Cesar Cedeno Encarnacion
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 195 lb.
- Debut June 20, 1970
- Final Game June 2, 1986
- Born February 25, 1951 in Santo Domingo, Distrito Nacional, D.R.
Cesar Cedeno was a five-tool player, who combined good average, speed, stolen bases, a decent number of walks, outstanding defense, and a strong arm. Likened to Willie Mays early in his career, he struggled to live up to expectations on the field but nonetheless put up solid numbers throughout his career. In 17 seasons, he hit 199 home runs and stole 550 bases.
"At 22 Cedeno is as good or better than Willie was at the same age. I don't know whether he can keep this up for 20 years, and I'm not saying he will be better than Mays. No way anybody can be better than Mays. But I will say this kid has a chance to be as good. And that's saying a lot." - Leo Durocher
Signed by the Houston Astros as a 16-year-old, Cedeno began his pro career in 1968 and reached the majors in 1970 at age 19. In 90 games for Houston that year, he hit .310 with 7 home runs and 17 stolen bases while finishing fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. The following summer, in his first full season, he led the National League with 40 doubles. On September 2nd of that season, he hit his first career grand slam in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Astrodome, off Claude Osteen of the Los Angeles Dodgers. His star continued to climb in 1972, when he posted a .320 average and 22 homers, led the NL with 39 doubles, played in the All-Star Game, and won a Gold Glove. The next year, 1973, he hit .320 with 25 home runs while again being named an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner.
However, following the 1973 season, Cedeno's life took a dark turn. While with a girlfriend in the Dominican Republic in December, tragedy struck, when she was shot and killed. He was originally charged with voluntary manslaughter, but the charged were reduced to involuntary manslaughter when it was determined she had fired the gun. After paying a fine, he was a free man and returned to Houston in 1974, but he never reached the lofty heights to which he had seemed destined. He continued to steal bases, but in eight more seasons with the Astros, he only once hit over .300 and only once hit more than 20 home runs. Nonetheless, he did make the All-Star team two more times and won two more Gold Gloves. Part of the perception that he regressed as a player is because he missed half of the 1978 season with an injury, and his offensive numbers were depressed by playing in the Astrodome, a particularly tough place to hit in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His OPS+ remained above 100 every year from 1972 to 1982, and was above 120 most of those years. When the Astros won a division title in 1980, he was one of their best hitters, with a .309 average, 32 doubles, 8 triples and 10 homers and 48 stolen bases.
After the 1981 season, Cedeno was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds for Ray Knight. His playing time declined in three and a half years with the club, and late in the 1985 campaign, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Mark Jackson. With St. Louis, he caught fire for a time, hitting .434 with 6 home runs in 28 games during the pennant race, but he fell back to earth in the postseason, going 4-for-17 in the NLCS and World Series. He moved on to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1986, hitting .231 in 37 games in his final season in the big leagues.
Following his big league days, Cedeno played for the Gold Coast Suns of the Senior Professional Baseball Association in 1989. He hit .331 in 38 games for the club. The next year, he played for the Daytona Beach Explorers and batted .274 in 17 games before the league folded. He was later a minor league coach in the Astros and Washington Nationals systems. He was hitting coach for the Greeneville Astros in 2012-2017 and GCL Astros in 2018.
- 4-time NL All-Star (1972-1974 & 1976)
- 5-time NL Gold Glove Winner (1972-1976)
- 2-time NL Doubles Leader (1971 & 1972)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1972-1974)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1974)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1972)
- 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 6 (1972-1977)