From the Archives: When the Padres Became a Major League Team in 1969
And how Padres President Emil "Buzzie" Bavasi got us there half a century ago
This year marks half a century since the Padres entered the Major Leagues. Despite the milestones—Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman, and hosting the 2016 All-Star Game—it hasn’t all been peanuts and Cracker Jack. In our March 1969 issue, Ralph Trembley outlined how we almost didn’t have a team. In “Bavasi-Ball Is in a Class By Itself,” he opened with: “Major League status in any sport did not come easily to San Diego.” The Pads had been in San Diego since 1936, but as a Pacific Coast minor league team. It took building a brand-new stadium in Mission Valley for them to finally be considered for an expansion team in the National League. San Diego was also trying to overcome “TV-market statistics and the damnably irritating New York image of this city as an appendage of Santa Barbara, Los Angeles or La Jolla (Easterners never quite remembered which).”
Padres President Emil “Buzzie” Bavasi was the man who convinced MLB to give us a team. As a GM, he had been a part of eight National League pennants and four world championships with the Dodgers in Brooklyn and in LA. He was a “baseball entrepreneur extraordinaire, bosom friend to all the Beautiful People, and to just as many locker attendants, frankfurter salesmen and forcibly retired bookies.” He understood how having a Major League team would not only benefit San Diego economically, but also help put it on the map. “Don’t forget, every day from the start of spring training on February 22 to the end of the season, San Diego datelines will appear in daily newspapers throughout the U.S.”
In the article, very little is said about the actual team. At 28, the oldest player was outfielder Al “The Bull” Ferrara. According to the team’s PR director, Bud Tucker, “The guy was a child prodigy, played piano at Carnegie Hall and all that. But he looks like a piano mover now.”
The new franchise didn’t lead with talent. “We don’t have the real stars of baseball on our team,” Bavasi told the magazine. “We must sell the idea of coming out to see [Willie] Mays, Ernie Banks, Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Clemente.”
It was tough to make any grand predictions about how the Major League Padres would fare, but Bavasi did have positive things to say about the region. “There’s more pride here than anywhere I’ve ever lived. The city’s been very fair to us and we’re going to try to give them good baseball.” We’re proud to have been the home of the Padres for 50 years, and here’s to 50 more.