Thursday, January 20, 2011
#298) JOSE OQUENDO
Jose Oquendo signed with the New York Mets as a free agent out of Puerto Rico on April 15, 1979. As a Little Leaguer he had been helped by former major-leaguer and fellow countryman, Vic Power. "He said he would help me get to the big leagues," Jose later shared. "And he said he would show me how to act when I got there." The fifteen year-old switch-hitting infielder was sent to the short season Class-A Grays Harbor team to begin his professional career. By 1983, he had worked himself all the way to Triple-A Tidewater. Oquendo made his major-league debut with New York on May 2, 1983. Jose would enter as a pinch-hitter in the 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros at Shea Stadium.
The rookie impressed with his glove, and became the Mets starting shortstop. His offensive ability was quite a different story. Jose would finish the year with a low .213 batting average, a single home run, and 17 RBIs in 120 game appearances. He was brought back as the shortstop the following season, but finished with similar numbers.
On April 2, 1985, one day before the start of the season, the Mets traded Oquendo along with Mark Davis to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for John Young and Argenis Salazar. Jose exhibited his extreme versatility for the Cardinals during the 1988 season. He became the first National League player since 1918 to play all nine positions in a single season. "I didn't expect to play this much," he said. "I figured I would be a utility player again and worked hard at the different positions. When the injuries hit, I was ready."
Jose played ten seasons with the Cardinals before becoming their third base coach in 1999. He was invited to interview for New York's managerial vacancy in 2010. "Managing in the big leagues in something I hope to do. The opportunity to interview with the Mets is exciting," Oquendo was quoted. Jose did serve as the manager for the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic.
Jose Oquendo signed his card in the set for my friend, Terry at the Cardinals Winter Warmup event in St. Louis on January 15, 2010.