History of The San Diego Padres - 1970s: Winfield, Jones, Fingers and Ozzie

1970s: Winfield, Jones, Fingers and Ozzie

In his first home game as the Padres' new owner in 1974, Ray Kroc grabbed the public address system microphone and apologized to fans for the poor performance of the team, saying, "I have never seen such stupid ballplaying in my life." At the same time, a streaker raced across the field, eluding security personnel. Kroc shouted, "Throw him in jail!" The following season, 1975, would be the first season that the Padres would not finish in the National League West cellar (finishing fourth), and brought the promise of an owner who would make the necessary changes to the organization.

Nate Colbert is one of two major-league baseball players (Stan Musial is the other) to have hit five home runs in a doubleheader, a feat he accomplished as a Padre. He collected 13 RBIs in that doubleheader, still a major league record. Although the Padres continued to struggle after Colbert's departure via trade to the Detroit Tigers in 1974, they did feature star outfielder Dave Winfield, who came to the Padres in 1973 from the University of Minnesota without having played a single game in the minor leagues. Winfield was also drafted by the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League, the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association and the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association.

Winfield took over where Colbert left off, starring in the Padres outfield from 1973 until 1980, when he joined the New York Yankees. In seven seasons, Winfield played in 1,117 games for San Diego and collected 1,134 hits, 154 home runs and drove in 626 runs. But most importantly, he helped the team out of the National League West basement for the first time in 1975, under the guidance of manager John McNamara, who took over the club at the start of the 1974 season.

Winfield's emergence as a legitimate star coincided with the turnaround of a promising young left-handed pitcher named Randy Jones, who had suffered through 22 losses in 1974. Jones became the first San Diego pitcher to win 20 games in 1975, going 20–12 in 37 outings as the Padres finished in fourth place with a 71–91 record, 37 games behind the Cincinnati Reds.

Jones won 22 games in 1976, winning the Cy Young Award in the process, another franchise first. The club set a new high with 73 wins, but fell to fifth place.

Jones slipped to 6–12 in 1977, and not even the acquisition of Rollie Fingers could help the Padres escape the bottom half of the division. Only Winfield and fellow outfielder George Hendrick cracked the 20-homer barrier, and the pitching staff was filled with a group of unknowns and youngsters, few of whom would enjoy much success at the major league level.

The 1978 season brought hope to baseball fans in San Diego, thanks to the arrival a young shortstop named Ozzie Smith, who arrived on the scene and turned the baseball world on its ears with an acrobatic style that redefined how the position should be played in the field. The Padres hosted the All-Star Game that summer. The National League won the contest 7–3 thanks to an MVP performance by Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey, who would play a crucial role for San Diego in the not-too-distant future.

Winfield and Fingers represented the team at the game, but conspicuously absent was starting pitcher Gaylord Perry, who joined the Padres after spending three years with the Texas Rangers. At 39 years of age and coming off a 15–14 season with Texas, little was expected of him. All Perry did that summer was post a 21–6 record and a 2.73 earned run average, edging Montreal's Ross Grimsley to earn the Padres' second Cy Young Award in three seasons. San Diego also picked up another first that summer, compiling an 84–78 mark for manager Roger Craig, the only time in 10 seasons the team finished a season with a winning percentage above .500.

The good times did not last, as the Padres closed out the decade with another losing season in 1979, a 68–93 record that cost Craig his job. Winfield was the lone bright spot, leading the National League with 118 RBIs. The good times continued to fade out as Winfield signed a 10-year contract with the New York Yankees after the 1980 season.

Read more about this topic:  History Of The San Diego Padres

Famous quotes containing the words fingers and/or ozzie:

    The thirteenth fairy,
    her fingers as long and thin as straws,
    her eyes burnt by cigarettes,
    her uterus an empty teacup,
    arrived with an evil gift.
    Anne Sexton (1928–1974)

    Summer is different. We now have breakfast together, for example ... it hasn’t happened in so long that we’re not sure how to go about it. So we bump into each other in the kitchen. I never saw Ozzie and Harriet bump into each other in the kitchen—not once. Ozzie knew his place was at the table, while Harriet knew that her place was at the stove.
    Nathan Cobb (20th century)