The Padres Uniforms: A Tired, Yet Necessary Topic.

The Swinging Friar

(This a lengthy and opinionated post. Consider yourself warned.)

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the last month, or just don’t pay attention to baseball during the offseason, then you’re certainly aware that the Padres released new uniforms for the 2017 season. Even if you’re not a Padres fan, you’ve probably come across this information, as the release essentially went viral, due to how underwhelming the jerseys are. And when I say “underwhelming,” that’s a nice way of saying they’re absolutely terrible.

If for some reason you haven’t seen the new home and away uniforms, or need a haunting reminder, here’s the video announcement; which was released on November 22nd. I’m warning you, though, if you think any combination of blue and white the team has worn in the past is bad, just wait until you get a load of these bland monstrosities. In a nutshell, these uniforms blow everything they’ve previously worn out of the water in terms of being forgettable and tasteless.

I don’t get it. There are options available which would satisfy many people and return a unique identity to the team, yet they go with uniforms so boring that they’re basically offensive. It boggles my mind that: A) someone actually designed these and B) someone actually approved them. It just goes to so show that in terms of tradition, branding, and creating a sense of identity, those who call the shots in the Padres organization are tone-deaf and utterly clueless. Going back to brown on a full-time basis, or at least incorporating other colors such as gold or orange, are obvious decisions to make. But hey, leave it to the Padres to screw it up.

Even after a month, criticism has not subsided. Oh and by the way, it’s not just San Diego-related media that’s taking shots at the organization, but social media, blogs, and writers seem to universally hate the uniforms. It’s almost as if the baseball world has united with these opinions, which is weird to me since I’m so used to the Padres going under the radar and without much attention. I’ve even had friends reach out and offer condolences over the uniforms. Each time, the theme seems to be the same, and consists of something along the lines of “Why don’t they go back to brown full-time??” or “Brown is awesome/unique/etc.” or my favorite comment, which is a simple “LOL at the Padres.” Oh, I forgot to mention that these conversations I speak of are usually with NON-Padres fans.

This leads me to the question: How are people, with no rooting interest in the team, aware of the right decision to make in regards to the uniforms, but Ron Fowler, Peter Seidler, Wayne Partello, etc., are completely oblivious to it? This is problematic and representative of many problems the Padres have as a whole.

padres-brubaker-mockup
Brown? Check!  Orange? Check!  Pinstripes? Check!  A beautiful uniform? You know it.

I get it. The Padres have not won a World Series, and while they have gone twice, their winning seasons as a whole are few and far between. I get it. They don’t have a fan-base which is comparable to most Major League teams in terms of size and attention. I get it. There have been major PR disasters in the last few years. I get it. They are in the middle of a rebuild. Really, I can go on (but won’t). What I’m getting at is that the Padres have a number of things that work against them in terms of being a team that is recognizable in a positive, or even neutral light.

Let’s be 100% honest with ourselves here, most people just don’t care about the San Diego Padres. I’d say the general consensus wavers between “Eh, the team sucks, but the weather is nice.” Or, “I liked Tony Gwynn, but don’t know much about the team outside of him.” Oh yeah, you can’t forget about those annual MLB uniform ranking lists, in which friends always seem to tag me in or forward my way. If you’re reading this, then you obviously know that the Padres are always dead last, or near it.

The uniforms have largely been terrible for over 15 years and I honestly don’t think this can be argued. If you don’t agree, then I’d be quick to ask if color-blindness runs in your family? Or maybe it’s not your fault, and you’re just simply unaware of how branding and marketing is detrimentally impacting the team’s legacy. Either way, blue and white has got to go, and something has to be done to make this team stand out in a positive and unique way.

padres-brubaker-mockup
Matt Kemp & Andrew Casher in John Brubaker’s 2015 mockup uniforms.

In the grand scheme of things, I do agree that the on-field product is ultimately what matters the most. Even though it seems insane to me, I’m also aware that some fans honestly just don’t care about uniforms. I know there are other fans who are just entirely burnt out on the topic. I agree that it’s a tired argument, especially when ownership doesn’t listen and shows no signs that they ever will. With all that said, I refuse to hold back my criticism of the team’s uniforms.

I’m very much looking forward to watching the young kids play for the Padres in 2017 (and those coming in the next few years). However, I’m not looking forward to only being able to watch Wednesday throwback games or Friday night home games to visually see a product that can’t be confused with, or looks like, a B-rate version of the Dodgers, Cubs, Blue Jays, Royals, Rangers, Mariners, Brewers, or Rays. I’m sure I’ve missed another team or two, but that in itself is another sign that blue and white has got to go.

2017 is obviously too late for change, and that’s a defeating feeling. I had high hopes that next season was the return to brown on a full-time basis. Still, as fans, we must demand that the team rectifies this uniform issue, more sooner than later. The Padres need a new uniform that sticks out, is true to the history of the franchise, and has a modern twist that will age well. Enter Gaslamp Ball and “Bring Back The Brown 2018.

padres-brubaker-mockupBring Back the Brown in 2018!

I actually finished this post a couple weeks ago and was sitting on it, due to its length and the fact that it largely consists of nothing but me complaining. Writing it was essentially a cathartic release, so I decided to not publish it. However, this changed last week, when Gaslamp Ball’s “Bring Back The Brown 2018” came up in my social media feeds. It reenergized me to know that the Gaslamp Ball crew were being proactive in their approach for new uniforms. In addition, they called for others to do the same. And with that, I decided to bring this post back to life, in order to lend support to “Bring Back The Brown 2018.”

In a nutshell, the campaign’s goal is to push for a return to brown to celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary, and that in itself is brilliant. This is something that Peter Seidler, Wayne Partello, Ron Fowler (and his wife) can’t ignore. The marketing and revenue-generating opportunities that fall in line with an anniversary of a sports franchise are endless and if the team is in rebuild mode, this adds an element of excitement to the ballpark, which may be lacking due to the current on-field talent.

padres-brubaker-mockupIt’s become increasingly evident that the supposed “vocal minority” is not a minority; especially with Ron Fowler not releasing info related to the team’s marketing studies. So now, we as fans, have to assume that the info we have access to, is fact, and use it to kill the vocal minority myth. Social media, articles, and online polls don’t necessarily represent the majority, but it represents something, especially in this digital age.

In the end, the status quo is no longer acceptable and the Padres organization and fans deserve better. In regards to the uniforms, I often think of Tony Gwynn’s quotes in Tom Krasovic’s ESPN article, “Time is right for Padres to bring back brown.”

“Brown is part of who the Padres are, and it’s definitely unique in baseball, because no one else has brown. How many teams have blue? How many have red? But none of ’em have brown.”

“I think a team loses something when it tries to look like someone else or tries to go after some ideal. The Padres, ever since they dropped the brown in ’91, it looks to me like they’re kind of pretending. They should just go all out and be who they are. The Padres should look like the Padres.”

And honestly, I believe that should be the final word on the matter. Sadly it’s not, and that’s why I urge everyone to lend support to Gaslamp Ball and “Bring Back The Brown 2018.

Padres Quotes #1.

One of the more popular segments I do over at 90 Feet of Perfection, is my “Baseball Quotes” posts. I figured, why not do the same thing here on The 5.5 Hole but related to the Padres and San Diego baseball. Enjoy!

Matt Kemp Padres Brown“Anything Tony Gwynn Sr. wore, I wanna wear.”Matt Kemp on the Padres brown uniforms

TIm Flannery Padres
“Not a chance, you go to hell for wearing that uniform!”Tim Flannery, when asked if he’d ever take a job with the Dodgers

Dick Williams Padres
“My first thought was, ‘Some of these guys have better control than my starting pitchers.’ My second thought was, ‘We’re dead.”Dick Williams on rock throwing Tiger fans after the 1984 World Series

Mark Grant Padres
“Just when you think you got this game licked, the baseball gods will creep up on you and bring you to your knees.”Mark Grant

Jack McKeon Padres
“If you don’t pick Tony Gwynn, all of you are fired.”Jack McKeon, on drafting Gwynn

Padres Pics #3.

SNYDER.
Duke Snider San Diego Padres
Duke Snider was an announcer for the Padres from their inaugural season of 1969 until 1971. This photo captures the former Dodgers great in a Padres uniform during the team’s first spring training in Yuma, Arizona. As a huge fan of baseball history, I like this photo a lot…even though I’m aware of how weird and wrong it is. With that said, I’d LOVE to own that jacket.

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GARVEY.
Steve Garvey 1984 All-Star Game

Tony Gwynn, Goose Gossage and Steve Garvey all represented the Padres in the 1984 All-Star Game. Gwynn and Garvey were both starters and had a hit apiece, while Gossage closed the game with a save. This photo from the second inning captures Garvey successfully picking off Chet Lemon of the Tigers.

You can watch the game HERE. Gwynn leads off for the National League and his first at-bat starts at around 17:05, his second at-bat is at 49:55 and unfortunately, I believe his third at-bat (where gets a hit) is cut off. Garvey putting the tag on Lemon is at 37:00 and Goose enters the game at 1:52:23.
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JACK MURPHY STADIUM.
Jack Murphy Stadium 1984 World Series
If I get down on the Padres and their lack of success, I can always look at this photo of Jack Murphy Stadium and be reminded that the team has been to the Fall Classic before. While I obviously miss the team being in the postseason, I feel like this photo makes me miss Jack Murphy just as much. Yeah it kinda turned into a dump, but I loved baseball there.

Remembering Tony Gwynn.

Following Tony Gwynn’s death last year, I posted this on 90 Feet of Perfection. I’ve since launched this blog with a name in honor of him, so it’s only fitting that I share it again, one year after his death. Needless to say, it still hurts and I’m still in shock that my childhood hero is gone.
tony-gwynn-header

Southern Oregon was a long way from San Diego, but my family always maintained our roots; particularly when it came to sports. It was my Dad who officially introduced me to baseball and I still remember the conversation quite well. I must have been in second grade at the time and he explained a little about the game and told me about the San Diego Padres. To be honest, I didn’t think too much of the conversation, but I knew that my parents, grandmother and older brothers all liked baseball, so I wasn’t turned off by the idea. Around the same time, I remember kids starting to play little league and being slightly jealous. Not that they were actually playing, but more so that I could not take part in the conversations about their games. Related to this, a lot of kids I knew went to the local Medford A’s games and in turn were fans of the Oakland A’s. I almost feel like it was the “cool” thing to do. The same went for collecting and trading baseball cards. After a short period of time, I wanted in on all of these things as well and before that year was over, I was consumed by it all.

I come from a family of long-time San Diego Padres fans and that for some members of my family, this goes back to the days of the old Pacific Coast League Padres. Once I personally became interested in the team, this meant getting my hands on every single Padres baseball card possible. I remember being absolutely fascinated with the brown and orange that Padres players donned on my 1987 & 1988 Topps cards. However, what captivated me the most was the guy who wore #19 for the Padres, Tony Gwynn.

gwynn-brown

I have so many fond childhood memories that involve Tony Gwynn on some level or another: I remember the Gwynn-related magazine and newspaper clippings on my bedroom walls. I remember countless conversations with family about him. I remember my Grandma meeting him on different occasions and her telling him about me and even attempting to organize a phone call between us, which, unfortunately, never successfully happened. I remember saving paper route money to buy an autographed photo of him. I remember my Mom getting me his 1983 Fleer rookie card for Christmas one year and just staring at it in amazement. I remember seeing his 2000th career hit in person and being so happy that tears came to my eyes. I remember attempting to negotiate a trade for a Gwynn Donruss card that my brother got in a pack while playing left field during a little league game (he was behind a fence watching and had just opened a pack). I remember writing #19 on bills of my caps. I honestly can go on and on.

In a way, I think it’s safe to say that Tony Gwynn was and is a big part of who I am. I’ve always thought this was odd, since, in many ways, I’ve always disliked the idea of idolizing people. I guess Tony Gwynn is one of the few exceptions I’ve made in regards to this.

tony-gywnn-1994-all-star-game

Like many people, I knew he was sick. I knew the cancer had returned and that he was being treated again. However, this time was different as there was an uneasiness about it all. All you had to do was read between the lines to know that something was very wrong. He was not able to attend the 1984 San Diego Padres celebration back in May and speculation began that this was quite serious. Still, when I got the news the morning Tony passed away, I was in complete shock. At first, I didn’t think it was possible and I felt numb. This quickly changed and I have no problem admitting that I shed tears that day and on different occasions since. This is something I experienced when Jerry Coleman passed away in January, but with Tony, it went much deeper. The Padres, the city of San Diego, the world of baseball and many people I care about all lost someone that meant a lot to them. It shook me to my core.

I never met the guy, but he was my hero due to what he accomplished on the field and the person he was off the field. How I felt about the guy never changed. Even during the time in my life when interest in baseball often took a backseat to things like music and skateboarding, I always managed to check box scores and read articles to stay updated on how he was playing. There’s a reason I kept everything from my childhood Tony Gwynn collection and have continued to add to it in adulthood. Simple enough, the guy was special and had an impact on me.

San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs

My grandmother passed away this last November and my whole life, up until she got sick, I would call her and talk about baseball. Specifically the Padres, and for many years this meant Tony Gwynn. She would have been heartbroken if she knew that Tony had passed at such an early age. She absolutely adored the man. I spent a lot of my childhood talking to my own late mother about this him as well. She also thought he was great, although her favorite all-time Padre was Goose Gossage. Since Tony passed away, I’ve had multiple conversations with my Dad about him. What I’m getting at is that Tony Gwynn was special and impacted so many people in a positive way and in my case, he impacted 3 generations of my family. I have a hard time believing that this is unique to just my family.

Sportswriter Barry Bloom recently said that “Tony Gwynn may be the single most important sports figure in history to a single community.” To some, this may be a bold statement, but not me, I believe in it wholeheartedly. Like many people, I’m still having a hard time grasping the fact that this person, who was a big part of my childhood and represents so much about the game I love, has passed away.

With that said, it brings me joy knowing that there was a Tony Gwynn in this world and while growing up, I had such a great guy to look up to.

Mr. Padre may be gone, but I think it’s safe to say that he will never be forgotten.

tony-gwynn-brown-yellow

Bridging the Gap: The PCL Padres & MLB Padres (Part 1).

1936 & 1969 Padres(the 1936 inaugural PCL Padres & 1969 inaugural MLB Padres)

It’s no secret that I love baseball history. I’m serious, I LOVE it. Along with the Negro Leagues, the history of the old Pacific Coast League is my favorite era in the history of the game. I’m from the West Coast, so my interests are definitely shaped by where I’m from and for many people out here, the “old” or “classic” PCL (1903 to 1957) was the closest thing they had to big league baseball until MLB’s westward expansion in 1958.

I come from the frame of mind that I wish Major League Baseball never expanded to the West Coast. I’m aware that this sounds odd, but I wish the PCL succeeded in their goal of becoming the “third major league.” For a period of time this looked like a possibility as the league was granted open classification in 1952. However, by 1957 this became a pipedream when both the Dodgers and Giants committed to relocating out West the following season. The PCL would never recover and it soon became just another MLB affiliated minor league. Good or bad, this is what the league still functions as to this day.

In different aspects, the Padres had one of the more interesting histories in the PCL. This is something that I touch upon in my PCL Padres Instagram Account. After losing their bid for an MLB expansion team in 1961 to the Angels, San Diego was later successful in doing so 1969. After expansion was granted to San Diego, an almost seamless transition from having an affiliated minor league team for over a decade, to now having a Major League baseball team quickly took place. With the same name, same owner in C. Arnholt Smith and even the same home in Jack Murphy Stadium (then known as San Diego Stadium), the city of San Diego essentially experienced a “graduation” in regards to their baseball team. As they say, the rest is history.

With all this said, I recently found myself wondering if anyone had played for both the PCL Padres and MLB Padres? If anyone had, I knew it would more than likely be someone who played for the PCL Padres after the classic PCL era. Anyone playing professional baseball prior to this would probably be a bit too old to join an MLB expansion team over a decade later. After doing some research, it seemed as if I was correct in this assumption, but what did catch me off guard is that the list is kind of long. In any case, I thought it would be fun to make a list of these players and do a write up on each of them and their ties to San Diego.

So without further ado, here are the players that wore “Padres” across their chests for both the Pacific Coast League and the Major Leagues.

Roberto Peña
Roberto Pena 1969 Padres
Peña was an infielder who played for the PCL Padres in 1967 & 1968, during the team’s time as the AAA affiliate of the Phillies. He was then drafted in the 1968 expansion draft by the MLB Padres, where he played the 1969 season with the team. Playing three consecutive seasons in San Diego, which consisted of both PCL and MLB is kinda cool if you ask me. I recently came across THIS article regarding Peña, which is worth reading.

Steve Arlin
Steve Arlin San Diego Padres
Like Peña above, Arlin also spent back to back seasons in San Diego, as both a PCL and MLB Padre. He was a pitcher for the PCL team as a Philadelphia farmhand in 1968 and was later drafted in that year’s expansion draft by the MLB Padres. He played with the MLB Padres for parts of the next six seasons. Unfortunately, during his time in the big leagues with San Diego, Arlin is best known for leading the league in losses in back to back seasons (despite pitching pretty well) and losing a no-hitter in 1972 against the Phillies with two out in the ninth inning.

Jerry Johnson
Jerry Johnson San Diego Padres
Jerry Johnson was a pitcher for the PCL Padres in 1968, during their time as the AAA affiliate of the Phillies. He eventually signed with the MLB Padres in 1975, where he played the next two seasons. Johnson’s claim to baseball fame is related to nothing he actually did on the field, but a trade he was part of. In 1969, he was traded from the Phillies to the Cardinals in a seven player trade. Why is this significant? It was the famous Curt Flood trade, in which he challenged the reserve clause and eventually changed the game of baseball forever.

Lowell Palmer
Lowell Palmer San Diego Padres
Palmer was a pitcher for the PCL Padres in 1968, during their time as the AAA affiliate of the Phillies. He later played for the MLB Padres in 1974, where he wrapped up his big league career, which lasted parts of five seasons with four teams. Not too much else to say about the guy besides the fact that he always wore glasses when he played. Sometimes it looked cool, other times it looked creepy. Google image search him, you’ll see what I mean.

Rick Wise
Rick Wise San Diego Padres
Wise may be the most recognizable name on this list due to the fact that he pitched for eighteen years in the big leagues and was an all-star in both 1971 and 1973 and even pitched a no-hitter for the Phillies in 1971. He played for the PCL Padres in 1966 during their time as the Phillies AAA affiliate and played for the MLB Padres for three seasons (1980-1982), before hanging up his spikes for good.

Gary Sutherland
Gary Sutherland San Diego Padres
Sutherland was an infielder for the PCL Padres in 1966 during their time as the AAA affiliate of the Phillies and played for the MLB Padres in 1977, for one of his thirteen seasons he spent in the big leagues. Both Sutherland’s father and brother also played professional baseball

Billy McCool
Billy McCool San Diego Padres
McCool played for the PCL Padres in 1963, during the team’s time as the AAA affiliate of the Reds. He later found himself back in San Diego after being drafted in the 1968 expansion draft by the MLB Padres. He was an all-star in 1966 with the Reds and has one of the “coolest” last names in baseball history (obviously).

So that’s everyone. It’s possible I could have missed someone, and if it comes to light that I did, I’ll update this post for reference reasons. In addition, there will part a part two to this post for coaches and managers as well, so look for that in the near future.