Enzo Hernandez, the first everyday shortstop in San Diego Padres history, was found dead Sunday, media in Venezuela have reported. Hernandez, who would have turned 64 in February, apparently committed suicide.
Major League Baseball came to San Diego in 1969 and, as Gaslamp Ball points out, Hernandez was the first to play short every day for the Padres after they were established as an expansion franchise. Starting in 1971, Hernandez made his reputation on defense — not unlike countrymen Dave Concepcion, Luis Aparicio, Chico Carrasquel before him. He hit .224/.283/.266 with 129 stolen bases and 83 sacrifice bunts with the Padres from '71-1977.
Despite a low on-base percentage, Hernandez three times finished in the top 10 in the NL in stolen bases (1971, 1972, 1974) and he led the league in sacrifice bunts with 24 (!!!) in 1975. You might figure that Hernandez hit eighth in the Padres lineup, and he did often, but his managers batted him leadoff most times, no doubt to utilize his speed.
Bill Almon more or less replaced Hernandez in the Padres lineup in '77, holding the position until Ozzie Smith made his debut in '78. Hernandez's final major league appearances also came that season, with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In 2006, his hometown of El Tigre in Venezuela named a stadium after Hernandez.
According to an obituary (published in Spanish), Hernandez's career ended prematurely because he suffered from herniated discs in his back. Hernandez also reportedly suffered from symptoms of depression. From the Associated Press:
Quoting a tweet from journalist John Guatache, the [The Sunday Leader] said the former player "in recent months had been treated for depression."
Spokesmen for the municipal police of El Tigre confirmed his death but declined to give details on the cause of his death.
Jose Grasso Vecchio, president of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, tweeted that Hernandez's death was "sad news" and that Hernandez and Dave Concepcion were the "heirs to Luis Aparicio" among Venezuelan shortstops.