Sunday, November 13, 2011

#39 Terry Puhl

Card:  Terry Puhl is shown here on his 6th Topps card.  His rookie card was in the '78 set.  Puhl was featured on 13 Topps cards.

Picture: Puhl is bolting out of the batters box.  I wonder who that is on deck?  That is a nice inset picture with the blue sky and wispy clouds in the background.

Player:  Terry Puhl was signed as a seventeen year-old free agent out of Melville, Saskatchewan in 1973.  Even in the minors, Puhl displayed good patience at the plate, hitting for a decent average, and stealing some bases.  By 1976 he had already split time between AA and AAA where he batted .270 with a .372 on base percentage.  He started '77 on the Astros AAA club and was batting .305 when he got the call to the big leagues in July.  Puhl's success carried over to the majors as he hit .301 and got on base at a .385 clip.  Puhl batted lead off most games, played left and center field and had three four-hit games in his rookie year.

After going homer-less his rookie season, the left handed Puhl hit a lead off home run in the opener off of Tom Seaver to start the season.  Puhl continued to thrive in '78 and was batting over .300 when he was named to the NL All-Star squad.  Puhl did not play in the All-Star game and cooled off a little in the second half.  Puhl ended the year batting .289 with three home runs and 32 stolen bases.  Puhl had a very similar year in '79 posting a .287/.352/.377 line and stole another 30 bases playing center and right field.  Puhl's eight home runs were second on the team to Jose Cruz' nine as the Astros played small ball with four players with 30+ stolen bases.  Puhl tied a major league record with his 1.000 fielding percentage, handling 359 chances flawlessly in the outfield.

Puhl spent 1980 playing right field and batting in the top third of the Astros lineup.  The native Canadian hit a career high 13 long balls to lead the Astros, batted .282, and stole 27 bases.  Houston won 93 games and faced off against the Philadelphia in the NLCS.  Puhl batted .526 (10-19) which set a record at the time for LCS play, but the Astros lost to the Phillies in five games.

Puhl slumped in the strike shortened '81 campaign batting only .251.  The Astros won the second half of the '81 season and played the Dodgers in the NLDS.  Puhl's bat remained cold and he batted .190 as Houston lost in five games.  The sure handed Puhl continued to patrol right field in the Astrodome playing everyday and only taking time off against some tough lefties over the next several years.  Puhl batted only .262 in '82 but rebounded by hitting .292 and .301 in '83 and '84.  Puhl was fairly consistent, stroking 8 or 9 homers a year and stealing 13 to 24 stolen bases.

Puhl batted .285 in 1985 but played in only 54 games due to a hamstring injury.  Puhl was used primarily as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement over the next two seasons batting .244 and .230 with less than 200 at bats both years.  The Astros won the NL West in '86 and Puhl went two for three as a pinch hitter in a losing cause against the Mets.

Puhl was the fourth outfielder on the '88 team and saw increased playing time when he got red hot in June.  From June 17 to August 19, Puhl hit .376 (44-117) with 10 extra base hits and 17 walks.  It was a nice comeback year for the veteran as he finished with a .303/.395/.389 line. 

With Billy Hatcher slumping and Kevin Bass missing two months with an injury, Puhl played in 121 games in '89 batting .271 in 354 at bats.  Although Puhl at 6'2" was not a small man, he never hit for much power and he went homer less in '89.  Puhl started 1990 as a part time player for the Astros but an injury put him on the shelf for eight weeks.  After that he was used sparingly and only as a pinch hitter.  Puhl batted .293 in only 41 at bats. 

After 17 years as property of the Houston Astros, Puhl was not re-signed.  Puhl signed with the New York Mets for the '91 season but was cut in spring training.  Puhl was then picked up by the Kansas City Royals in late April.  The Royals used him as a pinch hitter but released the 34 year-old in June after getting four hits in eighteen at bats.  Puhl retired and at the time had played the most games by a Canadian born player. (1,531...later surpassed by Larry Walker and Matt Stairs).

Flipside:  Judging by his highlights, you might think Puhl tore it up in May of '82.  Despite these three big games, Puhl hit only .235 for the month.  His best month was probably August when he batted .318.  
Through 1982 Puhl had 278 career walks and 273 strikeouts.  He finished with 505 walks and 507 K's.

Oddball:  Puhl was never really know for hitting home runs but he had some weird spurts of power followed by long droughts in his career.  For example he went almost all of 1987 without a home run but hit them in back to back games in September.  Then in '88 with no home runs, he hit one on July 10 and again in back to back games on July 21 and 22.  He would then end his career with 219 consecutive games without a homerun.

History:  Puhl was an excellent corner outfielder and could fill in adequately in centerfield.  When he retired Puhl had the highest career fielding percentage at .993, of any outfielder in history and currently ranks ninth.  He had good on base skills and had 217 career stolen bases.  Puhl was selected to one All-Star team and had a historic playoff series in 1980.  Puhl was voted to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995.  Puhl has managed the Canadian National Senior team since 2006 and has been managing the baseball team at the Universtiy of Houston-Victoria since 2008.


  1. When I first looked at the card, I thought it was Jose Cruz on deck. But here are the 1982 Astros batting orders:

    I scanned quickly and couldn't find a single game where Cruz followed Puhl immediately.

    The guys to most often bat right after Puhl were Phil Garner, Tony Scott, Craig Reynolds, Ray Knight, and Dickie Thon. It's really tough to guess who that is, though.

  2. Thanks Andy, I did some more digging and at first I thought it was Cruz. He batted 16 times behind Puhl in '81 and maybe Topps used an old pic. But the dugout looks like Shea, and none of those 16 were at Shea. I don't know either

  3. I also think the dugout looks like Shea, but aren't those home uniforms the Astros are wearing? If both facts are true, then it would have to be a spring training game, in which case it probably IS Cruz.

  4. Yeah that must be Cruz in a spring training game. Mystery solved