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.