Caminiti won three straight gold gloves from 1995-1997 and was a force at third base making highlight reel catches and throws on a weekly basis. He was one of the most intense competitors on the field and a great teammate in the locker room.
In 1996 there is a story that then Padres pitcher Tim Worrell had been criticizing Bruce Bochy in the media. Worrell showed up at the park one day and couldn’t find his uniform. He looked everywhere and finally found it in manager Bruce Bochy‘s office. We he went to retrieve it, Caminiti was blocking the doorway and told him “you wanna manage the team, then you get dressed in here”. That was the type of player he was. No nonsense and straight to the point. Teammates respected that about Caminiti. He knew how to lead.
The legend of Ken Caminiti hit its pinnacle when the slugger was sprawled out sick from dehydration in 1996 as the Padres were scheduled to take on the New York Mets in Monterrey Mexico. Caminiti was not initially in the lineup but constantly badgered manager Bruce Bochy until he was inserted right before the first pitch. Caminiti took the field but was very weak. After the top of the first inning, Caminiti consumed two Snickers bars and hit a home run in his first at bat. He followed up that home run with another dinger in his second at bat of the game. After striking out and the Padres leading 5-0, Caminiti was pulled from the game and received immediate treatment.
The 1997 season was another solid season for the slugger as he made his third all-star game in four seasons and won his last gold glove award. Caminiti’s body was beginning to break down and he was having more and more issues getting on the field on a nightly basis.
He ended the season hitting .290 with 26 home runs and 94 RBI but for the first time in his career he struck out over 100 times. He came into the 1998 season with an expectation that the Padres would extend his contract. The team left subtle messages that they had no intention of doing so and Caminiti was generally hurt by this treatment. He was quoted as saying the team was about to send him out to pasture.
With the arrival of Kevin Brown the quiet San Diego Padres baseball team had an ace and a competitor equal to Caminiti. The team excelled and made it all the way to the World Series. The team would lose to the New York Yankees in four games, but the run was magical to Padres fans. The tear down of the team and four of its major stars was not magical.
Kevin Brown, Ken Caminiti and Steve Finley were all allowed to leave via free agency and Greg Vaughn was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds. Caminiti hit .252 on the season with 29 homers and 82 RBI in 131 games. The pressures of the contract year and an injured knee kept him from being his very best. The Padres decided to cut ties with the 35-year-old third baseman despite all the fans wishes to extend the slugger. He would retire with a .295/.384/.540 batting line for the Padres in four seasons and more than 2,000 at bats. He slugged 121 home runs for the Padres and drove in 396 runs. He still holds the club record for career slugging percentage (.540) and OPS (.924).
Ken Caminiti decided to go back to Houston after the Padres let him go. He wanted to be close to his family and his three daughters. Caminiti ended up signing a two year-$9.5 million dollar contract with the Astros. The Detroit Tigers offered him $12 million dollars more but Caminiti chose to stay close to his roots. He has two productive but injury riddled seasons in Houston. He only manged to play in 78 and 59 games for the Astros in 1999 and 2000. He did hit .295 with 28 home runs and 101 RBI in 481 at bats in those two seasons combined. He just had real trouble staying on the field.
After the 2000 season he signed a one year deal to play for the Texas Rangers. He was released by the team on July 2nd after only hitting .232 with nine home runs in 54 games. The Atlanta Braves quickly signed Cammy and he ended his major league career with them. He played in 64 games for the Braves hitting .222 with six home runs and 16 RBI. His 15 year major league career was now over at the age of 38. He totaled more than 1,700 hits and 239 home runs. Three gold gloves, three all-star appearances and one MVP award. During his entire Padres career, he was something very special to watch. Now he is a member of the Padres Hall-Of-Fame. The man was a gamer in every sense of the word and we all should feel honored he played for our franchise. Remember #21 and all he was as this new regime and new philosophy take hold over this franchise. Thank you Cammy, we love you and we miss you.