Friday, April 12, 2013

April 12- San Diego Padres



I’ve developed a bit of a bad habit over the last two weeks to work on my New Era Cap blog posts after the final game had ended. I suppose I could justify my reasoning around the slight chance that something extraordinary might happen at which I could quickly switch up the hat I’m going to write about and center it around whatever event took place. Alas, this was not the case tonight as I had chosen to write about this particular San Diego Padres hat earlier in the day. What can I say? I’m just a huge sucker for Oakland Athletics games.

On March 10 I wrote about the Padres military appreciation day hat the team has been wearing every Sunday since 2011; however, it was not the first hat to be used for such occasion. In fact, Sunday wasn’t even the original day in which the team used it. The actual first day sates back to… well… April 12, today. On a Wednesday back in 2000 the Padres took to the field wearing dark green and khaki jerseys with the team name and numbers stitched on in white complimented with the hat being adorned on the top of my head, as well as Sterling Hitchcock’s below.

Believe it or not it took three hours to track down this photo, and I wasn’t even the one to find it. I got a lot of help from the Twitterverse, but it was Matthew Young (@mjoven1975) who tweeted me the photo. One would think that something so trivial might be easy to find. Well, I have news for you; it isn’t.

The biggest indicators, as far as trying to date this photo are concerned, lie within, not only the player, but the particular fonts and color schemes being used by the Padres at the time, as well as the surroundings. The first thing to note is that Hitchcock played for the Padres from 1997- halfway into the 2001 season and again in 2004, his final year. Nowhere in any of my research did I find anything about the team using camouflage jerseys prior to 2000. The next thing to look at is what’s behind him: a navy blue wall with orange horizontal strips. This would indicate that the team was playing at home at Qualcomm Stadium after looking at other photos. The Padres played at Qualcomm (a.k.a. San Diego Stadium/Jack Murphy Stadium) from 1969-2003; therefore, the 2004 season is scratched. The only other piece of evidence is the typeface in which the “Padres” and the number are written. That particular font was used from 1985-2003, which still leaves it up in the air whether this photo was taken from 2000 or 2001. Based on the intel I received from Matthew, I’m pretty positive all signs point to 2000. Another really interesting fact about this hat is that of all the caps the Padres wore on the field, this one had the longest shelf-life. Every other hat in the 44-year history of the team lasted roughly 5-7 years.

There’s a particular Web site (Sportslogos.net) that I frequent run by a Canadian gentleman names Chris Creamer, who catalogs all the logos, jerseys and hat styles worn by each teams throughout their existence. Whenever I get hung up about a particular year in which a hat is used I call upon it to verify my research. Unfortunately in this case, the Web site let me down. On his site it says that the Padres used this hat from 2006-2010. I suppose in some way that bit is true; they did use it during those years; however, the entire timeframe between 2000 and 2005 is missing. Another unfortunate wrong turn I was led down was by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and their uniform database. Once again, only at times when I need to verify something do I use this site, but once again I was shut down. The Hall of Fame’s database doesn’t even have this hat listed, along with a lot of other hats used by various teams throughout the last 25 years. Even Wikipedia was a complete was today as the team photo they had listed saying “Padres players in their first camouflage uniforms” is incorrect. See?

Upon first glance you might think I’m crazy as a lot of the usual suspects from the 2000 team including then manager Bruce Bochy are present; however, the one giveaway is the presence of David Wells who only played in San Diego in 2006. I think I’ve mentioned this several time before, especially during the American League umpires cap post I did on February 19; a lot of time, work and research go into these little posts I do every single day. Not because I want to prove of my intelligence, because I don’t want to let any of you down. I don’t want any of you to go down the same paths of seemingly wasted hours to find this information. I also do it because I love telling stories. While someone else telling a story of discovery might be boring to others, I try to pep it up a little bit. And honestly, I really want to do great by everyone who reads these because I sincerely do care and value your opinions.

I bought this cap on Ebay back in July of 2011 since I couldn’t find it in any stores... I’ve always been a huge fan of this shade of green and felt it would be an excellent addition to my collection, not to mention something really awesome to wear. Most importantly though, I bought it because of my best friend Ronnie Forrest, a naval vet stationed in San Diego, who went to several Padres games before he was killed shortly after deployment to Iraq during Operation: Iraqi Freedom back in 2003. I still miss him every single day.

There really wasn’t much a patter, from what I recall, when I marked this cap up. Mainly just player on the Padres during this era that I felt didn’t get enough credit for their careers.

#22- There’s an interesting little game that could be played here as I picked two every interesting, ambiguous numbers to roll with. Since this hat was used from 2000-2010 there were four guys who wore #22, but only two of them were for more than a season: Xavier Nady (2000-2005) and David Eckstein (2009-2010). As much as I love Eckstein and his abilities to win at life, I have a greater personal attachment to Nady.

Nady was a second round draft pick by the padres out of the University of California-Berkeley in the 2000 amateur draft. He is also one of the few guys to play in a Major League game in the same year he was drafted. On the second to last day of the season (September 30) Nady made his MLB debut as a pinch hitter for pitcher Todd Erdos against the Los Angeles Dodgers. With one swing of the bat Nady got a base hit, which he later turned into a run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Nady didn’t see another second of action in the Show until 2003; however, at the end of that day and season, his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage were 1.000.

In 2001 and a bit of 2002 he started out with the Lake Elsinore Storm in the California League, batting .289 with 39 home runs and 137 RBI before moving up to the AAA affiliate, the Portland Beavers. From 2002-2004 I watched Nady and company for the few games he was with the team at PGE Park. Hands down those were some of the best summers I ever had in Portland just being able to relax with a cold beer in my hand, watching the future stars of tomorrow trying to make it to the big leagues. His best season in Portland was in 2004 when he hit .330 with 22 home runs and 70 RBI in 74 games. Amazing! I remember one game specifically when he hit a home run so hard and so far that it tagged the light rail train as it crept passed the stadium. His time in the majors has been a bit checkered, by which I mean he’s become a bit of a journeyman. Eight teams he’s played for in his 13 year career in baseball, the longest of which came with the Padres. During his time in the majors he hit .263/25/91 in 269 games.

#23- This is another one I bit the pickle on as two guys wore this number for pretty long stretched between 2000 and 2010. From 2006-2010 Adrian Gonzalez was a first base masher for the Padres before moving on to the Boston Red Sox and now the Dodgers. Currently Yonder Alonso wear #23, but he never played under this cap. Nope, the biggest name from 1999-2005 was Phil Nevin.

Most people don’t really recall Nevin’s playing career, even though he did have a decent 12-year career with seven different teams. No, most people remember his for being the first overall pick in the 1992 amateur draft by the Houston Astros out of Cal State Fullerton. Now, the best version of this story I’ve heard was by New York Yankees die-hard fan and fellow 2012 MLB Fan Cave Dweller Eddie Mata during our time in New York City. At the time I knew all the info behind this, but it was very entertaining to watch and listen to him tell it with his thick Brooklyn accent.

So, the story goes that there was a scout within the Astros system (Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser) who told then-general manager Bill Wood that the team HAS to take this kid out of Kalamazoo, Michigan with the first overall pick as he would “anchor a winning team.” Fearing that it would cost the Astros a cool $1 million signing bonus to sway this kid away from the University of Michigan, Wood passed and took Nevin instead. With the sixth overall pick in that year’s draft the Yankees took the kid, DEREK JETER, on the advice from scout Dick Groch who told the Yankees brass, after their concerns with Jeter going to college, “the only place Derek Jeter’s going is Cooperstown.” Plus, it only cost them $800,000. The best part of the story is how every year after Jeter and the Yankees won their first World Series in 1996, Newhouser would give them a call asking “how that Jeter kid is working out for the Yankees.” Poor Nevin. He did his best.

The only part of the story that’s a bit questionable is whether or not Newhouser actually made the calls beyond 1996. I only say this because he passed away in 1998.

Nevin’s time with the Padres was the longest of his career. He hit .288 with 156 home runs and 573 RBI. His best year came in 2001 when he made his one, and only All-Star Game appearance and finished 21st in the National League MVP vote going .306/41/126-every stat that year including runs (97), hits (167) and walks (71) was a career-high.

Nevin’s career ended with the Minnesota Twins at the end of the 2006 season, but he’ll sadly be remembered as the guy who got taken over Derek Jeter. Also, he’ll be known to you as the guy who first wore the Padres camouflage jersey back in 2000. See!

It all came back around again. Scott G (@JustBaseball25) found this 2000 Fleer Showcase card for me, thus ending the search. Excellent work Scott!

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