Friday, January 6, 2012

#307 - Luis Melendez

Like a few other guys in this set, Luis Melendez is coming off the best season of his career in '73. A one-time speedster and defensive outfield prospect, Luis had by now settled into a platoon system that saw him alternate outfield time with Bernie Carbo and Jose Cruz (Lou Brock was still a fixture in left back then). Luis normally played right with Jose in center but when the Cards started off the season in a slump, the two switched spots and the team started winning. Luis set personal highs in just about every offensive category in '73 and we get a look at his swing at Candlestick.

Luis Melendez came out of Puerto Rico in '68 when he was signed by the Cards as a free agent. The team started him off in A ball in Cedar Rapids just so he could experience cold weather and he put up decent numbers. He then improved his average to above .300 as he moved up, peaking at Triple A Tulsa in '70. He showed a little power and speed - 14 stolen bases - that year and got into some late-season games in St. Louis, hitting .300. In '71 he and fellow rookie Cruz got some major time with Jose moving into center and Luis backing up Jose Cardenal in right. But Luis then lost time to a hamstring injury, impacting his speed and reducing his average. In '72 Luis moved to center where he and Cruz did the platoon thing - Cardenal had gone to the Brewers during the '71 season - and Luis' average revived a bit as he stayed healthy. In '73 they did the switch and in '74 the Cards had a new hot rookie speedster in Bake McBride so Luis' outfield time contracted considerably and he hit only .218. In '75 Bake got hurt and Luis put in a bunch of games in his space in center, bumping his average up to .265 on a lot more at bats. But everyone was generally healthy again in '76 and that May, after only getting a few at bats, he was sent to the Padres for pitcher Bill Greif. In San Diego Luis split time between left and center the rest of the season and then spent almost all of '77 in Triple A. After the season he signed with Toronto as a free agent, spent another year in the minors, and retired. In the majors Luis hit .248; in the minors, .283.

Melendez played winter ball in PR pretty much every year he played in the States and continued playing there after his career here was over. He eventually moved into coaching and managing there as well. By the late Eighties he was doing the same thing back in the States, coaching and managing - in '90, '94-'95, and 2000 - in the St. Louis system. '94 was a particularly good year for him as he won his league championship here and the '94-'95 winter one in PR. In 2003 he moved to the Philly system where he managed ('03-'04) and coached, his last gig being with the Rookie Gulf Coast Phillies from '05 to '09. He is 229-277 as a manager.

One of Luis' two homers in '73 was also a grand slam. He is one of few players whose cartoon is something negative. Luis' nickname was "Torito" or "baby bull."

On January 6, 1973, a new number one hit the top of the charts in the States, Carly Simon's "You're So Vain." I have heard that song was about both Mick Jagger and Warren Beatty and I never did iron down the true subject. In the UK the number one song remained "Long Haired Lover From Liverpool" by Jimmy Osmond, the youngest of the Osmond Brothers. Ychh.

Luis' partner in the outfield should come in handy here:

1. Melendez and Jose Cruz '71 to '74 Cards;
2. Cruz and Enos Cabell '75 to '80 Astros;
3. Cabell managed by Earl Weaver on the '72 to '74 Orioles.

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