By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Melville, Sask., native Terry Puhl has been elected to the Houston Astros Hall of Fame.
The Astros made the announcement in a press release on Thursday.
The longtime Astros outfielder will be inducted, alongside former general manager Tal Smith, in a pre-game ceremony at Minute Maid Park on August 13.
Signed by Astros scout Wayne Morgan after he led his hometown midget squad to a Canadian championship in 1973, Puhl, still just a teenager, reported to Houston’s Rookie Ball club in Covington, Va., in 1974, where he would bat .284 and cement his status as a bona fide prospect.
Less than three years later, just five days after his 21st birthday, the wide-eyed Saskatchewan native started his first big league game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. So nervous he was shaking, Puhl overcame his jitters to record his first hit and score the game-winning run. He proceeded to hit .301 in 60 games that season and win himself a starting role in the Astros’ outfield.
His steady offensive and defensive efforts would earn him All-Star honours in 1978, when he hit .289 and stole 32 bases. He topped that the following campaign, when he recorded a career-high 172 hits and played 157 games – the entire season – in the outfield without making an error. He was just the fourth player in 124 years to suit up for at least 150 games in a season without a defensive miscue.
After belting a career-high 13 homers in the regular season, Puhl was at his best in the 1980 postseason, hitting .526 in the Astros’ grueling, five-game National League Championship Series against the eventual World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. In all, Puhl competed in a combined 13 playoff games for the Astros in 1980, 1981 and 1986 and hit .372.
For his career, Puhl suited up for 14 of his 15 major league seasons with the Astros. The only two players to play more seasons with the Astros are Craig Biggio (20) and Jeff Bagwell (15). Puhl ranks in the club’s all-time top 10 in numerous statistical categories, including fourth in triples (56), fifth in games (1,516), sixth in stolen bases (217), eighth in hits (1,357) and runs (676), and ninth in doubles (226).
Defensively, Puhl was one of the most reliable outfielders of his era. His career .993 fielding percentage is the best by an Astros outfielder and ranks eighth in National League history among outfielders who have played at least 500 games.
The sure-handed Canuck played his final season with the Kansas City Royals in 1991.
For his efforts, Puhl was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., in 1995.
In 2008, Puhl managed the Canadian national team to a sixth-place finish at the Olympics.
Smith, who will be inducted alongside Puhl, played a key role in the construction of the Astrodome and later became the club’s vice-president and director of player personnel, prior to serving as the team’s GM from 1975 to 1981.
After leaving to start his own consulting business, Smith returned to the Astros to become their president of baseball operations in 1994. In a nine-season span from 1997 to 2005, Astros teams built by Smith advanced to the postseason six times and made their first World Series appearance in 2005.
The Astros Hall of Fame, which is located inside Minute Maid Park, was established in 2019 and has 22 previous inductees. You can read the complete list of inductees here.
Puhl and Smith were elected by an Astros Hall of Fame committee which consists of former players, current front office staff, members of the media and baseball historians.
Inductees are honoured with an Astros Hall of Fame sports coat and a customized plaque.