsville Yankees, the Newnan Brownies, the Dayton Indians, and the Tampa Smokers. In 1949, his professional playing career was over, but he continued to manage the Santa Rosa Cats. In the 1950s, due to family issues, he returned to California and played softball. He died in Hayward, California at the age of seventy-nine years old.