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This guy Cruz who keeps showing up in the box scores had quite a year in 1979: 344 hits, 178 runs, 144 RBIs, 66 doubles, 171 walks and 85 stolen bases. On defense he had a hand in 100 double plays and threw out 15 runners from the outfield. He also found time to appear in 61 games as a relief pitcher and get 10 saves.
Actually, these Ruthian figures belong to five Cruzes, not one, but there is so much confusion attached to the name that the average fan can hardly be blamed for not knowing who's Cruz. Pay attention, because there may be a quiz later.
Jose Cruz is an outfielder for the Astros. Also known as Cheo, he is not to be mistaken for his two brothers. Hector, who sometimes goes by the name of Heity and plays the outfield and third base for the Reds, and Cirilo, or Tommy, who went to spring training with the Twins but is now playing rightfield for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan. Then there are Julio Cruz, the Mariners' second baseman; Victor Cruz, who pitches for the Indians; and Todd Cruz, a utility infielder for the Angels. For good measure there is Henry Cruz, an outfielder-first baseman for Des Moines in the Triple-A American Association, who has had cups of coffee with the White Sox and Dodgers.
To add to the general bewilderment, the Cruzes tend to bounce around. The aforementioned seven have played in 21 different big league organizations. In the last six years, 16 of the 26 major league teams have had one Cruz or another in their systems. The St. Louis Cardinal organization at various times has dressed the three Cruz brothers and Victor.
Little wonder they keep getting each other's mail. "I got a letter once addressed to Julio Cruz, Houston Astro, that was meant for me," says Jose, "and a letter to Hector Cruz that was meant for my brother." Julio adds, "Last year I got a letter addressed to Hector Cruz, asking him—or me—to play baseball in Mexico during the winter." Todd has faced a slightly different dilemma. "The people in the stands use every first name they can think of for Cruz," he complains. "They're never sure just who you are, but they see Cruz on your back and yell Jose or Hector or Julio. Nobody ever calls me Todd."
The confusion is not likely to clear up anytime soon because, quite simply, the name accrues. There were 19 Cruzes in organized baseball last year, with first names ranging from A to V. There is even another Jose Cruz, an outfielder in the Montreal Expos' system. Cruzes are not easy to track down, either. When the San Francisco Giants' scouting director, Jack Schwarz, was asked if Jesus Cruz was still in his organization, he said, "No, I'm sorry, we released him this spring. But wait—we do have an Alberto Cruz."
Put all of the Cruzes together, and, presto, you have a pretty fair team. Tommy would be at first; Julio at second; Todd at short; Heity at third; Jose, Jose and Domingo would play the outfield; Henry would be behind the plate (he was a fill-in catcher in the minors); and Victor, Concepcion, Eleuterio and Ruben would pitch. On the bench would be Aaron, Alberto, Homar, Jesus, Nicolas, Pedro and Ponciano. They could be called the Caribbean Cruzes. The Pirates even have a scout named Pablo Cruz, which is also the name of a rock group, but never mind.
The oddest thing is that before the Cardinals brought up Jose in 1970, there had never been a Cruz in the major leagues, unless you count Walton Cruise, who hit .346 in 1921 for the Boston Braves. Cruz is a common Latin surname, but not common enough to explain the sudden glut in baseball. In the San Juan, Puerto Rico phone directory, for example, there are four pages of Cruzes, whereas Rodriguez and Rivera take up more than 15 pages apiece. The most famous Cruz before Jose was Oswaldo Cruz, a Brazilian bacteriologist, who at the turn of the century helped save Rio de Janeiro from a yellow-fever epidemic.
Nor can the preponderance of Cruzes be explained by a sudden influx of Latin-American players: the percentage of Latinos in U.S. baseball is only slightly higher than it was 10 years ago. It's just a phenomenon of the game that every once in a while a name comes along in swarms. Between 1923 and 1936, for example, there were 18 Moores in the majors; there have been only 11 since. In 1970 there were eight guys named May, Maye or Mays; now there are only three. The magic name for the '80s is Cruz.
So, in the interest of straightening things out, here is a complete guide, a shakedown Cruz, if you will: