In was 1969, and the San Diego Padres had just joined the ranks of Major League Baseball along with the Montreal Expos, Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots as a result of MLB backing the proposed 1967-1969 expansion.
The Padres weren’t always a clear favorite to land a franchise, but as fate would have it, a name widely respected in baseball, Buzzie Bavasi, eventually joined C. Arnholt’s Smith in attempts to bring big time baseball to San Diego, and on May 27, 1968, the Padres were awarded a franchise at a price tag of $10 million.
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As a result, four new teams were divided among four divisions: the American League West, the American League East, the National League East and the National League West.
The rest is a, albeit a rough, part of Padres history.
One of the first moves the team made was to tab an inexperienced Preston Gomez as the club’s skipper.
Next, came the 1968 Expansion Draft, and the Padres drafted the likes of Ollie Brown, Dick Selma, Clay Kirby, Fred Kendall, Jerry Morales, Nate Colbert, Larry Stahl, Dick Kelley, Al Ferrara, Dave Roberts, Billy McCool, Steve Arlin and Cito Gaston.
But before the Padres first Spring Training was even underway, on December 3, the Padres dealt pitcher Dave Giusti to the Cardinals in exchange for third baseman Ed Spiezio, catcher Danny Breeden, outfielder Ron Davis and pitcher Phil Knuckles.
So on that historic April day at San Diego Stadium, Gomez and San Diego would face Houston righty Don Wilson, who had gone 13-16 with a 3.28 ERA the previous year.
The Padres 1969 Opening Day lineup:
2. Pena 2B
3. Gonzalez CF
4. Brown RF
5. Davis IB
6. Stahl LF
7. Spiezio 3B
8. Cannizzaro C
9. Selma P
Selma, who had come over from the Mets, had gone 9-10 with a 2.75 ERA for New York in 1968.
In the bottom of the fifth, with the Astros still leading 1-0, Ed Spiezio came up big with a home run, the first in Padres history, to tie the score.
In the bottom of the sixth, with the score still tied, after a Pena hit-by-pitch, first-round selection Ollie Brown doubled to left, putting the Padres up 2-1.
Dick Selma went on to pitch a complete game, earning the win, while giving up five hits, one run, two walks, while striking out 12.
It was big for the Padres, the city of SanDiego, and the 23,370 who showed up that night to watch San Diego win their first game.
The Padres, who would average 6,333 fans that first year, went on to finish with a 52-110 record in 1969, and in four years with the Padres, Gomez finished 180-316 record.
Furthermore, the team and wouldn’t have a winning record until 1978.
However, several Padres on that initial squad made significant impacts in the big leagues:
• Outfielder Ollie Brown went on to play 13 years in the majors
• Pitcher Joe Niekro won 224 games over a 22-year career
• Catcher Chris Cannizzaro spent 13 years in the big leagues, and was the Padres All-Star representative in 1969
• Outfielder Cito Gaston spent 11 years in the Majors, making the All-Star team in 1970, and would go on to manage the Toronto Blue Jays for 12 years, leading them to five division championships and back-to-back World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993
San Diego Padres 1968-69 Expansion Draft
1. Ollie Brown OF San Francisco Giants
3. Dave Giusti P St Louis Cardinals
5. Dick Selma P New York Mets
7. Al Santorini P Atlanta Braves
9. Jose Arcia SS/2B Chicago Cubs
12. Clay Kirby P St Louis Cardinals
14. Fred Kendall C Cincinnati Reds
16. Jerry Morales OF New York Mets
18. Nate Colbert 1B/OF Houston Astros
20. Zoilo Versalles infielder Los Angeles Dodgers
22. Frank Reberger P Chicago Cubs
24. Jerry DaVanon infielder St Louis Cardinals
26. Larry Stahl OF/1B New York Mets
28. Dick Kelley P Atlanta Braves
30. Al Ferrara OF Los Angeles Dodgers
31. Mike Corkins P San Francisco Giants
33. Tom Dukes P Houston Astros
35. Rick James P Chicago Cubs
37. Tony Gonzalez OF Philadelphia Phillies
39. Dave Roberts P Pittsburgh Pirates
40. Don Shaw P New York Mets
42. Ivan Murrell OF/1B Houston Astros
44. Jim Williams OF Los Angeles Dodgers
46. Billy McCool P Cincinnati Reds
48. Roberto Pena infielder Philadelphia Phillies
50. Al McBean P Pittsburgh Pirates
51. Rafael Robles SS San Francisco Giants
53. Fred Katawczik P Cincinnati Reds
55. Ron Slocum 3B/C Pittsburgh Pirates
57. Steve Arlin P Philadelphia Phillies
59. Cito Gaston OF Atlanta Braves
Runner Up: Padres break the 3 million mark in attendance in 2004 for the first time. Petco Park had just opened, and as they say, if you build it, they will come. Come they did, breaking the mark at old Jack Murphy Stadium by more than 400,000.