Now THIS is a classic: Jose's 1975 Topps baseball card, showing him with one of the Afro hairstyles popular in the mid-1970's. The hair sticking out from under the cap gives him that Mickey Mouse-ear look, also popularized by other 70's era players such as Oscar Gamble and Bake McBride. The careful viewer will also note the classic look of the outfield pavilion at Dodger Stadium in the background, where this photo was taken. You can also clearly see Cardenal's slight physique in this photo -- he's listed on his baseball-reference.com page as being 5-10, 150 pounds.
Profile written by BCB reader gentbaseball12
As a man perhaps best known for his excuses as to why he couldn't play (including "I woke up and my eyes were swollen shut," and "Loud crickets kept me up all night"), the truth was that Jose Cardenal could flat-out play - when his name was penciled into the lineup card.
In one of the Cubs' better trades, Cardenal was acquired on December 3, 1971 in a four-player trade with Milwaukee. Of the three players dealt to the Brewers, only Jim Colborn had any real major league success. Jose went on to spend six seasons in a Cubs' uniform. In his first three seasons (1972-74), the right-handed hitting outfielder had arguably his three most productive seasons in the Major Leagues, hitting .290 or better each season and garnering one point in the MVP voting in '72 and six points in '73.
Mainly a line-drive hitter with plus speed, Cardenal's best year roaming the Cubs outfield was 1973 when he led the team in hitting (.303), doubles (33), and steals (19) and was named the Chicago Player of the Year by the city's baseball writers. Cardenal also swiped at least 19 bases in each of his six seasons in Chicago, including 34 in 1975, when he also had his best overall AB/OBA/SLG year, .317/.397/.423.
The Cuban-born Cardenal also put together one of the most impressive single-game lines in franchise history, finishing an astounding 6-for-7 with a double, home run and four RBIs as the Cubs defeated the Giants, 6-5, in 14 innings on May 2, 1976.
Cardenal may also be remembered as the left fielder on April 25, 1976 when Rick Monday stopped protesters from burning an American flag at Dodger Stadium in the fourth inning of the Cubs/Dodgers game.
Born Jose Rosario Domec Cardenal on Oct. 7, 1943 in Matanzas, Cuba, Cardenal signed with the San Francisco Giants as an amateur free agent in 1960. After making his major-league debut with Giants on April 14, 1963 (as a pinch-runner) against -- of all teams -- the Chicago Cubs, Cardenal went on to spend 18 seasons with eight different teams. Cardenal played 29 games in two seasons with the Giants (1963-64) before spending the next five seasons in the American League with the California Angels (1965-67) and Cleveland Indians (1968-69).
Cardenal went on to play for five different teams in the 70's, mostly in the National League, as he logged time with the St. Louis Cardinals (1970-1971), Milwaukee Brewers (1971), Chicago Cubs (1972-77), Philadelphia Phillies (1978-1979) and New York Mets (1979-1980). In his final major-league season in 1980, Cardenal split time between the Mets and the Kansas City Royals. He's one of a handful of players whose final major league at-bat was in a World Series -- his single in the ninth inning of game six of the 1980 World Series loaded the bases and represented the tying run of the game, briefly giving the Royals hope they could come back from a 4-1 deficit, till Tug McGraw struck out future Cub Willie Wilson to end the game and win the Series for the Phillies.
A career .275 hitter, Cardenal finished with nearly 2,000 hits (1,913 to be exact), 138 home runs, 775 RBIs and 139 stolen bases. Cardenal also put together nine seasons with over 20 doubles and 20 stolen bases -- including four of his six seasons in a Cubs' uniform -- and swiped a career-high 40 bases in 1968. Speaking to his consistent productivity in Chicago, Cardenal's single-season career highs for home runs (17; 1972), doubles (35; 1974), runs (96; 1972), hits (182; 1975), walks (77; 1975), batting average (.317; 1975), on-base percentage (.397; 1975) and slugging percentage (.454; 1972) all came in a Cubs uniform.
A curiosity: Cardenal and former A's standout Bert Campaneris are cousins. On September 8, 1965, Campaneris, as a Charlie Finley-induced stunt, played all nine positions for the A's vs. the Angels (this has since been done by several other players). The first batter Campy faced as a pitcher was -- Cardenal. He got him to ground out to second base.
After retirement, Cardenal coached with the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, getting a World Series ring in 1998 as the Yankees' first base coach. Last spring, in fact, he was working as a special assistant to Washington Nationals GM Jim Bowden, when Bowden asked him to help Alfonso Soriano learn to play the outfield: