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.
On different levels, the Padres had one of the more interesting histories in the PCL. After losing their bid for an MLB expansion team in 1961 to the Angels, San Diego was later successful in 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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, I’ve written a part two for coaches and managers, which I suggest giving a read if you enjoyed this post.