Tuesday, January 12, 2010

1976 Topps #321 - Jose Cruz

  • Jose "Cheo" Cruz played outfield for three teams from 1970-1988. Jose came from Puerto Rico and had two brothers (Hector and Tommy) and a son (Jose Jr.) play in the major leagues. Cruz was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1966. He played in the minors for a few years and was brought up in 1970 after batting .300 for AA Tulsa. Jose played in 6 games for the Cardinals in 1970 and batted .353 in 17 at bats.
  • In 1971 Cruz started with AAA Tulsa and was batting .327 when he was brought up to the Cardinals in late June. Jose played in 83 games for the Cardinals and batted .274 in 292 at bats. In 1972 Cruz played a lot of center field and was used in the other outfield positions as well. He batted .235 in 332 at bats.
  • Jose was the starting center fielder in 1973 but didn't do a whole lot with the bat. He batted .227 with 10 home runs in 406 at bats. In 1974 Cruz was a fifth outfielder and pinch hitter/runner. He played in 107 games but had only 161 at bats, batting .261. After the 1974 season Jose was sold to the Houston Astros.
  • Cruz would spend most of the rest of his career with Houston and kept getting better as he aged. In 1975 he was a fourth outfielder and batted .257 in 315 at bats. Jose had his breakout season in 1976. He was the starting left fielder and batted .303 with 28 stolen bases in 439 at bats.
  • Cruz had an even better season in 1977. He batted .299 with 44 stolen bases and 87 RBI as Houston's starting right fielder. Jose was in double figures in doubles (31), triples (10), and home runs (17). He also led the NL with 10 sacrifice flies. In 1978 Cruz batted .315 with 10 HR and 83 RBI and 37 stolen bases. Jose moved back to left field and batted .289 with 9 HR and 72 RBI in 1979.
  • Jose made his first NL All Star team in 1980 but didn't get into the game. He was third in NL MVP voting (behind unanimous selection Mike Schmidt and Gary Carter) as he helped the Astros to their first division title. He batted .302 with 11 HR and 91 RBI in the regular season and batted .400 in the NLCS.
  • In 1981 Jose had a different type of year. He batted .267 and although he hit 13 homers in 107 games, the rest of his stats were not Cruz-like. He still finished 14th in MVP voting that year. He batted .300 in the NLDS in 1981. Jose Cruz of the Astros: Under-Rated no Longer - February 1981 Baseball Digest
  • Cruz batted .275 with 9 HR and 68 RBI in 1982. He was 6th in MVP consideration and won a Silver Slugger award in 1983. Cruz batted .318 with 14 HR and 92 RBI and led the NL with 189 hits. Jose had another nice year in 1984 as he won another Silver Slugger award. He batted .312 with 28 doubles, 12 triples, and 12 homers and knocked in a career-high 95 runs. Jose Cruz: A Steady Hitter with an Unorthodox Style - August 1984 Baseball Digest.
  • Jose returned to the All Star game in 1985 (he was 0 for 1 with two walks and a stolen base) and he batted .300 with 9 HR and 79 RBI. Jose Cruz: The Big Leagues' Most Unheralded Star - August 1985 Baseball Digest. In 1986 Cruz batted .278 with 10 HR and 72 RBI and batted .192 in the NLCS.
  • Cruz slowed down in 1987 (he was 39 years old) and batted .241 with 11 HR and 38 RBI in 365 at bats. After the 1987 season he became a free agent and signed with the New York Yankees. He played in 38 games in 1988 and batted .200 in 80 at bats. He missed a month from late May to late June and played five games for AAA Columbus (probably a rehab assignment). The Yankees released Jose on July 22.
  • After his playing career Jose coached for several years. He was in the first base coaching box as Craig Biggio broke a lot of his Houston team records. Jose's #25 was retired by the Astros in 1992. He also managed and coached in the minors and for the Puerto Rico national team.
  • Liked to face: Dave Freisleben (.484 in 31 AB); Paul Moskau (.462 in 26 AB); Tom Hume (.422 in 45 AB)
  • Hated to face: Tom Browning (.115 in 26 AB); Bob Knepper (.146 in 41 AB); Mike Marshall (.156 in 32 AB); Tom Seaver (.186 with 26 strikeouts in 97 AB)


  1. My friends have long ago grown tired of hearing about my earliest mancrush in Jose Cruz. Boy did I want him to play for my Cubs.

  2. I remember he absolutely tore it up in Spring Training for the Yankees in 1988. Too bad it didn't carry into the regular season.