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.
FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»August 24, 1980:
Nolan Ryan holds the Cubs to two hits in nine innings to give the Astros their 10th straight victory, 2–1, winning over Bill Caudill. Jose Cruz homers. During the streak, the Houston bull pen has thrown 37 2/3 shut out innings.
»September 6, 1980: Houston sweeps two from the Cardinals, winning 9–5 and 6–4, to move two games behind LA, the National League West leaders. Jose Cruz wins the 2nd game with a grand slam.
»May 4, 1981:
In the battle of the Cruz brothers, Astro Jose Cruz launches a 3-run missile in the 1st inning of Chicago's Mike Krukow, while brother Hector Cruz answers with a solo shot off Joaquin Andujar in the 6th inning. The Astros edge the Cubs 5–4.
»April 28, 1984: At Comiskey, Boston wins on an error in the 9th, 8–7. Jose Cruz homers and drives in four runs for Chicago, while Jim Rice and Tony Armas homer for Boston. Armas's clout is a 500 foot blast into the CF bleachers.
»June 11, 1988: Batting seventh as the Yankees DH, ahead of Rafael Santana and Joel Skinner, pitcher Rick Rhoden hits a sacrifice fly in New York's 8–6 win over Baltimore. He is the first pitcher to start a game as a DH since the rule was adopted in 1973. Later, Jose Cruz replaces Rhoden as the DH.