In 1974, Jose started his 3rd year with the Chicago Cubs. Jose has in interesting history because he was one of the last Cuban baseball players leave Cuba before Fidel Castro tightened restrictions. Not even 17 years old, Jose left Cuba on March 23, 1960, for the United States, and he received a $200 signing bonus with the San Francisco Giants.
Jose played a few seasons in the Giant’s farm system where he started to show the signs of the argumentative behavior he came to be known for. In one example from 1963 while playing for the El Paso Sun Kings, he was suspended and placed on a one year probation after running to the Austin Senators dugout and making threatening gestures with a letter opener. After his reinstatement, he was suspended again after an altercation with his teammate Lazaro Gomez. (1)
Jose was called up by the Giants on two different occasions before being traded to the California Angels. He spent three years with the Angels, two years in Cleveland, one year in Saint Louis and one year with the Brewers before joining the Cubs in 1972. He was labelled as both moody and a pouter—descriptions that followed him to all the different clubs. One thing every club saw, though, was great potential.
(1966 Dexter Press California Angels 8×10 Photos #1 Jose Cardenal)
Entering the 1974 season, the Cubs had cleaned house from the previous season where the team fell apart in the second half to finish 5th in the NL East. At one point, the team lost 33 of 42 games, including 11 in a row. The list of traded players during the offseason were: Ferguson Jenkins, Bob Locker, Glenn Beckert, Ron Santo and Ken Rudolph. Jose, however, was coming off a good season where he won the “Chicago Player of the Year”. His leading batting average of .303 topped both the Cubs and White Sox players, so the Cubs organization kept him for 1974.
During the offseason, Jose remained in Chicago to practice for the upcoming 1974 season, and he skipped winterball for the very first time in his career. He said he had found his real self in Chicago. “When I first came up, I talk too much, and they call me a big-mouth rookie. So I learn to shut up when I go to Cleveland, and all of a sudden I’m moody ballplayer,” Jose explained. (2) In 1974, Jose found himself a fan favorite, and he was counted on to help the rebuilding Cubs win.
By the time the 74 Allstar break rolled around, Jose was feeling reflective on his 10 years in the majors. Along with the Chicago organization, he credits Dick Allen in helping him in his current happiness. His time with Allen was brief during a prior year with the Cardinals in 1970. Jose said of that year that Allen “taught me to live with myself.” (3)
(Dick Allen with the Cardinals)
Jose said Dick taught him to quit fighting himself and start fighting the opposition. Also, Allen told him to quit trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark every time. “When Richie (Dick Allen) opens his mouth, you listen and learn, too. He was really the only one who ever helped me in this game. Everything else I learned myself.” (3)
(Jose with the Cardinals, photo from Baseball Hall of Fame)
During the Allstar break, Jose showed off his improved happiness when asked about not being in the Allstar game even though his batting average was .300. “No big thing. Too many great outfielders in this game. All I want some day is a World Series. I give my little finger for that.”
The Cubs, as should be expected in a year following a mass selloff, did not fare well in 1974. They finished last in their division with a 66-96 record putting them 22 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jose had another solid year though, and he was now looked upon as one of the team’s strengths. Add fan support, and he was no longer considered a journeyman. He batted a .293 AVG over his 143 games, .359 OBP, 121 OPS, 13 HR, 72 RBI, 23 SB, 35 2B, 3 3B with a WAR of 2.6. This performance and team leadership led the Cubs to sign a two-year contract with Jose in the offseason.
(Picture from Baseball Hall of Fame)
Jose stayed with the Cubs through the 1977 season, then he moved on to the Phillies for a couple of years followed by the Mets and finally, he closed out his career with the Royals in 1980.
After retirement, Jose stayed around the game in different ways. In 1982, he was allowed to return to Cuba to run baseball clinics. He also appeared at Cubs fantasy camps with other retired Cubs players, and he ran baseball camps for little leaguers. In 1985 with Minnie Minoso, he traveled around Central America as part of a goodwill tour put on by the US government. He was also hired as a roving minor league instructor for the White Sox and later the Reds.
Jose bounced around as 1st base coach, outfield coach, interrupter, and consultant farm director with the Cardinals, Yankees, Tampa Bay, Reds and Nationals. Asked if he ever aspired to manage, Jose said “I don’t want to go through all that hassle and aggravation that managers go through today. With the players making so much money, it’s hard. I like to go to bed at night.” (1)
(1) Jose Cardenal SABR Biography by Ray Birch
(2) Sporting News, February 2nd, 1974, Richard Dozer
(3) Sporting News, August 3rd, 1974, Richard Dozer