Few players filled out their batting helmets better than Cardenal. The Cuban born outfielder sported one of the wildest, fullest afros atop his head as his hat looked like someone tried to stick a thimble on top of a stick of cotton candy. Hairstyle aside, Jose was a fine ballplayer with good speed and surprise power. One of the better speed/power combo guys of his time, Cardenal once stole 40 bases in a season and hit as many as 17 homeruns in a single season. A journeyman at the end of his career, Jose signed with the Royals his last season in the Majors and made his only World Series appearance that year.
The San Francisco Giants signed Jose in 1960 and called him up a few years later to make his debut as a 19-year-old. After going a combined 1-for-20 with the Giants in 1963 and 1964, San Francisco didn’t hesitate to send him to the Angels for Jack Hiatt. The trade worked well for California as Jose became an everyday player and stole 37 bases while clubbing 11 homeruns in what was his rookie season. Jose only got better as a sophomore. He raised his homerun output to 16 and hit .276. But after a rough 1967 season he was traded for the second time despite just reaching his twenty-fourth birthday. Sent by the Angels to the Indians for Chuck Hinton, Jose enjoyed his finest year for swiping bases in 1968 when he pilfered 40 bags for the Tribe.
Cardenal hit .257 in 1968 and followed that up with an identical mark in 1969. The Indians wanted more production out of the position so they swapped Jose to the Cardinals for aging superstar Vada Pinson. He had one of his finest seasons with the Redbirds in 1970. He hit .293 and drove in 74 runs, but when his batting average and other peripheral stats dropped off in 1971 the Cardinals traded him to the Brewers for Ted Kubiak. By 1972 Jose had proven himself a maddening talent at the Major League level. He was too inconsistent to play everyday but had the tools to be a regular. After he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs in 1972, Jose finally put it all together and gained a level of consistency.
With the Cubs, beginning in 1972, Jose fashioned five straight seasons of 150 or more base hits. Chicago often flip-flopped Jose from right field to left field, but it didn’t make much difference to him where he played so long as he was in the Wrigley Field pasture. A noted eccentric, Jose was known to have chewed the Wrigley Field ivy while in the outfield. All grazing aside, Cardenal set a career high with 17 homeruns his first year with the Cubs. He became a reliable player at Wrigley Field. In the three years from 1972 to 1974, Jose would hit anywhere from .291 to .303 and drive in 68 to 72 runs each season.
Jose’s power fell off in 1975 but he made up for it with his best single season batting average. The Cuban outfielder hit a robust .317 and also set a personal high with a lofty .397 on-base percentage (sixth in the NL). Cardenal still had his wheels as he swiped 34 bases which placed him fifth in the league. He hit .299 in 1976, which gave him five years with a batting average of at least .290 with the Cubs. However, Jose’s numbers fell off drastically in 1977 and he was never again an everyday player. Traded to the Phillies in 1978, Jose saw his first postseason action but Philadelphia lost to the Dodgers in the NLCS. Sold to the Mets in 1979, Jose was a reserve outfielder in New York but was released in 1980. He caught on with the Royals who captured the AL flag and he went 2-for-10 in his only World Series action, which was also his last Major League action as well.
G 2,017/R 936/H 1,913/2B 333/3B 46/HR 138/RBI 775/SB 329/BB 608/SO 807/BA .275/OBP .333/SA .395