“For its one, two, three strikes, you’re out, at the old ball game.”
Every fan young and old knows the verses of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” written by Jack Norworth.
Come to Peoria, Arizona, and Padres fans can almost touch their local heroes at Spring Training. Wait until April rolls around, and you can see those same athletes at Petco Park.
And for local sports followers, baseball at Petco is all they have left professionally. The Chargers have become integrated in Los Angeles culture, leaving the Padres as the only major sports team in our beautiful San Diego.
Despite being cellar dwellers for many of the fifty years they have existed as a franchise, the Padres faithful should take some solace to know that championship teams are possible, as in 1984 and 1998. It is too bad that the Friars played great opponents in the World Series. First it was Detroit in 1984, and then the New York Yankees in 1998. That Yankees team is always in the discussion of the greatest teams of all time.
And the Padres have had their share of quality players through the years, led by Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman. But there was also Dave Winfield, Randy Jones, and many others. Remember Steve Garvey, Rollie Fingers, Nate Colbert, and Goose Gossage? And who can forget Jon Kruk, Andy Hawkins, Garry Templeton, and even my former neighbor Craig Lefferts.
Of course, with Hall of Fame players comes valuable memorabilia. So look to see if you might have some of the following items in your attic, den, or man cave. You might be in for a pleasant surprise or two. But let me warn you first. A Tony Gwynn signed baseball is not worth much. It’s the old supply and demand concept. Gwynn, bless his heart, signed too many to make a signed ball worth more than about thirty or forty dollars. If you pay more than that at a charity event, you are basically donating to the charity.
However, a 1984 San Diego jersey of Steve Garvey went for nearly $3,000 at auction. Garvey played for the Padres from 1983-1987, and hit probably the most famous home run in the club’s history, the homer in the 1984 playoff series against the Chicago Cubs.
A 1979 Padres road jersey of Ozzie Smith sold for nearly $6,000 at auction. Smith played from 1978 – 1981 in San Diego, and was then traded to St. Louis for Garry Templeton. Smith was known as “The Wizard of Oz” when he was with the Cardinals, and became a Hall of Famer. I will always remember him for making the greatest fielding play I ever saw in a 1978 game against Atlanta.
A Randy Jones 1976 Padres signed jersey sold for nearly $2000 at auction. He was with San Diego from 1973-1980, with his two best years being 1975 and 1976. You may have kept a 1976 Sports Illustrated with Jones on the cover.
Of course, a Tony Gwynn game-used jersey is auctioned every so often. A 1998 Gwynn jersey was auctioned for nearly $700. You might ask yourself why it would not sell for more. The answer is that he played his entire career from 1982-2001 with the Padres and he had plenty of jerseys. Supply and demand. His Topps 1983 rookie card sells for around $80.
Gwynn’s 1989 Silver Bat award went for nearly $20,000. He won eight of them, as he led the National League in hitting eight times.
A 1996 Padres team signed ball sold for a few hundred dollars, while an original artwork from 2001 of Dave Winfield went for about $700.
Now lets not forget the old San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) which had a team from 1936-1968. There were baseball cards of players from that league as well. An eleven card collection from 1950 of the Padres, distributed by Hage’s Dairy, went for more than $1,200.
A good time to get autographs is at Spring Training games. But if you approach a player, please be courteous, and respectful, and say thanks.