Fred McGriff: 29 days until Padres’ Opening Day

Credit: AP Photo

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Credit: AP Photo

Short But Sweet

When talking about the greatest players in the history of the San Diego Padres, it would be criminal to not mention the Crime Dog.

On December 5, 1990, the Toronto Blue Jays traded Fred McGriff and Tony Fernández to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.

Despite only playing 2.5 seasons with the Padres, McGriff was the definition of a superstar. In 388 games, he hit .281 with 84 home runs and drove in 256 runs with the Friars.

The Padres, out of contention and seeking to unload their high-priced veterans, dealt McGriff to the Atlanta Braves on July 18, 1993, for prospect Vince Moore, Donnie Elliott, and Melvin Nieves.

Finally, in the Hall

Despite becoming eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2010, Frederick Stanley McGriff flew under the radar and failed to reach a 75% vote needed to be elected by the writers’ ballot, eventually falling off the ballot in 2019 after ten appearances.

On July 23, later this year, McGriff will finally be rewarded for his illustrious career and be inducted into Cooperstown.

Last December, McGriff was unanimously elected by the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee, receiving all 16 possible votes. He will be joined in the Class of 2023 by Scott Rolen.

McGriff, a five-time All-Star first baseman, played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball with: the Toronto Blue Jays (1986-90), the San Diego Padres (1991-93), the Atlanta Braves (1993-97), the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1998-2001, 2004), the Chicago Cubs (2001-02), and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2003).

In July, McGriff will join the likes of Catfish Hunter (1987), Tony La Russa (2014), Greg Maddux (2014), Roy Halladay (2019), and Mike Mussina (2019) in entering Cooperstown without a logo on his cap.

“In discussing my career with the Hall of Fame,” McGriff said in a statement, “we decided that with no logo on my plaque, I can equally represent these cities and the incredible fans in Toronto, where I got my start, Atlanta, where we won the World Series, and my hometown of Tampa Bay, as well as my time in San Diego.”

While Yogi Berra (1972) has no logo because the head is tilted on his plaque, it appears he’s wearing New York Yankees pinstripes.

McGriff finished his career with 2,490 hits (102nd in MLB history), 1,349 runs scored (111th), 441 doubles (119th), 493 home runs (29th), 1,550 runs batted in (47th), and 1,305 walks (47th).

Fun Facts

  • His nickname Crime Dog, a wordplay on McGruff the Crime Dog, was coined by Marty Barrett and popularized by Chris Berman.
  • McGriff currently works in the Braves front office as Special Assistant to Baseball Operations.
  • He ended his career with ten seasons with at least thirty home runs. He and Gary Sheffield are the only players ever to hit at least thirty home runs in one season for five different teams, accomplishing the feat with Toronto three times, San Diego twice, and Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and the Chicago Cubs once each.
  • He posted at least 80 RBIs every year from 1988 through 2002 and became the first player since the dead-ball era to lead both leagues in home runs (1989, 1992).
  • McGriff finished in the top ten in voting for his league’s Most Valuable Player Award every year from 1989 through 1994, during which time he led the major leagues in home runs.
  • Was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1994 All-Star Game after his pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth inning tied the score at 7–7, with the NL winning in 10 innings.
  • Helped lead the Atlanta Braves to winning the 1995 World Series.
  • In 50 career postseason games, McGriff batted .303 with ten home runs and 37 RBI.
  • Played five seasons in his hometown of Tampa, Florida. As a child, he hung out at Al Lopez Field during Cincinnati Reds spring training and worked as a vendor at Tampa Stadium.
  • Only had two sacrifice bunts in his career.

Other 29’s

McGriff is one of 26 players ever to wear #29 in franchise history. Others include Gene Richards (1977), Bret Boone (2000), Josh Barfield (2006), Brad Boxberger (2012-2013), and Dinelson Lamet (2019-2022).

Richards wore five different uniform numbers (5,17,19,25,29) in eight seasons, seven of which came with the Padres. The speedster hit .291 and swiped 242 bags with the team.

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Boone, an El Cajon native, hit 19 HRs and drove in 74 runs in his lone season with the Padres.

Barfield played one season in San Diego, finishing as the runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year after hitting .280, with 13 HRs, 58 RBIs, and stealing 21 bases. After the Padres made the playoffs, Barfield was dealt to the Cleveland Indians for Andrew Brown and Kevin Kouzmanoff.

Boxberger pitched two seasons with the Padres, recording a 2.72 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 42 appearances.

Lamet pitched five seasons for the Padres but was often injured. In the covid-shortened season in 2020, the righty finished fourth in the NL Cy Young race after recording a 2.09 ERA, a 0.85 WHIP, and 93 strikeouts in 69 innings pitched.

The number is currently being worn by catcher Pedro Severino, who has 33 career home runs across eight seasons.

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