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With quiet consistency and everyday play, Jose Cruz became one of the all-time Astro greats. Popular with Houston fans, he was one of three brothers to make the majors, along with Hector and Tommy. All three played in the St. Louis farm system, with Jose graduating to the Cardinals in 1970. He never blossomed alongside Lou Brock in the St. Louis outfield and was sold to Houston after the 1974 season. He became a fixture in the Astros' outfield and was their MVP in 1977, '80, '83, and '84. Hurt by the dimensions of the Astrodome and the fact that the ball doesn't carry well there, he led Houston in RBI seven times and in all Triple Crown categories in 1979 and '84 but received little recognition elsewhere.
Though he did not start on Opening Day in 1986 for the first time in a decade, Cruz was a key contributor to the Astros' division title, finishing second on the club in game-winning RBI. But he slumped badly in the LCS, a sharp contrast to his 1980 LCS performance which included a .400 average, four RBI, and eight walks. Few players appeared in more major league games without reaching the World Series than Cruz.
Cruz's reputation was dimmed by the effect of his home parks on his power stats; from 1975 through 1985, he had 80 HR on the road, but just 35 in the Astrodome. However, he hit .300 six times and stole as many as 44 bases (1977) while topping 30 steals in five years. And the lefthanded-hitting Puerto Rican had more games played, at-bats, hits, triples, and RBI than any player in Astros history. (ME)