On Thursday, the San Diego Padres lost a legend.
Most young fans probably aren’t aware of Nate Colbert and what he meant to the franchise during its early years.
Colbert was the team’s first legitimate star. The first young, recognizable player in an organization that was in its infancy.
In 1999, the Padres named their first Hall-Of-Fame class, and Colbert was enshrined with Randy Jones and Ray Kroc. There are currently 17 men considered San Diego Padres Hall-Of-Famers, so the honor is a rarity.
The former first baseman still holds the home run record for the Padres franchise. His 163 homers gathered in six years have not been toppled for nearly 40 years. Colbert’s tenure with the club ended in 1974, and it is astonishing that the Padres have not had a player record more major league homers in a San Diego uniform.
Before the 1964 season, Colbert was signed by the Cardinals and placed in the minor leagues. The 18-year-old native of St. Louis was living the dream of playing for his hometown team, but that did not last long as the Houston Astros selected Colbert in the Rule-5 Draft before the 1966 season.
He spent a few seasons in the minors for the Astros before being selected with the 18th pick of the expansion draft in 1969.
Colbert played the 1968 season in the PCL and slugged 14 homers for the Oklahoma City 89ers. That was enough for the Padres to make the selection for Colbert, and the rest is history.
The power-hitting right-handed hitter recorded 38 homers and 111 RBIs in the 1972 season for the Padres, finishing 8th in N.L. MVP voting. He accomplished all this with an 18-foot wall surrounding San Diego Stadium. In a newer-era ballpark, he could have amassed 50 homers or more. His offensive numbers for that time were very impressive.
The Padres are deeply saddened by the passing of Padres Hall of Famer Nate Colbert. pic.twitter.com/MSjyS6gofz
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) January 6, 2023
His most recognizable moment came in August of 1972 against the Braves when Colbert went 7-for-9 with five homers and 13 RBIs in a doubleheader against the Braves.
The interesting thing about this fact is that 18 years earlier, a seven-year-old Nate Colbert was in attendance when Stan Musial slammed five homers in a game against the New York Giants. To witness this accomplishment firsthand, only to do it later in life, is quite remarkable.
Take a look at this tribute video that is presented to you by Tony Gwynn. You get an idea of how special Colbert was as a player.
The @Padres home run record holder Nate Colbert was the subject of this feature on #PadresPOV 📽️ Hear what the former slugger had to say about today’s San Diego super stars ⭐️#HungryForMore pic.twitter.com/LOVQJo0sAb
— Bally Sports San Diego (@BallySportsSD) August 31, 2021
The Padres have sadly neglected their history. Nate Colbert was not a fixture around Petco Park since it opened in 2004, though he did throw out the first pitch in August of 2021 before a game.
In the future, we can only hope that men like this are given the respect they deserve from the franchise. The Padres’ past may not be as decorated as most teams, but there is no reason not to celebrate the players that laid the groundwork for the teams you root for today.
Nate Colbert will be greatly missed.
Rest in peace, big fella. Please know, Padres fans loved you.
James was born and raised in America’s Finest City. He is a passionate baseball fan with even more passion towards his hometown Padres. Editor-In-Chief of EastVillageTimes.com. Always striving to bring you the highest quality in San Diego Sports News. Original content, with original ideas, that’s our motto. Enjoy.