In part two of “Bridging the Gap: The PCL Padres & MLB Padres,” I share those who have a connection to both the PCL and MLB Padres via managing or coaching. This list is solely based on my personal research, so it’s quite possible I could be overlooking someone. Much like part one of this project, I’ll update this post for reference reasons if it turns out this is the case.
Whitey Wietelmann is a name that I hope most Padres fans are somewhat familiar with. In some ways, Wietelmann was “Mr. Padre” prior to Tony Gwynn due his years spent with the team in different capacities and his love for Padres baseball. Wietelmann played parts of nine seasons in the big leagues with both the Boston Braves/Bees and Pirates and after his big league career ended, he found himself in the Pacific Coast League. After one season with the Sacramento Solons, he found himself in San Diego with the PCL Padres in 1949, where he played until 1952. Wietelmann fell in love with the city San Diego and decided to move there. He never left.
After his playing days ended, Wietelmann was hired as a coach for the PCL team from 1957 to 1958, then from 1960 to 1965, and again in 1968. After MLB granted San Diego an expansion team in 1969, Wietelmann joined the big league staff as the bullpen coach, where he stayed for an entire decade. Even after 1979, Wietelmann still stayed active in the Padres organization through the early 1990s as an advisor, handyman/assistant equipment manager, and even a clubhouse cook. For this, he was dubbed “Mr. Indispensable,” and was a beloved member of the San Diego Padres.
Three fun facts about Whitey:
1) He threw out the ceremonial first pitch of Game 4 of the 1984 NLCS against the Cubs. As you all know, this was the Garvey homerun game.
2) Wietelmann kept a scrapbook collection of every single MLB Padres box score, from their inaugural season of 1969 until 1993. The collection of scrapbooks is now taken care of by the San Diego SABR Baseball Research Center and continues to be updated to this day.
3) Curious as to who Tony Gwynn got his famous #19 from? Search no farther than Whitey Wietelmann. Whitey wore #19 as a coach for both a PCL Padres and MLB Padres. After his days as a uniformed staff member ended, long time Padres equipment Manager Ray Peralta got “permission” from Whitey to assign the number to Gwynn. In fact, before Gwynn’s first major league game in 1982 against the Phillies, it was Whitey who physically brought him his new jersey. According to Tony, Whitey informed him that only a few players had worn #19, so don’t disgrace it. Gwynn said he was just happy that it was lower than #53, his spring training number. Ten years later Tony asked Whitey how was he doing and he responded by saying “Yeah, kid, you’re doing all right.”
I assume most people who read this are familiar with Larry Bowa. He’s still quite involved with baseball and is currently the bench coach for the Phillies. For me though, I’ll always think of him as a Padre due to the fact that he was the Manager of the team when I first became interested in baseball in 1987/1988. In fact, I loved THIS card as a kid and still think of the Padres teams from that era quite fondly. Besides managing the MLB team, Bowa spent a quick minute in San Diego in 1966 as a player, during the team’s time as the AAA affiliate of the Phillies.
A cool sidenote: Although I’ve never read it, his book “Bleep: Larry Bowa Manages,” which he wrote with Barry Bloom, features the manager in his Padres uniform.
George William “Deacon” Jones played for the PCL Padres in 1960, during the team’s short time as the AAA affiliate of the White Sox. Although he only played in the big leagues for small parts of three seasons, he spent parts of 11 seasons in the minor leagues, where he was a notable power hitting prospect in the White Sox system, until a shoulder injury derailed his career. Jones came back to San Diego as the hitting coach for the MLB team from 1984 to 1987, serving under Managers Dick Williams, Steve Boros and the above mentioned Larry Bowa.
At the age of 81, Jones is still involved in baseball, working in the Sugar Land Skeeters organization, a team in the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.
Sisler was an outfielder and first basemen for the Padres from 1954 to 1956, during the classic era of the Pacific Coast League. Even though it was near the end of his playing career (he hung up spikes after the 1958 season), his three seasons for the Friars were solid. In fact, he was a pretty solid player in general and was even an All-Star with the Phillies in 1950. Sisler eventually came back to sunny San Diego as a hitting/first base coach for MLB Padres during the 1975 and 1976 seasons, under manager John McNamara. However McNamara is is best known as the manager who essentially blew the 1986 World Series for the Red Sox.
Despite having an impressive career as a player where he was an All-Star, Bob Skinner never actually played for the Padres at any point. However, he did manage the PCL team for two seasons (1967-1968), during their time as the AAA affiliate of the Phillies. He was later hired as the hitting coach/third base coach for the MLB Padres, where he stayed from 1970 to 1973, and joined the team again for the 1977 season.
Skinner actually has one win under his belt as a manager for the Padres, where I assume he filled in on an interim basis or during a suspension.
Jim Snyder served as the bench coach for the MLB Padres from 1991 to 1992, serving under both Greg Riddoch and Jim Riggleman. But long before Snyder came to San Diego to coach the MLB team, he played for the PCL team in 1960, during their time as an affiliate of the White Sox. Unfortunately, that’s really all I have on him worth mentioning.