Leonardo Lazaro Cárdenas Alfonso
(Chico or Mr. Automatic)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 163 lb.
Leo Cardenas, often called "Chico", had a 16-year career in the major leagues, more than half of which was with the Cincinnati Reds.
He was part of the turn-around that made the Reds, who had been under .500 in 1960, the pennant-winner in 1961. Cardenas hit .308 that year, and went 1-for-3 in the 1961 World Series. Eddie Kasko had been the regular shortstop for most of 1961, but Cardenas moved him over to third base for 1962. He then became the first double play partner of Pete Rose when "Charlie Hustle" broke in the major leagues as a second baseman in 1963.
Cardenas had good range, and played exclusively shortstop for most of his career. He also had some power, with 118 lifetime major league home runs. His biggest homer came on August 19, 1965 off Larry Jackson of the Chicago Cubs; hit in the 10th inning, it gave the Reds a 1-0 win and, more importantly, allowed Reds pitcher Jim Maloney to record his first career no-hitter. 1966, when he hit 20 home runs, his 81 RBI tied for first on the team. He led the league in intentional walks in both 1965 and 1966.
When Cardenas went to the Twins in 1969, Woody Woodward became the shortstop for the 1969 Reds before Dave Concepcion took the job in 1970. Cardenas was the regular shortstop on the division-winning Minnesota Twins in 1969 and 1970.
Baseballlibrary.com says that his father Rafael had been a top professional shortstop in Cuba but no Rafael Cardenas is listed in Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History and Leo is the only Cardenas in that publication with a career of any real length. Additionally, top Cuban players almost always played in either the Negro Leagues, Mexican League or USA, but no Rafael Cardenas is listed in Pat Doyle's Professional Baseball Player Database, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues or The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics, indicating that Baseballlibrary is likely incorrect.
Cardenas was involved in a famous incident while playing for Havana in the International League in 1960. Some of Fidel Castro's supporters got too exuberant and started firing off rifles, wounding a couple of players including Cardenas. The Havana team was later that season moved to the USA for the rest of its play.
- 5-time All-Star (1964-1966, 1968 & 1971)
- NL Gold Glove Winner (1965)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1966)