In 1981, The Padres were managed by former Senators slugger Frank Howard. They were 10 games below .500 in the first half, then won just 18 games in the 2nd half following the strike, finishing in 6th place. Ozzie Smith was counted upon to lead the team, and he did win a Gold Glove while being the NL leader in Games played and at Bats. His hitting was not yet refined, however, and the team struggled to score runs. The 1981 draft would see the Padres making great moves to fix that, adding Kevin McReynolds in the first round, John Kruk in the secondary phase, Greg Booker in the 10th round, and a local basketball star by the name of Tony Gwynn in the 3rd Round.
By 1982, the stars had gone out - Rollie Fingers was traded to Saint Louis prior to the 1981 season, Dave Winfield left via Free agency to New York, even Frank Howard was sent packing. Then in December of 1981, they swapped shortstops with Saint Louis, ending the Ozzie Smith era. Despite getting an everyday player for the next 9 seasons as a key position, many would say that the Padres lost that trade big time. But the team defied some dire predictions, and accomplished something they did only once with Winfield and never with Ozzie - they finished the season at .500 with an 81-81 record. It was the 2nd best finish in franchise history, in fact, and would start a string of winning seasons. This was certainly due in part to the June debut of Mr. Padre aka Mr. Tony Gwynn.
Donruss #472 Luis Salazar - 1981 was Salazar's first "full" season, and he was the Padres' team leader with a .303 average and the team's starting 3rd baseman. Salazar was an enigma on the defensive side. In 1982 he led the NL in Range Factor and Double plays turned at 3rd, but also had 26 Errors, the most by any NL 3rd baseman. He would also see some time in the outfield during his career and developed over time into a utility role of sorts. He stepped in for the Cubs in their 1989 playoff run to fill a big hole at the hot corner, and hit .325 down the stretch. in the 1989 NLCS, Salazar hit well again, going 7 for 19 with a triple and a homer. Salazar became a successful minor league manager after his playing days. A freak accident occurred in 2011, when Salazar was struck by a foul ball, causing several fractures in his skull and costing him his left eye. Miraculously he survived and has thrived as a manager in the Atlanta minor league system. He managed the 2017 Arizona Fall League champions.
Fleer #570 Juan Eichelberger - Known for being "effectively wild," Eichelberger was the 1981 team leader in strikeouts and wild pitches. 1982 was a continuation of his struggles with control, and by 1983 he was traded in a package to Cleveland for prospect Ed Whitson, who became one of the more notable parts of the Padres' rotation in the 80s. If you're a fan of the YouTube/Twitter user Jomboy, you may have caught the recent podcast about Juan's near no-hitter which is an fun an interesting listen starting at roughly 5 and a half minutes. The start from 1982 was a 1-hitter, with the hit coming in controversial fashion. Another unique feature of Juan's career was his unique set position. Eichelberger would come to a set position with his knees bent and in a wide stance and the glove resting at his belt. "Eich" would extend his career by pitching in Japan in 1989 for Yakult, and later came back to the states for two seasons in the Senior league. He was a pitching coach for several seasons in the 1990s.
Topps #65 Terry Kennedy - When Winfield and Ozzie Smith left, it was Terry Kennedy that became the de facto "face of the franchise" - at least until Tony Gwynn would arrive later in June. Kennedy had already made an All-Star team in 1981 for the Padres, hitting .301 as the team's primary catcher that year. In 1982, he broke out in a big way to lead the team in homers, having hit only 2 the prior year. His 21 homers and 42 doubles in 1982 would be career highs, but he did reach double digits in homers for 6 straight years. He was the Padres' primary catcher until Benito Santiago was ready to debut in 1987. Kennedy found himself in Baltimore that year in a trade for pitcher Storm Davis. Kennedy would make his 4th and final All-Star squad, now in the American League. He made his way back to the NL in time to play in his 2nd World Series, now with San Francisco. Kennedy's father Bob was also an MLB player, and Terry's 1984 World Series RBI was the first time both a father and a son had collected an RBI in a World Series game. He became a successful minor league manager and an area scout for several teams. He managed the San Diego Surf Dawgs to a championship in 2005.
Fleer #585 Rick Wise - Rick Wise was closing the book on a solid and highlight-filled career when he joined the Padres for the 1980 season as a free agent. He was an accomplished hitter during his heyday with the Phillies and Cardinals. He once tossed a no-hitter and homered twice in the same game, becoming the first MLB player to do both. He was so highly regarded as a young pitcher, that he was traded 1 for 1 in 1971 in exchange for a young Steve Carlton. He would be included in another trade later in his career for another HOF hurler, Dennis Eckersley. Wise was also a very good fielder, completing 5 full seasons without recording an error, though we was not awarded a Gold Glove during his career. The 2-time All-Star hit at least one homer every season from 1968 until he was traded to the American League in 1974. When the Padres released him in 1982, his contract was still guaranteed through the 1984 season, so he took the next two years off with his family before returning to baseball as a coach in the minor leagues. He worked for several franchises throughout the majors, minors, and independent leagues until his retirement in 2008.
Topps #95 Ozzie Smith - By the time this card was in packs, Smith had already closed the book on his Padres career. His reputation in San Diego was a glove first (and glove second, third and fourth) infielder with great range on defense and great speed on the bases (if he could just get there in the first place). In 1981, he made his first All-Star team, having increased his batting average to .259 for the first half (compared with .233 for his career to that point). Smith certainly was fast, stealing 147 bases for the Padres over his first 4 MLB seasons, but his career OPS+ at that point was a paltry 66 (100 being league average.). A young player like Smith was not destined to be a terrible hitter forever, but a poor 2nd half in 1981 must have indicated more struggles than triumphs to come. This prompted a trade that was both short-sighted and mutually beneficial. If you had told the Padres that Gary Templeton was going to be in San Diego for the balance of the 1980s and contribute over 1,100 hits and score 425 runs, they'd take that for Smith in a heartbeat. Just don't tell them that Smith would end up outslugging Templeton over that same period, and score 991 more runs in his career for the Cardinals. I don't think they'd believe it!
Fleer #579 Broderick Perkins - Standing just 5'10" and slugging just .350 for his career, Broderick Perkins was not a prototypical first baseman. He was the Padres everyday first baseman, though, in both 1981 and 1982. Perkins was the other player in the Ed Whitson trade to Cleveland. This was good news, though, as Broderick would later say that Juan Eichelberger was his favorite teammate. In 1980, he played in just 43 games, but he hit .370 for the Padres and showed the kind of potential that made him a regular in 81 and 82. He played a season in Mexico in 1986, and was a very good hitter at the AAA level, hitting .308 with an .817 OPS over 3 seasons. He was a firefighter for a time in San Diego in the 1990s. Broderick was one of the pallbearers at Tony Gwynn's funeral in 2014. Perkins hit righties much better than lefties for his career, with an OPS nearly 150 points higher against right handed pitching.
Topps #764 Steve Swisher - Much like Rick Wise, Swisher's final MLB seasons came with the Padres in 1982. Swisher was a steady reserve catcher for the Cubs, Cardinals, and Padres. The White Sox made him a first round pick in 1973, but was traded to the Cubs who brought him up to the majors within a year of his draft date. His best season came in 1976 with the Cubbies, when he became the primary catcher and even made the All-Star roster, hitting .268 with 3 homers in the first half of the year. He was Ted Simmons' back-up in Saint Louis, then came with young prospect Terry Kennedy from the Cardinals to the Padres in the Rollie Fingers trade. He played in just 42 games over two seasons for San Diego, with his best game coming against Atlanta in July of 1982 when he went 2-3 with a walk and a solo homer. He was a long time minor league manager as well, with stops in Waterloo, Tidewater, and Binghampton.
Fleer #572 Tim Flannery - Flannery spent his entire MLB career as a member of the Padres, and by the end of his tenure, he had become a fan favorite. The 11 year veteran announced his retirement before his final game in 1989, and was greeted with a long and loud standing ovation. He was a regular on Padres broadcasts after his career, then became a coach for Bruce Bochy in San Diego and later in San Francisco. He was a utility player from the start - 1982 was his first full season, and he split time between second, third, and short. He appeared in 972 games in his career, and totaled 631 hits. He also formed a band called the Lunatic Fringe and released several albums, most of which were sold to promote charitable causes.
Donruss #220 Juan Bonilla - Bonilla finished 4th in the 1981 NL Rookie of the Year voting, hitting a respectable .290 as the team's starting second baseman. He was even a Topps All-Star Rookie, but the company wasn't putting the trophies on card at the time. He played in just 45 games in 1982, but was on top again in '83, his most productive MLB season. In 152 games, he had a career best 132 hits and ranked 2nd in the NL in fielding pct. Then, inexplicably in 1984, he couldn't find a job. The Padres went with Alan Wiggins at 2nd, and once the game of musical chairs stopped, he was without a contract. He signed a minor league deal in 1985 with the Yankees, the team that had initially drafted him in 1977. He hit .330 in AAA, and that success gave him a new lease on MLB life. He found a reserve role with the Orioles for 1986, and he embraced it. He started wearing a t-shirt under his uniform that simply said "Whenever" meaning he was ready for whatever the team needed, whenever they needed it. The following season he was back in New York, this time fighting for a playoff spot. His career had plenty of ups and downs, but he had found his niche as a role player.