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Fred Kendall

September 16, 2009

Fred Kendall 77

I’ve spent some time on this site wondering about the 1976 Expansion Draft that breathed life into the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays, largely because it’s the first league expansion I ever consciously witnessed, but I have yet to explore the machinations of the league expansion of 1969, which necessitated not one but two expansion drafts in 1968, the same year, as it happens, that I joined my own family as an expansion franchise.

I was a few months old when the drafts occurred over two days in mid-October, the first just four days after the conclusion of the Detroit Tigers’ seven-game victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The National League draft came first, on October 14, and the San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos built their rosters with the likes of Billy McCool, Larry Jaster, Remy Hermoso, and Mike Corkins, among others. One day later, an odd element of off-rhyme characterized the otherwise random unspooling of names called by the brand new Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots: Joe Foy following Ray Oyler, Jack Aker echoing Steve Whitaker, and a late-round multi-name flourish sounding more like the obsessively rhythmic expressions of a madman than a litany of athletic elites: Dick Bates, Dick Drago, Larry Haney, Dick Baney.

Fred Kendall was the fourteenth name called on the first day, and he must have among the very youngest of the players gathered that day or the next. He had been drafted into professional baseball only the year before, a 1967 fourth-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds, and he was just twenty when the Padres selected him. He got into 10 games during the team’s inaugural campaign, batting .154, and played just 4 games the following season, going 0 for 9. He starting playing more after that, and in 1973 became the team’s regular backstop, posting his career high in just about every offensive category.

From there came a gradual slide back toward the relative irrelevancy captured in the card shown here. He goes about his business with an air of glum resignation, the lack of a chest protector evidence that he will not be seeing any action in the game itself but will only warm a series of anonymous Padres relievers before they trudge into the action and allow the runners on second and third to jog across home plate after a series of events too dispiriting to elaborate upon.

I’d be able to withstand the demoralizing undertones embedded in the front of Fred Kendall’s card if the 1977 Topps series been one of the yearly sets that eschewed the tendency to try to embroider a player’s lackluster statistical record with a line or two of overly cheerful praise. However, on the back of this card, below Fred Kendall’s statistics, is this line of text: “The only original Padre remaining on club’s roster, Fred ranks high in almost all of San Diego’s offensive categories.” Fred Kendall: All-Time Padre Great. I don’t know, something about it makes me want to walk along the shore of an empty beach in late November and weep.

7 comments

  1. Ah, but Kendall was the regular. He was the uber-regular, catching in 146 games (starting 135) as John McNamara couldn’t be bothered to give Bob Davis more than a look see unless Kendall was passed out on the bench.

    What says more about the 1976 Padres – that they gave 135 starts to a guy that slugged .296, or that they actually convinced Mike Ivie to pretty please play catcher for a couple of games – you know – like they drafted him to do before he went crazy-go-nuts. Ivie’s one start behind the dish was a 1-0 loss to the Cubs. He allowed 2 steals and made an error that led to the only run. When trying to throw out Jose Cardenal, the throw went wild and allowed Rick Monday to score. Knowing Ivie’s fragile psyche, that was the end of that catching biz, and so McNamara was forced to trot out Kendall day after day.

    I’m going to go drink now for the 1976 Padres still among us.


  2. The amazing thing about Fred Kendall’s skill in convincing a team to play him at catcher every damn day of the year despite the fact that he sucks is his ability to pass that very same skill to his son. It’s like their eyes are hypnotic or something.


  3. The thing that always strikes me about the 70′s Padres is that they were literally changing their uniforms every year. I don’t think there ever was a team that went through so many uniform changes in such a small span of time.

    I look at some of the 70′s Padre uniforms and to me they all look like Bad Men’s Softball uniforms.

    It’s hard to believe sometimes that these were uniforms for a Major League baseball team.

    Here’s a look at the constant changes in uniform/hats from the Padres from 1971-1980:

    http://exhibits.baseballhalloffame.org/dressed_to_the_nines/uniforms.asp?league=NL&city=San+Diego&lowYear=1971&highYear=1980&sort=year&increment=12


  4. Ken, good point about the multi-generational suckiness. Jason Kendall has to be one of the most overrated players of recent vintage, no? I noticed he got into 150+ games last year with the Brewers. That counts for something, I suppose, if only the ability to not contribute over a long period.

    I loved this card when I got it as a 7-going-on-8 year old. I loved the catcher position and this card showed a catcher catching. Plus, the colors were very vibrant and striking. I just assumed Fred Kendall was pretty good. Oh, callow youth. Well, I was seven years old, I had little reason to know better, what was the Padres’ excuse?


  5. In response to sb1902, I wanted to crack a joke along the lines of, “Well, strangely enough, the Padres manager in 1976 WAS only 7 years old”. But I had to look it up and it seems the manager who gave Fred Kendall 135 starts in 1976 was the same John “loyalty to a fault” McNamara who kept Bill Buckner in a game that shall go nameless 10 years later. Insert your own (presumably better) witticisms here.


  6. I always thought the most interesting thing about Fred Kendall was his middle name, Lyn.
    There is a mental image of a quality player when you say his full name, Fred Lyn Kendall.
    It starts out great when you say Fred Lyn, even with the incorrect spelling, but then brutal reality is brought back when you finish with “Kendall”.

    Also, is it possible that Fred’s son Jason is the worst player to accumulate over 2000 career hits. I realize his BA is good and he has made several all-star teams but you have to admit his career hits total is a little surprising.


  7. Laugh if you want, but all the Ray Kroc Mickey D’s outfits are alot cooler looking than the ugly US freaking MARINES hit-the-beach camo-bullshit they wear now. Plus, you could yell “DO YOU WANT FRIES WITH THAT?” at them when they came to Shea!



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