Jose Cruz wasn’t a big slugger or run producer, but over a 19-year major league career, 13 of them with the Houston Astros, the Arroyo, Puerto Rico native was renowned for his consistent hitting, solid defense, and excellent base-running skills, making him one of the best all-around players of his era and a fan favorite when players from Puerto Rico were a rarity.
Affectionately known as “Cheo,” Cruz began his career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1970, but it was with the Astros that he made his mark. He played in Houston from 1975 to 1987 and was a key part of their success during that time. He was a two-time All-Star and won two Silver Sluggers as an outfielder.
Cruz was also a solid postseason performer. He helped lead the Astros to their first-ever National League Championship Series in 1980, hitting .400, and he hit .300 in October the following year.
After leaving the Astros, Cruz played for the Yankees at age 40 before retiring in 1988. He finished his career with a batting average of .284, 2,251 hits, 165 home runs and 1,077 runs batted in.
Post-retirement, Cruz worked as a coach and manager in the minor leagues and as a coach for the Astros and Cardinals. He was also a member of the coaching staff for the Puerto Rican national baseball team in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic tournaments.
Cruz’s impact on baseball extends beyond his playing career. He is known for his work as a mentor to young players, particularly those from Puerto Rico and Latin America. He has also been a vocal advocate for the inclusion of Latino players in the Hall of Fame, working to ensure that the contributions of Latino players are recognized and celebrated.
Cruz is the father of star outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., who played from 1997-2008, mostly with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Two-time All-Star (1980, 1985)
Hit over .300 in six different seasons
Drove in more than 90 runs three times
Led the NL with 189 hits in 1983
Stole over 20 bases in nine different seasons, including a career-high 44 in 1977