Padres should retire Caminiti’s #21 before it’s too late

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With a growing effort to retire Roberto Clemente’s number 21 throughout Major League Baseball, the San Diego Padres have an opportunity to retire Ken Caminiti’s jersey number before it is too late. 

Throughout the history of the San Diego Padres, few players were more celebrated than Ken Caminiti.

In just four years with the Friars, the third baseman endeared himself to the fans and energized a whole city. Ken Caminiti had charisma. He was the type of guy that every girl wanted to know, and every man wanted to be. You are born with that type of magnetism, it cannot be cultivated.

It goes far beyond his personality though, as the third baseman played the game with a passion equaled by few men. By leaving it all on the field, his teammates respected Caminiti. The switch-hitter was the type of player you wanted to go to war with daily. You knew he had your back.

His piercing glare spoke volumes. With one look, Caminiti communicated verses. If you were a member of his team and did something that was deemed counter-productive, Caminiti had no qualms about letting you know. Leaders communicate like that, and the third baseman was undoubtedly a leader.

Currently, there are several retired numbers on the Padres. Another player will never wear the numbers 19, 31, 35, 42, and 51 while suiting up for the Friars. Steve Garvey, Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, Randy Jones, and Trevor Hoffman did plenty for the franchise and their number retired is a symbol of the efforts they made for the organization. The Padres have little to celebrate in the over 50 years of existence of the franchise, but there are several great moments, and these men are very much a part of that.

At this time, there is a growing movement to retire Roberto Clemente’s number 21 throughout all of Major League Baseball. The Puerto Rican sensation is viewed as one of the best players of all time. His career and life were cut short in a tragic airplane accident in 1972. Clemente is still an idol to many Latino players and is considered the best Latin player in the history of baseball.

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You get a sense that like Jackie Robinson and his number 42, Clemente’s number 21 will soon be retired. If that happens, no other player on any team will be allowed to wear the number 21 unless it is a special event recognizing Clemente and his commitment to the game. It is a great honor and one that is very deserving.

Clemente’s number should eventually be retired, and the Padres have an opportunity to recognize their only MVP and a player loved by the fan base. With apologies to Heath Bell (who also wore 21 and had an excellent career with the Padres), the team can retire Caminiti’s number 21 and glorify him with the rest of the San Diego Padres greats. It would be a way to recognize his efforts and also do it before the number is deemed untouchable by MLB.

Sadly, Caminiti’s playing career ended on a sour note as he came out about his steroid use. That was a shocking moment, but the player was honest, and you must respect that fact. The tragic circumstances surrounding his death are also controversial as drugs were involved. The Padres have historically stayed away from controversies when it comes to recognizing players of the past. The sad reality is this mantra will likely continue when it comes to recognizing Caminiti.

Eric Show, the team’s all-time wins leader, is never really mentioned by the Padres franchise. His tragic death and the fact drugs were related seem to motivate the organization to ignore his accomplishments in the game. Show was a great pitcher who enjoyed a successful career with the Padres. His personal life and the unfortunate circumstances surrounding his death should not weigh in recognizing him as a player, but for the Padres, they do.

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Nate Colbert currently leads the franchise in all-time home runs. Yet, his name is hardly ever heard at Petco Park. There are small areas of recognition for the slugger in the stadium, and Colbert threw out the first pitch during a game in the 2021 season. But how about a day recognizing him before he is gone? He is nothing but a footnote in the history of the franchise. Colbert had legal trouble after his playing career was over, and that seems to be heavy motivation for the Padres to ignore him over the years mostly. His 163 home runs will be passed one day (probably very soon by Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr.), and with that, his accomplishment will be nothing but a memory. Now is the time to celebrate his existence and what he did early on for this franchise. We can only hope that happens.

Most young Padres fans have no idea who Colbert or Show, the team’s all-time home run leader, are. Both have held the record for decades. But yet, there has been no celebration of the feats. No recognition for the history of this organization. Who is at fault for that? The Padres need to wake up and celebrate their history. Educate the young fans. Embrace the alumni and give thanks for what they helped create in San Diego.

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Ken Caminiti was a great played, even though, yes, he cheated. That is certainly controversial. Recognizing a “cheater” would be looked down upon by some. As we mature as a society, though, we are starting to learn more and more about drug use. As a civilization, we are educating ourselves that this drug problem is a disease and a lot of it comes down to psychiatric issues that we all battle daily. Judging one for their actions is not advisable at this point in our world.

When it all comes down to it, retiring a player’s number is about their actions on the field and what they contributed to the franchise. It should not be about personal life and daily demons that a player may or may not battle.

Though controversial, Caminiti certainly gave all he had for his organization. It may be time to recognize him for that. Time is running out.

8 thoughts on “Padres should retire Caminiti’s #21 before it’s too late

  1. Gwynn and Winfield, yes. Coleman, okay whatever. Hoffman, okay although his performance in big games was dreadful. Anyone else, no.
    Let the team win something before we go retiring numbers.

  2. I disagree. Then again, I believe that retired numbers need a combination of excellence and longevity. IMO, Gwynn, Hoffman and Winfield (maybe Jones with 8 seasons, 2 of which were extraordinary) are the only Padres that qualify.

    Garvey does not belong up there, but if he is a barometer both Caminiti, who was excellent throughout his 4 season, (3 GG, 2 AS & an MVP) and Colbert (3 AS in 6 seasons) deserve consideration. None of the three qualify, IMO.

    Eric Show had a solid career for an organization that has underachieved. Including him in this conversation actually takes away from your case. Speaking of which, retiring a number for reasons (*team leader in a category, league wide ruling, etc.) other than the players accomplishments as a Padre takes away from the honor. *Colbert hit 173 HRs…which ranks #432 all time…and equates to each of the other 29 teams having almost 15 players who have hit more. Should he get credit because the Padres are an outlier?

    All that said, I don’t think numbers should ever be “retired”. Sure, place the number & name prominently in the stadium somewhere, but allow the number to continue to be worn…with one caveat. The number has to be different in color, size and/or font with an accompaning arm patch. That way, fans will see the variance and be forced to remember/honor our MLB greats daily…

  3. He was only a Padre for 4 years. No way that deserves retirement for a number. For me it’s not the steroids it’s the fact that you want to honor 4 years in such a grand way.

  4. this is a terrible take, and having his number retired in the same vein as roberto clemente would be a complete joke. Caminitti was good 4yrs solely through the fact that he was juicing, He had no real overall positove legacy as a Padre the way that players who have had their numbers retired.

    Jerry Colemans # was retired because he had the same number as Jackie Robinson and was completely Fine with letting his Number go because Jerry Coleman was a freaking LEGEND. There will never be a cam statue at petco, or any real.celebration of the man, because he really doesn’t warrant it.

    1. Appreciate the comments. There is no connection between Clemente and Caminiti other than they both wore #21. My point was that it may be a nice sentiment for the franchise before the number is retired by all of baseball. Completely understand your take and respect your opinion. Caminiti was a controversial figure.

  5. I could not agree more James! Caminiti’s number has belonged among the other retired numbers for quite some time. He is one of the reasons that all Padre fans can enjoy watching the Padres in such a great ballpark as his heroics I’m sure swayed many a voter.

    Caminiti is one of the top 5 Padres ever in my opinion and deserves to be up with the other greats! Padres brass, please read this post and do the right thing. Everyone has demons, but as James said, at least Ken was man enough to talk about his.

    RIP #21

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