1969 – Present
The Padres were the dream come true of San Diego sportswriter Jack Murphy, who sought to bring major league baseball to the city. Murphy, the brother of Mets announcer Bob Murphy, campaigned for years and even pushed the city to build a new stadium before a team had been offered. Thus, in 1969, the Padres were the only one of the four expansion teams to open a new park. After Murphy’s death, San Diego Stadium was renamed Jack Murphy Stadium in his memory.
Like most expansion teams, the Padres were weak in their early years, but their period of weakness lasted longer than most. The team finished in last place their first six seasons; in four of them, they lost 100 or more games. This made it difficult to attract fans, and owner C. Arnholt Smith had arranged to sell the team to a buyer who would move it to Washington, D.C. The move was so expected that not only had the club packed everything to ship, the Topps baseball card company had printed the Padres’ cards for the 1974 season without giving the team name; in its place was Washington. But McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc stepped in at the final hour to purchase the team and keep it in San Diego.
Dave Winfield had come up in 1973, and Kroc built around him, spending money freely. Home attendance improved as Kroc brought his controversial style to the team. He once commandeered the ballpark’s public-address system to apologize to the fans for a particularly poor on-field performance. With the turnaround of Randy Jones, who won 20 games, the club climbed to fourth place in 1975. Jones won the Cy Young Award in 1976. Each year new talent was added (relief ace Rollie Fingers in 1977, Gaylord Perry in 1978), and the franchise had its first winning record in 1978. Although they lapsed back into last in 1979, they were a relatively close 19-1/2 games out.
Trader Jack McKeon became head of baseball operations in 1980 and rebuilt the team. San Diego won the Western Division title in 1984 on the strength of acquisitions Steve Garvey, Graig Nettles, and Goose Gossage and homegrown talents Carmelo Martinez and Kevin McReynolds. They upset the Cubs in the LCS in a championship dedicated to Ray Kroc, who had died that January. His wife, Joan, took over the team and became known for her antipathy toward ballplayers with drug problems in their past. She almost sold the Padres to Mariners owner George Argyros in 1987 before deciding that his parsimonious fiscal policies would hurt the franchise.