Fan favorite José Cardenal forever enshrined into Cubs Hall of Fame
José Cardenal’s vividly remembers Opening Day, 1972.
It was his first time playing as a Cub at Wrigley Field, and a fly ball was hit at him in the 9th inning that hit his glove and fell, allowing a pair of runs to score to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead they would not relinquish.
“I lost it in the sun,” Cardenal said Saturday after being inducted into the Cubs Hall of Fame along with broadcaster Pat Hughes and former scout/coach Buck O’Neil.
Later, the fans began to boo him, so he spoke back.
“What do you guys want me to do?” he asked the crowd.
Those boos, turned to cheers quickly.
“Since that day, I know they accepted me,” Cardenal said. “Then after that, I was confident. The fans they were right behind me. That’s it. It was great.”
Cardenal became a fan favorite for the rest of his time with the Cubs, with his famous afro a distinguishing feature of his.
“Each time we go to the right field side, you see your people from the right field and the bleachers over there, they’re screaming at me and they love to see me chasing all those fly balls because they knew my hat was going to fall and then that’s what they wanted, a little guy running with a big ole afro,” Cardenal said. “It’s things like that you’re never going to forget.”
Cardenal started off his post-induction presser, before taking any questions, by addressing that famous hair.
“My afro is gone, so forget about it,” he said with a smile.
Cardenal’s beloved Cubs tenure was forever enshrined with the unveiling of his Hall of Fame plaque beneath the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field.
“It means a lot to me because I know I’m going to be there forever,” Cardenal said with a tear running down his cheek. “Nobody can take it away from me, so I’m glad that I’m here today. I’d like to thank the Cubs fans to support me all these years. They were right behind me all the time. They did a lot of good things for me.”
In his six seasons with the Cubs, Cardenal hit .296 with 61 home runs, 343 RBI and 129 stolen bases. He had the best seasons of his career in Chicago, posting career highs in home runs, batting average and OPS as a member of the Cubs.
“I had more fun in my life just with those fans than anything in my life,” Cardenal said. “It was good. It was good. I enjoyed it. I was a Cub fan.”
He became a fan-favorite, with many high-profile Cubs fans naming him as their favorite player. When the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, Cardenal was there as he was former First Lady Michelle Obama’s favorite player.
“She saw me for the first time in her life and she just found me and grabbed me and [started] hugging me and I was shocked,” Cardenal said. “I didn’t talk to her. I didn’t say nothing to her. This was something that I’m never going to forget in my life.”
Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder was a Cardenal fan, too. Vedder was on the call with Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney when Cardenal got the call he was being inducted.
“I was stunned,” Cardenal said. “I could not talk to tell you the truth. I didn’t say anything. All I said was thank you. That’s it. I was [frozen] until today. That’s it. But it was great.”