The Padres have a relatively short history as a National League expansion team in 1968 and because of that, they don’t have too many memorable players. Given that, since they did have obvious iconic players, their short history makes it fairly easy to make this list. The Padres have yet to get over the hump of winning their first World Series and the only two times they made the Series, they lost in five games to the Tigers in 1984 and got swept by the Yankees in 1998. Nevertheless, the players below certainly made their mark on San Diego and the league. Let’s get into it.
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Tony Gwynn (1982-2001)
Gwynn played all 20 of his major league seasons with the Padres, which got him the nickname “Mr. Padre”, and he is easily the greatest Padre of all-time. He was Mr. Consistent in hitting for contact, along with Mr. Padre, as he only hit under .300 once, in his rookie season in which he hit a mere .289. He is the only player in baseball history to hit over .300 in 19 straight seasons. Gwynn had a career batting average of .338 and he won a record-tying eight batting titles and seven silver slugger awards. He hit for a career-high .394 average in the strike-shortened 1994 season and hit .368 or better in three other seasons (1987, 1995, 1997).
Gwynn finished his career with 3,141 career hits and he had over 200 hits in five of his twenty seasons. His hit total is now 19th on the all-time hit list. Probably the most impressive stat of all is that he struck out just 434 times in 9,288 career at-bats, which is an average of one strikeout every 5.6 games. He was selected to 15 All-Star Games, won five gold gloves in right field, and is the only player to play in both Padres World Series appearances. Gwynn holds several of the Padres’ single-season and career offensive records. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 on his first year on the ballot with 97.6% of the vote. He sadly passed away in 2014 after a long battle with cancer at the age of 54.
Trevor Hoffman (1993-2008)
Hoffman is the second greatest closer of all-time behind that certain closer from New York, Mariano Rivera, and he rarely got the chance to pitch at any level let alone write his name in Padres and MLB record books. When he was just six weeks old, Hoffman had a damaged kidney removed and the doctors told his parents he would never be able to play contact sports. That didn’t stop him as he followed his older brother into baseball and that wasn’t the only roadblock he faced. He started as a shortstop and hit .371 his junior season at the University of Arizona, but after getting drafted by the Reds in the 11th round of the 1989 MLB Draft, he struggled at the plate and in the field for Cincinnati’s Class A Affiliate.
That was when he made the switch to pitching, and then in 1993, he was traded in a blockbuster trade from the Florida Marlins to the Padres. Hoffman, along with two other prospects, was sent over to them in exchange for the 1992 NL Batting Champion Gary Sheffield, so they were taking a flyer on Hoffman working out. And he sure did.
But before that, he almost didn’t get the chance again after he injured his shoulder not once, but twice, during a day at the beach during the 1994 strike. After that, his fastball velocity dropped from 95 to 90 which could have completely derailed his potential career as a power closer. That was when everything changed as he adopted and perfected a changeup that made hitters look completely silly. The mid-70s pitch was nearly unhittable like Rivera’s cutter and it got the nickname the “Bug’s Bunny” pitch.
Hoffman finished his career with 601 saves after 18 seasons, 552 of them with the Padres in 16 seasons, and he came into every game to “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC. At the time of his retirement in 2010, his 601 saves were the MLB record, but he would get passed by Rivera the following season. The most saves he had in one season were in the Padres’ 1998 NL Pennant season when he saved 53 games. That was second all-time at the time. Hoffman had at least 30 saves in 14 seasons and 40 in nine seasons. Hoffman was selected to seven All-Star Games, six of them with the Padres and finished with a career 2.87 ERA. He was also the runner-up in Cy Young voting twice. He was elected into the Hall of Fame on his third year on the ballot in 2018.
Dave Winfield (1973-80)
Winfield started his Hall of Fame career with the Padres after he became the sixth athlete ever to be drafted in three professional sports leagues (he was drafted by the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings) but ultimately settled on baseball. San Diego was where he established himself as a power-hitting outfielder and he appeared in his first All-Star Game in 1977, which was the first of four straight to end his tenure in San Diego. While there, he hit .284 with 154 home runs and won two gold gloves.
He signed with the New York Yankees after the 1980 season where he played for nine seasons, and he also played for the California Angels, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, and Cleveland Indians before retiring in 1995. He finished his career with 465 career homers and a .283 batting average. His best season was in 1979 when he slashed .308/.395/.558 with 34 homers, 166 OPS+, and a league-leading 118 RBI. Winfield was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2001 and decided to have a Padres hat on his plaque to pay homage to the team he started his great career with, even though he played longer with the Yankees. He won his only World Series with the Blue Jays in 1992.
Jake Peavy (2002-09)
Peavy is the best starting pitcher for the Padres in recent memory as he recorded very good numbers in his seven and a half seasons on the West Coast. He won the pitching Triple Crown in 2007 with 19 wins, 240 strikeouts, and a 2.54 ERA and became the eighth player since 1969 to accomplish the feat. This earned him a unanimous Cy Young award. Peavy had an ERA under 3.00 in four of the seven and a half seasons there and he recorded a 92-68 record with 1,348 strikeouts over 1,342⅔ innings. He was named as a captain for Team USA in the 2006 World Baseball Classic which was in San Diego, where he started the first game and lead Team USA to a win.
He was a two-time All-Star and led the league in strikeouts and ERA two times while having a career-low 2.27 ERA in 2004. After the 2007 season, Peavy signed a four-year, $52 million extension which was the largest contract the Padres ever handed out. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox in the middle of the 2009 season and also went on to play for the San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox before retiring in 2016. After being traded by the Padres, he was never really the same pitcher. If he had been able to replicate the same or similar numbers, he may have had a shot at the Hall of Fame but will probably struggle even staying on the ballot in his first year in 2021.
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