Baseball Digest Birthdays: Terry Puhl

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Of the 233 players in Major League Baseball history, only four have played longer than Houston Astros great Terry Puhl. The Melville, Saskachewan native logged 15 years in the big leagues, all but one with the Houston Astros. If you look at the Houston Astros franchise leaders(click here), Terry Puhl ranks among the top 10 in many categories. Though he does not list high on the impressive home run and runs batted in totals, his mark on the franchise is undeniable.

Drafted out of high school by the Astros in 1973, Puhl spent just four seasons in the minor leagues before joining the big league club. He hit .296 in the minors, and didn’t miss a beat when he hit .301 in 60 games with the Astros in 1977.

Michael Janofsky of the Miami Herald wrote about the potential for four players to break out in the 1980’s, including Terry Puhl, in a July 1981 issue of Baseball Digest. Click here to check it out!

Puhl’s immediate impact on the lineup was evident, as he earned his first and only All-Star nod in his first full season in 1978. By 1980, Puhl helped the Astros to their first franchise trip to the postseason, hitting .526 in a losing effort to the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS. His .526 average was, at that time, a record for a single series batting average. The Astros reached the postseason in 1981, but fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers; Puhl hit just .190 in the five game series.

Puhl rebounded to provide a solid offense for the Astros over the course of the early to mid 1980’s. By 1985, Puhl was hampered by injuries and transitioned to a part time player over the next few seasons. The Astros returned to the NLCS in 1986 against the New York Mets, and the opportunity provided Puhl another chance to show flashes of his early years. In just three at bats, he had two singles and a stolen base.

In the late 1980’s, the outfielder has a resurgence, first as a pinch hitter(.303 batting average in 1988). When he earned more playing time in 1989 than he had in the previous five years, he responded with a .271 average on the season. It essentially became the swan song for Terry Puhl, as injuries shortened his 1990 season, at least in Houston.

Following the 1990 season, he was signed by and subsequently released by the New York Mets prior to the start of the 1991 season and the Kansas City Royals scooped him up. He played just 15 games with the Royals before being released in early June of that year. He retired with a .280 batting average, and an OPS of 112 over 15 seasons. He also ranks first all-time with a .994 fielding percentage for right fielders since 1954.

Since retirement, Puhl has been inducted into the Saskachewan Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. He has since become a manager, first with the Canadian National Olympic team, and most recently as the head coach of the University of Houston at Victoria. His collegiate managing record stands at 96-44 over three seasons.

Also Born Today:

Alan Ashby(b.1951), logged 17 seasons in the big leagues as a catcher and may be best remembered for catching three no hitters in his career. His career in Houston overlapped with Terry Puhl’s, and both were a member of the team during their several postseason appearances.

Ivey Wingo(b.1890), played 17 seasons, mostly with the Cincinnati Reds. He was a member of the 1919 World Series Champion Reds, the winner of the infamous Black Sox Scandal. Wingo was not known for his defense, as he led the league in errors by a catcher on seven different occasions.

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