Sunday, November 20, 2016

Chico Cardenas (#325)

Here is Reds’ shortstop Chico Cardenas (not to be confused with another Reds’ middle infielder, Chico Ruiz).

Cardenas was signed by Cincinnati in 1956, and at age 17 began his pro career with the Class C Tucson Cowboys in the Arizona-Mexico league.

After 2 seasons at Class A Savannah, Cardenas was promoted to the Reds’ AAA team in Havana Cuba, his native land. He played there in 1959 and for part of 1960. (Later that season, the team moved out of Cuba, to Jersey City).

Chico made his major-league debut with the Reds on July 25, 1960. Cardenas immediately took over the starting shortstop job for the next 38 games, replacing injured veteran Roy McMillan, who had been the starter for the past decade. McMillan and Cardenas shared the post for the month of September.

In December 1960 McMillan was traded to the Braves, but Cardenas was still the backup, this time to Eddie Kasko. Chico played in 74 games in 1961, starting 43.

Chico took over the starting shortstop job in the 2nd week of the 1962 season, and held onto it through the 1968 season. He made 4 All-Star teams with the Reds, and collected over 600 plate appearances 4 times. In 1966 he showed surprising power with 20 home runs.

After the 1968 season, Cardenas was traded to the Twins for pitcher Jim Merritt, and was their starting SS for the next 2 seasons, while again making the All-Star team in 1971.

Chico played one year with the Angels (1972), which would be his final season as a regular. (Acquiring Cardenas allowed the Angels to trade Jim Fregosi to the Mets for Nolan Ryan.)

He spent the final 3 seasons of his career as a utility player for the Indians (’73) and Rangers (’74-’75).


Douglas said...

A couple of questions, where did Chico end and Leo begin? He never referred to Chico in Minnesota. I think someone should do a movie about the last full year of the Havana Sugar Kings. The minor league world series there was more about personal survival than baseball.

Jim from Downingtown said...

Topps began referring to him as "Leo" with his 1970 card.

That's an interesting idea about the Havana Sugar Kings. There's so many angles to explore:
1) Tradition
2) A number of the players were of Cuban descent
3) Politics & international turmoil
4) Young players all just trying to move up the ladder, amidst all of the this.