Julio Louis Cruz
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 165 lb.
- School San Bernardino Valley College
- High School Redlands High School
- Debut July 4, 1977
- Final Game August 31, 1986
- Born December 2, 1954 in Brooklyn, NY USA
- Died February 22, 2022 in Redmond, WA USA
Speedy second baseman Julio Cruz says that there were two options for kids when he grew up in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY - play baseball or get into trouble; he wisely chose the former. He claims he wasn't the best player in the area but the others picked both options one and two. At the Catholic school he attended, he had to maintain his grades to stay active in sports but could slip when it wasn't baseball season.
At age 16, Julio moved to southern California. He made friends in the baseball community and was working out at UCLA when a California Angels scout spotted him and signed him on May 7, 1974. He was given his first glove and spikes and sent to the Idaho Falls Angels. He called home collect daily, raking up phone bills of over $100 per month for his family. Cruz reports being thrilled that he was getting paid to play baseball and that he did not mind the conditions in the low minors.
For Idaho Falls, Julio batted .241/.361/.266 with 34 steals in 45 tries. He led the Pioneer League in steals, times hit by pitch (7) and tied for the lead in times gunned down running (11). He made the PL All-Star team at second base. In '75, Cruz hit .261/.383/.310 for the Quad Cities Angels. He was doing the things a leadoff hitter should in getting on base and stealing; he swiped 60 while only getting caught 8 times, but lost the SB title to Willie Wilson (76). Cruz also tied for the Midwest League lead with 11 sacrifice bunts and his .972 fielding percentage was second among MWL second basemen.
Cruz kept on cruising through the minors in 1976 with the Salinas Angels, El Paso Diablos and Salt Lake City Gulls. He hit .307/.443/368 for Salinas, with 68 steals in 81 tries and 81 walks. He was second to Thad Bosley (90) in stolen bases in the California League that year, led 2B in fielding (.982) and made the All-Star team at second. For El Paso, he batted .327/.382/.449 in 13 games (3 SB in 4 tries) and with Salt Lake City, he hit .246/.312/.333 with 12 steals in 14 attempts. Overall, he had pilfered 83 bags that year, giving him 177 in 2 1/2 seasons as a pro.
The Seattle Mariners took Julio in the 1976 expansion draft. For their Hawaii Islanders club, he dazzled at .366/.459/.455. He would have led the Pacific Coast League in average had he stayed long enough to qualify and he stole 47 in 62 tries, tied for fourth in the PCL. Cruz was picked off once by Rick Sutcliffe, who fired to second after raising his leg to pitch. Cruz was out by "at least ten feet" and claimed the move was illegal - the umpire said it was, to which Julio said "[T]hat's definitely not legal in Brooklyn." After that, Cruz never took a lead against Sutcliffe, biding his time. He says that Luis Tiant was the hardest pitcher to run against. Cruz made the PCL All-Star team and joined the Mariners in July, hitting .256/.336/.296, stealing 15 in 21 tries and taking the second base job from Jose Baez. Ron Luciano called him out in a close steal attempt that year. When Luciano felt guilty about possibly making the wrong call for a rookie, he came up to him later in the game and said it was pretty close. Julio said "I'm just so happy to be here in the major leagues." Cruz would be Seattle's second baseman for the next five seasons.
Despite a lack of power, Julio generally topped an 80 OPS+ in Seattle, fine for a second baseman and good for a second baseman with his speed and defensive skills. He stole 59 bases for the 1978 Mariners and twice was second in the American League in swipes. Cruz complained later about all the tinkering the coaches did, messing with his swing, making him use a bat he could barely lift for a month, adjusting where to stand, etc.
During his time with the Mariners, Cruz says his "biggest thrill" was playing with Gaylord Perry. Manning second when Perry was winning his 300th game, Cruz says he kept thinking "[I]f the batter hits the ball to you, make sure you grab it on the dry side."
During the 1983 AL season, Cruz was dealt to the Chicago White Sox for Tony Bernazard. Julio had a .467 OBP in the 1983 ALCS but the White Sox fell to the Orioles. He stole 57 that year, his last impressive season. He signed a new contract that put him over a million dollars and made him the 5th-highest paid player in the 1985 AL. Cruz was aging, though, and his average fell under .230 each year in Chicago - twice he even slugged under .235. He was still drawing walks but he was not even stealing regularly and his offensive value went from good to nil.
Cruz was released by Chicago after his weak 1986 campaign and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Assigned to the Albuquerque Dukes, he only hit .174/.319/.217. He moved to the independent Fresno Suns in 1988 and batted .199/.305/.213 with 13 steals in 15 tries to end his career at age 33.
He became a Spanish language broadcaster for the Seattle Mariners after he retired and has been been co-coach, with former teammate Bill Caudill, of the Eastside Catholic High School in Kirkland, WA since 1995
- 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 2 (1978 & 1983)
Year-By-Year Minor League Managerial Record
|1997||Pulaski Rangers||Appalachian League||43-25||1st||Texas Rangers||Lost League Finals|
- Most at bats, extra inning game, 11, 5/8-5/9/84 (tied)