NO. 96: JOSE OQUENDO
Based on what’s best remembered about him, it might be tempting to dismiss Jose Oquendo as little more than a baseball curiosity.
“The Secret Weapon” was so-named because of a versatile glove that made him one of a small handful of major leaguers to have appeared at all nine defensive positions in a season. He even pitched six innings over three relief appearances during his 10 years in St. Louis.
And by the time Oquendo walks away from organized baseball for good, his legacy may be most deeply rooted in his influence as a coach and keeper of “The Cardinal Way.”
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But the Puerto Rican-born Redbird also was a Gold Glove-caliber infielder and productive switch hitter over five seasons as the Cardinals’ starting second baseman.
He came to St. Louis from the Mets in 1985 in exchange for a couple of minor leaguers. By 1988, second base fixture Tom Herr had been dealt to the Phillies and rookie Luis Alicea proved to be not quite ready to nail down the job.
Oquendo, the consummate role player, started 163 games the following season, including 155 of them at second base. He batted .291 with a .375 on-base percentage, 28 doubles, seven triples and scored 59 runs mostly from the sixth of seventh spot in manager Whitey Herzog’s batting order.
Over 10 seasons in St. Louis, half of them as a starter, Oquendo batted .264. It was his defense, however, that set him apart — or, at least, should have.
In 1989, Oquendo committed just five errors in 851 chances. In 1990, flanked to his right by Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith and Gold Glove third baseman Terry Pendleton, he established a record for fewest errors in a season by a second baseman with just three in 681 chances.
But it the Cubs’ Ryne Sandberg, who won the Gold Glove at second base, the eighth of his career.
A series of leg injuries cost Oquendo playing time and Alicea earned the starting job by 1992. But Oquendo went on to coach through the Cardinals’ minor league system and was on the major league staff under three managers beginning in 1999.
He announced in October that he’ll remain home near the Cardinals’ spring training complex in Jupiter, Florida for the 2019 season.
SEASONS IN ST. LOUIS: 1986-’95
8 errors in 1,532 chances at 2B | .992 career fielding pct. | 0 Gold Gloves | .264 career BA
TOP 100 SCORE: 1.99