Yesterday was the 80th birthday of one of the best players of all time, Willie McCovey.
Most people remember him as a San Francisco Giant. Rightfully so, as he played 19 of his 22 seasons in San Francisco, which included the 1959 Rookie of the Year Award, six All-Star selections, the 1969 MVP and a World Series appearance in 1962.
What most people don’t remember, outside of die-hard Padres fans, is that McCovey played three seasons for the San Diego Padres from 1974-1976.
His average had dipped a bit (.242 in those three years), but the power was still there. He hit 52 home runs in those three seasons. He played 321 games for San Diego, at first base.
To celebrate his birthday, let’s take a look back at other Hall of Fame players who had a “cup of coffee”, as they say, with the Friars.
Alomar actually started his career in San Diego. He was signed as an amateur free agent before the 1985 season and made his debut in 1988. He would finish fifth in Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .266 with nine homers and 24 stolen bases.
He played three seasons with the Padres, finishing in 1990. That season he earned his first All-Star bid. He hit .287 with 60 RBI, 24 stolen bases and 27 doubles. He also played an excellent second base.
His career took off after being traded to the Blue Jays, where he won two straight championships. He collected 2,724 hits over his 17-year career. He was a lifetime .300 hitter. He finished with 12 All-Star appearances, 10 Gold Gloves, and four Silver Sluggers.
He was inducted on his second try into the Hall in 2011 with 90% of the votes. He entered as a Blue Jay.
Fingers did the opposite of Alomar. He made most of his hay before coming to San Diego, when he was with the Oakland Athletics. He made four straight All-Star teams and won three straight World Series rings before joining the Padres in 1977, when he was signed from free agency.
That would turn out to be a wise decision. He pitched for the Friars for four seasons. He led the league in saves twice as a Friar, including 37 saves in 1978, his lone All-Star year with San Diego. He had an ERA+ of 132 that season. He saved 108 games for the Friars before leaving for Milwaukee in 1981.
Fingers was inducted on his second try, wearing an A’s cap, in 1992.
Rich “Goose” Gossage came to the Padres when he was 32 years old in 1984. Before that, he was a perennial All-Star for the White Sox, Pirates, and mostly Yankees. He had been to seven All-Star games before becoming a Padre.
His first year in San Diego was a smashing success. He won 10 games as a reliever, saving 25 games and leading the Padres to their first ever World Series appearance. He also made his 8th All-Star team that season. He pitched in five of those playoff games, finishing four of them.
It was much of the same in 1985, when he had a stifling 1.82 ERA. He pitched four seasons in San Diego.
Because of his seven seasons and World Series championship with New York, he went into the Hall as a Yankee in 2008.
Henderson was one of the flashiest and most exciting players baseball has ever seen and we were lucky enough to watch him play in a Padres uniform for three total seasons. He bounced all over the league, playing for nine teams.
He once stole 130 bases in one season, for Oakland in 1982. He had three seasons of 100+ steals, something to make today’s players’ heads spin. He first came to San Diego in 1996. He was part of those NL West champion Friars. He stole 37 bases that year.
He started 1997 with the Padres as well, playing in 88 games while stealing 29 bags and hitting .274. However, he is most known as a Padre for when he returned in 2001. He broke three major league records that season. He broke Babe Ruth’s career walks record (2,062), Ty Cobb’s 2,245 career runs scored and Zack Wheat’s 2,328 career games in left field. He also collected his 3,000th hit that season, which also happened to be Tony Gwynn’s last major league game. He also finished his career as the all-time steals leader.
He was one of the easiest first-ballot Hall of Famers in history. He was elected in 2009 with 94.8% of the votes and went in as an Athletic after his 14 seasons in Oakland.
Maddux also reached a milestone as a Padre. Before that, he was one of the most dominant pitchers of the 90s. He had eight All-Star selections between the Cubs and Braves over a 13-year span. His 1995 season was insane: 20 wins, 1.63 ERA, 10 complete games, and 209 2/3 innings. He also started two games in the World Series when the Braves won it all.
He came to the Padres in 2007 as a 41-year-old. Needless to say, his best days were behind him, but it was still a blast to have him in a Friars uniform. He won 14 games with the Padres that season. He walked a measly 25 batters in 198 innings. He put on a show for Padres fans every fifth day.
In 2008, he won game number 350 for his career. I was in the stands and congratulated him with a homemade sign. It was a fun night to watch the surefire Hall of Famer go to work.
Like a few on this list, Maddux was an easy choice for a first-ballot Hall of Famer. In 2014, he went in as a Brave with 97.2% of the vote. He was a true master of his craft.
Perry, like McCovey, is mostly known for his days as a Giant. He pitched 10 seasons for San Francisco, going to two All-Star games and winning 134 games. By the time he came to San Diego in 1978, he had won a Cy Young (for the Indians in 1972) and been to four All-Star games. He was also 40 years old. That makes his 1979 season that much more incredible. That year, he won 21 games with a 2.73 ERA and won the Cy Young again.
He pitched that next season in San Diego as well. He won 12 games with a 3.06 ERA before leaving for Texas in 1980. He finished his career with 314 wins and 3,534 strikeouts, which is 8th all-time.
He was inducted as a Giant in 1991.
Piazza is the most recently inducted one on the list. He had a fantastic career with first the Dodgers and then most notably with the New York Mets as their star catcher. No catcher hit more home runs than Piazza.
By the time he arrived in San Diego in 2006, he had made 12 All-Star teams and won 10 Silver Sluggers. He came to Petco Park with a lot of fanfare, even at 37 years old. Despite his age and his tough position, he had a Fountain of Youth kind of season for San Diego. He hit 22 home runs (including his first at-bat in a Padres uniform) with a .283 average. He hit one triple, which I was fortunate enough to witness in person from a seat down the third base line.
He only played one season in San Diego, but he certainly left his mark. He finished his career with 427 home runs and a lifetime .308 average.
Why it took him four tries to get into the Hall of Fame, I do not know, but he was inducted as a Met in 2016.
The Wizard himself was drafted by the Padres in 1977. He made his debut for San Diego in 1978. He played his first four seasons with the Padres, winning Gold Gloves in 1980 and 1981. He was never a home run threat or a career .300 hitter, but he truly was a wizard with the glove at shortstop.
His career really took off when he joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982. He ended up earning not only 13 Gold Gloves, but all 13 were won consecutively from 1980 to 1992. He finished with 2.460 hits to go along with his once-in-a-lifetime glove.
The Hall of Fame called his name in 2002 and he entered donning Cardinals red.
He played his first eight seasons in San Diego. The man was just a physical specimen at 6’6”, 220 pounds. He used that power well at the plate. In 1979 for the Padres, he hit 34 home runs and 27 doubles and drove in 118 runs while batting .308. He finished third in MVP voting that year.
He was selected to four straight All-Star teams while wearing Padres brown. He also won two Gold Gloves in right field. He had five seasons of at least 20 home runs and 75 RBI as well as two seasons batting over .300 during his time in San Diego.
His Yankee years were very similar. 1982 was likely his best season, hitting 37 home runs with 106 RBI, winning pretty much every award but MVP.
He finished with 465 career home runs and 3,110 hits. After 22 years with six teams, he had built an impressive resume. He was inducted in 2001 as a Padre and the only one on this list who is a HOF member representing the city of San Diego.