Being that the Padres have had more lean years than most, I've developed "root for the underdog" mentality. Most of my favorite bands are all small, local bands (with the exception of The Clash) and I like going out of the way to find those great, hole-in-the-wall places to eat.
With that background info, it might not be surprising to know that Tony Gwynn has never been my favorite Padre.
Fred McGriff and Gary Sheffield were big names when I was in elementary school, so I liked them. Steve Finley and Ken Caminiti were huge parts of the '96 and '98 teams that were really good, and Archi Cianfrocco was all-around awesome, so they were my favorites then. Even when Adrian Gonzalez and Jake Peavy were the few Padres bright spots, I still rooted harder for Geoff Blum, Josh Bard, and Chris Denorfia.
However, looking back, it's impossible not to appreciate Tony's place in Padres history. Unquestionably the greatest ever to wear the hat with the interlocking "SD", and one of the greatest pure hitters in the history of the game. On top of that, he's a super nice guy and loves his city (San Diego is his city).
Seeing all of the cool pieces of cardboard with Tony on them has been one of the coolest things about starting this blog.
Oh, by the way, I'm taking this GWYNNsday to showcase some cards that Mark from This Way To The Clubhouse sent me today. Well, he didn't send them today, but I got them today, since he sent it last week. You know what I mean.
This isn't my favorite Gwynn card that Mark sent me (I'm saving that one for a later GWYNNsday), but this is probably the most unique. This is from 1998 Pinnacle Mint, and is supposed to have a coin of some sort in that circle shaped hole. Even though I know it's missing something, I'll just consider it a fancy die-cut card.
I did a lot of heavy research on this card, and based on the left arm of the person on the left edge of the card and the angle of the shadows cast by the first row spectators, I can confidently say that this shot was taken as Fred hit a 600 foot home run in the bottom of the ninth against the Dodgers. The ball flew out of the stadium and knocked down a man who was attempting to steal a woman's purse across the street from Jack Murphy Stadium. McGriff ignored the bunt sign when he heard the woman's cries for help, and decided to intervene. True story.
When Mark told me he had some Padre cards to send my way, he also mentioned that he had a Benito card from his days with the Giants. Pretty much all cards of Santiago are pretty awesome in my book, but I still had some reservations. The Giants? I was doubtful that it would be making it into the "Former Padre" section of my binders. I shouldn't have been. It's a good one.
My favorite card of the package from Mark, however, was one that he didn't tell me about. This is current All-Star Padre closer Huston Street's "Just Rookies" card from 2004, when he was still playing for Oakland's single-A team, the Kane County Cougars.
What's really cool about this card is that Street only played for the Cougars for nine games (10.2 innings) in 2004, his first year as a professional. After posting a 1.69 ERA in Kane County, he was moved up to Midland (AA), where he stayed for ten games (13.1 innings, 1.35 ERA) before packing up again for Sacramento (AAA). Not sure why he only pitched in two games there (2 innings, gave up no runs), but that was all he wrote for 2004. Anyways, I'll assume that this is Huston's first baseball card, and it's awesome to have.