HOUSTON -- The spacious ballparks and artificial turf fields that sprouted up around baseball in the 1960s and 1970s weren't the best thing to happen to ballplayers' knees -- or sluggers who made a living out of hitting the ball out of the yard.
But for Cesar Cedeno, ballparks cut from the same mold as the Astrodome were a playground.
The stadiums' sizable gaps and artificial turf perfectly fit Cedeno's game -- a rare combination of speed and hitting balls into the gaps -- and helped him become one of the Astros' most talented outfielders of the 1970s. Even today, Cedeno ranks as one of the top five offensive players in club history.
Cedeno was a true five-tool player during his early days in Houston, leading the team in batting average three times (1971-73), hits twice (1971-72), home runs twice (1974, '76) and RBIs twice (1970, '74). He still ranks first on the team's all-time list with 487 stolen bases.
Cedeno was at the peak of his career in 1972, when he became the first Astros player to hit for the cycle. Four years later, Cedeno did it again -- getting a single, double, triple and home run in the same game. He's still the only Astros player to hit for the cycle twice.
Game to RememberCesar Cedeno was a five-tool standout in the 1970s for the Astros.
Cesar Cedeno Facts and Figures
- Full name:Cesar (Encarnacion) Cedeno.
- Game to Remember: Aug. 9, 1976 (Astros 13, Cardinals 4)
- Nickname: C.C.
- Jersey number: 28.
- Primary Position:RF.
- Bats/Throws: Right/Right.
- Born: Feb. 25, 1951.
- Birthplace:Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
- Major League debut: June 20, 1970.
- Years in Major Leagues: 17.
- Years with Astros: 12 (1970-81).
- Other teams: Reds (1982-85), Cardinals (1985), Dodgers (1986)
- Key stats with Houston:.289 batting average, 1,659 hits, 55 triples, 163 homers, 779 RBIs, 487 stolen bases.
- Claim to fame: One of the best all-around players in Astros history, Cedeno won a club-record-tying five Gold Gloves and still ranks among the club's top five career leaders in runs, hits, doubles, triples and stolen bases .
- Did you know? The Astros traded Cedeno to the Reds on Dec. 18, 1981 for Ray Knight.
- What's he doing now?Cedeno is in his first season as hitting coach at rookie-league Greeneville in the Houston organization. Following his playing career, Cedeno served as a coach or instructor in the organization for 10 seasons (1990-94, 1997-2001).
The second time Cedeno hit for the cycle came on Aug. 9, 1976, in a 13-4 victory over the Cardinals. Now, more than 35 years later, it ranks as the most memorable game of his career. Cedeno went 4-for-5 with four runs scored and five RBIs that night at Busch Stadium.
"It's difficult," Cedeno said. "Hitting is not an easy task. It just happens sometimes. I guess you have to be lucky enough. You really can't plan to go up there and hit a double and a triple or a home run for that matter. A single is the easiest thing to do, but they don't always happen. It happened a couple of times for me, but not everybody gets to enjoy that."
Cedeno got the most difficult hit out of the way early, hitting a triple to right field in his first at-bat in the first inning against the Cardinals' Bob Forsch. He fouled out in the third inning, but his final three hits came in consecutive innings.
Cedeno homered off Forsch in the sixth inning, hit a three-run double to left field off Forsch in the seventh and singled to right field in the eighth off reliever Eddie Solomon to score a pair of runs. Only five other Astros players -- Bob Watson, Andujar Cedeno, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Luke Scott -- have hit for the cycle since.
In fact, the Astros have thrown more no-hitters (10) than have had cycles (seven).
"It takes a lot of luck," Cedeno said. "You have to have some speed. Craig had a lot of that. It's a combination of a lot of things and having a good day up there."
Cedeno's all-around talent allowed him to win five Gold Gloves and appear in the All-Star Games four times as a member of the Astros. He was named the Astros' Most Valuable Player in 1972.
Needless to say, Cedeno is proud of his career accomplishments.
"I would say, yes, I'm pretty satisfied," Cedeno said. "People talk about 'You didn't do this, and you didn't do that.' I tore my ACL in '77 and broke my ankle in 1980 [in Game 3 of the NLCS against the Phillies]. Those are serious injuries I had to go through and nobody talks about that. It's in the past, I guess. I'm not one of those guys that likes to talk about myself."
And he doesn't need to. A glance at the Astros' record book speaks volumes.