As Paul Lukas detailed in his Uni Watch baseball preview column a couple weeks ago, the San Diego Padres are just one team that tweaked their uniforms this season. The Padres ditched their sand-colored road uniforms for a more standard gray, but kept the same graphics. I'll be honest: the sand unis kind of grew on me over the years. If anything, they were distinct. Now, with gray and blue, the Padres resemble any number of other teams.
The Padres have had a troubled uniform history, starting with the unfortunate decision to go with brown as a primary team color in the early years. When McDonald's co-founder Ray Kroc purchased the team in 1974, he emphasized the brown-and-yellow color palate even more strongly. The team has tried all-yellow jerseys, pinstripes, switched their team colors to blue and orange, ditched the pinstripes, ditched the orange, and tried camouflage and sand uniforms. It's a franchise without a uniform identity, that's for sure. So we're going to have a little retrospective of that history with a series of posts to determine the best-ever Padres uniform. We begin with the 1970s ... vote at the bottom for your favorite.
Don Zimmer, 1972
After some nondescript jerseys their first few seasons, the Padres brought out all-yellow uniforms for 1972. After 11 games, the club fired Preston Gomez and gave 41-year-old Don Zimmer his first managerial job in the majors. Zimmer must have been wondering if he'd made a mistake; the team was terrible and he had to wear yellow at home and on the road. The Padres finished 58-85, finishing last in the league in runs -- no surprise considering starting shortstop Enzo Hernandez hit .195 with 15 RBIs in 369 PAs. That was actually an improvement over 1971, when Enzo drove in 12 runs in 612 PAs. Remarkably, he remained the Padres' primary shortstop through 1976.
Willie McCovey, 1975
The Padres ditched the yellow for more conventional gray and white home uniforms, although keeping the brown-and-yellow trim. The Padres acquired past-his-prime Giants great Willie McCovey in 1974 and he lasted two-plus seasons as the team's first baseman, hitting 52 home runs. Alas, the team was still terrible, going 60-102 in 1974, 71-91 in 1975 and 73-89 in 1976 (all under John McNamara).
Oscar Gamble, 1978
After eight consecutive losing seasons, free agency hit baseball for 1977 and Kroc and the Padres were determined to turn things around. The team signed former A's Rollie Fingers and Gene Tenace as free agents and traded for Indians All-Star George Hendrick. Fingers, Tenace and Hendrick were all productive but the starting rotation wasn't, and the team went 69-93. In 1978, the Padres signed Oscar Gamble as a free agent, traded Dave Tomlin to the Rangers for Gaylord Perry (he'd win the NL Cy Young Award) and installed a rookie named Ozzie Smith at shortstop. The team broke through with its first winning season at 84-78. It also tried an experiment that lasted just one season -- putting the full name of the team on both its home and road jerseys. Gamble wears the brown road jersey here (they also brought back the all-yellow version for 1978 only).
Dave Winfield, 1979
The team's star through the early years was Dave Winfield, who played with the Padres from 1973 through 1980, leaving when he signed with the Yankees as a free agent. Winfield was a four-time All-Star with the Padres and finished third in the 1979 MVP vote. This was the only year the Padres used this type of lettering on their road uniforms. In fact, "San Diego" wouldn't appear on their road jerseys again until 1991.