Like many people, one of my first real introductions to the game of baseball was via baseball cards. When I was a kid, around 2nd and 3rd grade, it was almost an epidemic. It seems as if EVERY little boy in my school and neighborhood seemed to catch baseball card fever; even those who didn’t seem to like or play the game. It was just the “cool” thing to do. I stopped collecting cards around the end of junior high (approx. 1994), but I still have my collection all packed away safely in boxes.
When thinking of an idea for a new post, it crossed my mind to do a list of my favorite Padres cards from my childhood and share thoughts and memories related to them. Yes, it’s kinda nerdy, but this whole blog is essentially about the nostalgic (and often nerdy) side of Padres baseball, so I’m ok with that. With that said, I look forward to receiving feedback and seeing everyone else’s favorite Padres cards. I’m certain that some of you will bring some to my attention that I forgot about over the years.
Steve Garvey 1987 Topps.
I’ve never been quite sure why I’ve always loved this card. Maybe because ’87 Topps is my favorite card set of all-time? Maybe it’s Steve Garvey looking super suave in his Padres brown? Maybe it’s the unconventional pose? Either way, it was one of the earliest cards I remember seeing and it always stuck with me. I still think it’s pretty sweet.
Somewhat related, even though I was pretty young, I remember knowing that there was something “weird” about Garvey that lead me to believe I shouldn’t be a big fan of his? Maybe I saw something on the news about his affairs or saw a “Steve Garvey Is Not My Padre” bumper sticker or something? Maybe a family member said something? It could have been simply the fact that he was known as a Dodger and not a Padre? Either way, at an early age, I took his time as a Padre with a grain of salt. Over the years, I’ve found this to be silly and really appreciate his time in San Diego. Hell, I even used him in my logo for this blog! Still, I’d love to get a “Steve Garvey Is Not My Padre” shirt one day.
Tony Gwynn & Benito Santiago Padres Leaders 1988 Topps.
When I first discovered baseball, Tony Gwynn and Benito Santiago were essentially gods to me. They were the faces of the organization and I thought there was no one cooler than those two guys. When I came across this Padres team leader card in a 1988 pack of Topps, my head about exploded. Gwynn AND Santiago on the same card? Still, when I look at it, I get stoked. Part of that surely has to do with how amazing their uniforms are, though.
Sandy Alomar Jr. 1989 Fleer.
Before becoming solidified big leaguers, I remember my dad telling me, to keep an eye on Roberto and Sandy Alomar. From that moment on, I was an Alomar super-fan and when the brothers broke into the big leagues and I started getting my hands on their cards, I was incredibly excited. There was something about this 1989 Fleer card that I just loved. Besides the fact that it was his rookie card, I loved that he’s (obviously) wearing the brown that I adored, has a smile on his face, and is in the squat for the photographer. If you ask me, this is baseball card perfection.
Joey Cora 1990 Donruss.
I thought Joey Cora was going to be a long-time Padre, but it was not meant to be. This assumption was based on nothing, whatsoever, besides the fact that I had a ton of his cards while he was in the organization and I took a liking to him. Plus his name was Joey, and that’s pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, he ended up only playing parts of three seasons in San Diego, but he did go on to have a solid career in the big leagues with other teams, including an All-Star season with the Mariners in 1997. Still, I’ll always think of him as a Padre.
I think anyone who grew up with baseball cards in this era would agree that 1990 Donruss was a terrible set. They were sold EVERYWHERE, aesthetically they were underwhelming, and I feel like the packs of cards often came warped inside the pack. Still, I loved this card. Besides the fact that Cora looks like a little leaguer on the front, the BACK mentioned that he was STABBED during the 1986 season and missed 8 weeks. As a kid, this absolutely blew my mind. I even remember talking to my mom about it and asking how he survived? In my head, being stabbed meant certain death and Cora was a total badass for surviving this. You can read about the incident HERE, thanks to the biggest Joey Cora fan on earth, Joe Lanek from Gaslamp Ball.
Tony Gwynn 1986 Topps.
1986 was over a year before I fell in love with baseball and started collecting cards, but this Tony Gwynn card was one of my favorites. This is due to the fact that it was one of the first cards I remember retroactively acquiring. 1986 seemed like an incredibly long time before my baseball emergence came to be, so this card seemed very “vintage” to me at the time. Plus it featured my favorite player, on my favorite team, so naturally, I fell in love with it.
Larry Bowa 1988 Topps.
This may seem like an odd choice for a favorite card, but for some reason, I was fascinated with it. I have no explanation for this, but I do remember thinking that the card was quite vibrant looking and that Larry Bowa looked young for a manager. The only manager I was probably familiar with at that point was Sparky Anderson, who seemed to be as old as time. I remember being bummed when I heard that Bowa was fired early in the 1988 season. I couldn’t understand why anyone would do such a thing. He seemed so cool to me.
Bruce Bochy 1988 Topps.
Much like the Larry Bowa card above, I also thought this card was very colorful and vibrant. In addition to this, I thought Bruce Bochy looked exactly what a baseball player is supposed to look like: grizzled, determined and wearing a cool uniform. I remember reading the back of this card and seeing that he was born in France and that fascinating me, due to my interest in geography at a young age. Plus it just seemed unreal that someone born in France would wind up in the big leagues.
It’s kind of odd, Bochy has already been in San Francisco for a decade, but I still think of him as a Padre, much like I do with Tim Flannery. Maybe I should get over that one day…
Ted Williams 1992 Upper Deck.
Anyone that knows me or reads my blogs, knows that I’m a sucker for the old Pacific Coast League. Something about the classic PCL just gets my nerdy baseball juices flowing. As I’ve mentioned here and on 90 Feet of Perfection, I remember my parents and grandmother telling me about going to Padres games back when they were a minor league team. I didn’t quite understand what they meant until I was a bit older, but the stories seemed cool to me and when Upper Deck released this Ted Williams card in 1992, I remember just looking at it in confusion and excitement.
I obviously knew who Ted Willams was at this point, but I had no idea that he played for the minor league Padres. When I came across this card, I remember squinting at the photo to make sure my eyes were not deceiving me. I thought there was NO way that Upper Deck would feature a Padres image from an era that I only heard about through family members. And Ted Williams playing for them was just too much for my young brain to comprehend.
Tony Gwynn 1992 Topps Stadium Club.
A close up of my baseball hero wearing the Oakley sunglasses that he helped popularize? Of course, I was going to love this card! For some reason, this card just really made me want to play baseball. The reflection in his sunglasses was interesting to me and it made me wanna be out taking BP.
I remember reading articles in Spring Training one year about Gwynn switching from traditional flip-down sunglasses to modern Oakley sunglasses. For some reason, it was a big deal and I was filled with a bit of pride that “my guy” was the first to do it. I could be wrong, but I believe that some old school baseball people were nit too stoked on them? Either way, this card is still awesome.
Padres Four Corners 1993 Upper Deck.
What can I say about this card that any other Padres fan from my generation didn’t already think? It was awesome and sparked optimism for a kid who only knew of the Padres as a being a losing organization. For a moment in time, it seemed like San Diego was stacking studs and it seemed as if a golden age of Padres baseball was on the horizon. Well, Tom Werner quickly shot that down, with an infamous fire sale that drained the organization of much of its talent. It’s still a bit saddening, but at least we will always have this awesome card featuring Gary Sheffield, Phil Plantier, Tony Gwynn, and Fred McGriff. Oh yeah, while they were not brown, those orange and blue uniforms look pretty damn sweet.
AND MY NUMBER ONE ALL-TIME FAVORITE CARD:
Tony Gwynn 1983 Fleer.
Like many people reading this, I pretty much worshiped Tony Gwynn as a kid. I had to get my hands on anything and everything that had Gwynn’s likeness on it, and this obviously meant his baseball cards. Up until 5th grade, the one Gwynn-related item that escaped me was one of his rookie cards. To me, it was the holy grail and the idea of owning one seemed like a far-fetched dream. I didn’t have the patience to save my allowance and spend it all on one item, so I usually spent my money on various, less expensive baseball card and comic book purchases.
Well, when Christmas of my 5th-grade year rolled around, my mom asked me what I wanted and my number one item was a Tony Gwynn rookie card. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s ALL I wanted. I didn’t get my hopes up, though, because my mom played me good and let it be known that it would be hard to get, or too expensive, or some other excuse that escapes me at the moment. Either way, I believed her, and by the time Christmas came around, I gave up hope that I’d get the card. Well, what do you know? My mom came through and surprised me with the card! I was so happy that I got teary eyed as I held my 1983 Fleer Tony Gwynn rookie card.
This is easily one of the most memorable moments from my childhood. I can’t explain the card’s sentimental value, but to be honest, it doesn’t have a lot to do with baseball or Tony Gwynn, due to my mother passing away when I was in 12th grade. To this day, it reminds me of her and for that reason, this is my all-time favorite baseball card.