The San Diego Padres Mount Rushmore is the ninth in a series revealing the top four players for each franchise as selected by writers and fans.
People tend to have starkly contrasting opinions on the classic San Diego Padres uniform. Fans either love or hate the brown and yellow color scheme, embracing or rejecting its unique and distinct qualities. This intensity of these sartorial feelings does not seem to extend to the club itself. The Padres have not inspired deeply-held love or hatred in either their National or Pacific Coast League forms. The PCL typically featured multiple clubs in Los Angeles, leading to an intra-city rivalry while the relocated Giants and Dodgers transported their borough competition into the inter-city struggle between LA and San Francisco. Yet America’s Finest City has put forward multiple competitive seasons and a Mount Rushmore than could rival almost any postwar team’s.
What defines a franchise?
San Diego is an ancient town, with the earliest known human settlements in the contiguous United States found in La Jolla. The city’s founding has multiple valid dates, including the approximately 1000 CE establishment of Cosoy (modern-day Old Town) by the Kumeyaay and San Diego by the Spanish in 1769.
Professional baseball arrived relatively late in San Diego’s long history in the form of the San Diego Padres. First a minor league club in the highly-talented Pacific Coast League, the team won four pennants behind star performances from Ted Williams and Art Shamsky.
In 1969, own C. Arnholdt Smith secured a National League expansion bid and led his Padres into the majors. General manager Eddie Leishman led the on-field transition and brought two minor league Padres of 1968 into the major league iteration of 1969 (Roberto Pena and Steve Arlin). The Padres played their final season of PCL and their first of NL ball in San Diego Stadium (also known as Jack Murphy and Qualcomm).
Most historians and fans count these as distinct entities.
For the purposes of this series, however, OTH is embracing the idea that these iterations are one club telling a shared story. These teams represented San Diego in professional baseball. They played with San Diego or Padres wrote proudly on their uniforms. They share a common fanbase that enjoyed successes and lamented failures.
This series of articles serves, in part, as an attempt to recapture the legacy of those earlier teams. OTH recognizes that while an owner may move the corporate structure, the legacy belongs to the fans and the city for which the team played.
For cities that fielded two teams in the shameful era of segregated ball, this series will consider both sides as part of the same club. Today to a degree, major league clubs take a similar approach. The Washington Nationals, for instance, include Washington Homestead Grays players in their Ring of Honor, and most teams tip their caps to their city’s Negro League predecessors by donning their uniforms for Negro Leagues heritage games.
The NBA and NFL have recognized the validity behind this line of thinking. The modern Charlotte Hornets inherited the legacy of the Hornets that moved to New Orleans. The modern Cleveland Browns inherited the legacy of the Browns that moved to Baltimore. Now Rob Manfred and MLB need to do the same.
1936 in the minors; 1969 in the majors
- Padres (1936 – present)
National League pennants (2)
Pacific Coast League pennants (4)
San Diego Padres Mount Rushmore
After counting votes from OTH writers and baseball fans, here are the top four players in San Diego Padres history.
- San Diego Years: 1982-2001
- San Diego Stats: 69.2 WAR, .338/.388/.459, 3,143 H, 543 2B, 790 BB, 4,259 TB
San Diego is a beautiful city and one of the most underrated in America. From historic Spanish and Mexican homes and churches to magical views of the Pacific, the 251-year old town has much to offer (including the site where this author got engaged). Often overlooked due to its proximity to Los Angeles, one Angeleno made a name for himself over a 24-year major and college career in San Diego.
Mr. Padre excelled at hitting as few others have. He slashed a career .338/.388/.459 while compiling 3,141 big league hits. In eight different campaigns, Gwynn led the league in batting average. He even swiped 319 bases along the way. If wins above replacement are any indication (76th all-time), the voters placed the right fielder exactly where he belongs.
- San Diego Years: 1993-2008
- San Diego Stats: 26.0 WAR, 2.76 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 1.043 WHIP, 552 SV
Before a deeper understanding of the game emerged to undermine the closer role, the managers of the 1990s and 2000s saved their best reliever for the ninth. Few were stronger in this role than Trevor Hoffman.
Though he grew up an Angels fan, Hoffman became a San Diego hero. With a windup that conjured up an Old West gunslinger, his five-pitch selection stifled hitters desperately trying to resurrect the chances of their dying team. Behind 1,029 strikeouts and only 255 walks, the Californian ranks among the all-time great relievers and has more than earned his place on the Padres Mount Rushmore.
- San Diego Years: 2002-2009
- San Diego Stats: 24.8 WAR, 3.29 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 1.186 WHIP, 1,348 K
Jake Peavy’s early career was a template for positive big league performance. He led the majors twice in earned run average and his league in strikeouts twice, strikeouts per nine innings twice, fielding independent pitching once, and walks plus hits per inning pitched once. The Alabamian certainly overcame early scouting reports that described him as frail and wild.
- San Diego Years: 1973-1980
- San Diego Stats: 32.0 WAR, .284/.357/.464, 1,134 H, 133 SB, 1,853 TB
Dave Winfield very well could have been on the Washington Mount Rushmore. In 1973, the Padres almost moved to the nation’s capital to take up the mantle abandoned by the expansion Senators. Winfield could have finished his rookie campaign or sophomore season in the District of Columbia. However, thanks to legal and financial pressure, the Swinging Friars remained in the copacetic beach-side town.
San Diego was immediately rewarded with the first eight years of a Hall of Fame career. The Minnesotan finished in the top ten in the National League in offensive wins above replacement three times, total bases thrice, adjusted on-base-plus-slugging twice, hits thrice, home runs twice, and triples once.
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