Cardenas had feuded during the '68 season with then-Reds Manager Dave Bristol, and figured he would be left In unprotected in the draft for selection by the new San Diego Padres (National League), or Kansas City Royals (American League). Both were to begin play in '69. It was his hope that Padres Manager Preston Gomez (who managed him in 1959 while in Cuba) would tab him as the first shortstop in San Diego. Instead, the Reds went and traded him to Minnesota for Jim Merritt. It was a tough call for Twins owner Cal Griffith to part with the talented Merritt; but the shortstop position was his weak link, and he bit. As it happened, it was a good fit for Cardenas since the Twins had a strong track record in nurturing players from Latin America; Jim Kaat, when asked what the "TC" stood for on the Twins hats, would joke "Twenty Cubans."
Cardenas would cement the Twins' lineup, playing excellent shortstop and batting 6th in the order for the 1969 Division Champions. After the rapid demise of former '65 all-star Zoilo Versalles, the quartet of Jackie Hernandez, Rick Renick, Ron Clark and Cesar Tovar all mangled the position in 1968 most horrendously ( the apparent wisdom: four lousy candidates were better than just one). Statistically, 1969 was Leo's best overall season. He was a fine catalyst in helping his second base partner, Rod Carew, achieve his first great season. Indeed, he was a major contributor to the first Twins team for which I fell into irreversable and pathetic infatuation.
NOT EXACTLY "PEDRO SERRANO" OF MAJOR LEAGUE - BUT CLOSE!
This card favorite gives me a laugh: it's as if Leo's pinching himself, as if to ask "Uh, how'd I get in a picture with these studs?" With this 1968 Topps baseball card, we see Leo with two great Latin outfielders, the great Twin Tony Oliva, and Pirate immortal Roberto Clemente. It's probably from the '66 All Star Game in St. Louis, at Busch Stadium. The weird anglicizing of Clemente's name, along with Oliva's use of his brother's passport to gain entry into the U.S. (real name, Pedro) in the early '60's meant that none of these guys had their given name used on the card. What is up with that, Jack (or, rather, "Joaquin")? And didn't Leo get fed up with that Chico stuff?
AND IN THE END...