Terry Lee Pendleton (born July 16, 1960) is a former third baseman in Major League Baseball, and a former hitting coach and current first base coach of the Atlanta Braves. He played primarily for the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves, but he also spent time with the Florida Marlins, Cincinnati Reds, and Kansas City Royals. During his fifteen-year career, he went to the World Series five times, yet his team never won a championship.
He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh round of the 1982 amateur draft, and subsequently signed with the team on June 12, 1982.
With little haste after his signing, Pendleton’s minor league campaign began with the Johnson City Cardinals and the St. Petersburg Cardinals during the 1982 season. Pendleton impressed the organization enough to warrant being moved up to class AA baseball with the Arkansas Travelers for the 1983 season. He was selected to the league’s all star team for his performance at Arkansas. Making steady progress, Pendleton was promoted to class AAA in 1984 and played for the Louisville Redbirds. After four games at second base, Pendleton was moved to third and became a third baseman, the position he would play the rest of his career. The Cardinals were so impressed with Pendleton’s development as a third baseman in Louisville that they traded their starting third baseman, Ken Oberkfell, to the Atlanta Braves and temporarily placed Andy Van Slyke at third base while Pendleton continued to gain experience. However, when Van Slyke committed seven errors in thirty games, the Cardinals promoted Pendleton to the majors and began his major league career as the starting third baseman.
St. Louis Cardinals
Pendleton made his major league debut on July 18, 1984 against the San Francisco Giants. Batting sixth in the lineup, he made an immediate impact, getting three hits in 5 at-bats en route to an 8–4 victory for the Cardinals. In 67 games during the 1984 St. Louis Cardinals season, Pendleton had a .324 batting average, 20 stolen bases, and finished tied for seventh in Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Award voting. The 1985 St. Louis Cardinals season saw Pendleton remain in the starting lineup at third base. His batting average trailed off, as he only hit .240 for the season and was caught stealing 12 times to go along with 17 stolen bases for the season. The Cardinals advanced to the 1985 World Series, and Pendleton ended up hitting the Cardinals’ only triple, doing so in the Cardinals’ 3–0 game 4 win. His statline for the 1986 St. Louis Cardinals season was only modestly better. His batting average remained low at .239 and he only hit a single home run, but he was able to steal 24 bases, hit 26 doubles and 5 triples. St. Louis management became disappointed with Pendleton after this season, but manager Whitey Herzog pointed out to them that it was his baserunning and fielding (he led the National League in putouts and assists) that made him vital to the team’s success.
Pendleton answered front office criticism in his best season to date, the 1987 St. Louis Cardinals season. He improved in many statistical aspects in which he was struggling, including raising his batting average to a respectable .286. He was a strong contributor to the team’s pennant win, placing second on the team in home runs, third in runs batted in, and tied for third in stolen bases. Pendleton’s fielding efforts led to his earning his first Gold Glove, the first by a Cardinal third baseman since Ken Reitz in 1975, as well as finishing tied for 17th in MVP voting. Unfortunately, as the Cardinals reached the 1987 World Series to play the Minnesota Twins, Pendleton ended up sidelined for most of the series with a ribcage injury. Despite this injury, Pendleton’s switch-hitting ability meant that he was able to be used as a left-handed designated hitter during three of the four games the Cardinals played at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. He finished the series by playing 3 games, getting 3 hits on 7 at-bats as the Cardinals fell in 7 games for the second time in three years.
As the 1988 St. Louis Cardinals season began, Pendleton seemed to struggle where he had flourished. Despite earning 80 stolen bases in his first four seasons, he only stole three bases the whole season, and in fact went the rest of his career without stealing more than ten. Injuries also plagued him in 1988, as he missed a few weeks with a right hamstring injury, and had arthroscopic surgery in mid-September which cut his season short. Despite this, Pendleton hoped to rebound for the 1989 St. Louis Cardinals season. Rebounding was exactly what he did, as he played in all 162 games for the only times in his career, finished ninth in hits with 162, and earned his second Gold Glove with an impressive .971 fielding percentage. Despite an impressive 1989 season, Pendleton struggled during the 1990 St. Louis Cardinals season. His overall production decline that season, as evident by his .230 batting average and .277 on-base percentage, as well as splitting time with rookie Todd Zeile by the end of the season. After the season ended, Zeile appeared to be the third baseman of the future for the Cardinals, and Pendleton became a free agent.
Pendleton is one of several major league players to have an error on a baseball card. His 1985 Donruss card lists him as Jeff Pendleton.