Written by Francisco Velasco
Today is Benito Santiago‘s birthday. On this date, the greatest backstop in San Diego Padres’ history turns 54. In honor of Benny’s birthday, let us take a look back on his career and other men who have been behind the dish for the Padres.
Benito Santiago is arguably the most talented catcher ever to wear a Padres uniform.
He started his MLB career back in 1986, at the ripe age of 21. Although he only played 17 games in the show that year, he certainly managed to make some heads turn. In just 62 at-bats, the Puerto Rican backstop recorded 18 hits (three were home runs), while knocking in six runs in his first taste of major league pitching.
After that hot start, everyone was eager to see what he could do to follow up in 1987. Santiago would not disappoint. Benny was the starter for the full season. The Friars obviously had faith in him as they dealt the second-greatest catcher in franchise history (Terry Kennedy) to the Orioles for Storm Davis. Kennedy would have a nice year, making the all-star game, but nothing really compared to the year Santiago had.
Benito hit .300 with 18 home runs and 79 RBI and would steal 21 bases, which is unheard of for a catcher. Santiago won the National League Rookie of The Year Award and walked away with a Silver Slugger Award as well. Benny would go on to be a Padre until 1992 and would accomplish a lot in that span. He played in four MLB All-Star Games, won three Gold Glove Awards, and four Silver Slugger Awards.
Benito Santiago is the greatest backstop in franchise history, but a lot of people would argue that the title belongs to Terry Kennedy.
Kennedy was great for the Padres from 1981-1986. He took part in three MLB All-Star Games as a Friar and would be a part of the iconic 1984 N.L. Championship team as well. That, in itself, definitely gives him a bit of a boost among fans. Santiago was not a part of any “iconic” teams, but he definitely was more successful in terms of major league accomplishments.
The Rookie of The Year Award and Gold Gloves alone completely trump Kennedy and make Santiago the best Padres catcher of all-time for the franchise. Both Kennedy and Santiago were loved by Friar faithful and should definitely be remembered as they are important figures in Friars history–something we all should be educated more about.
Now that we got the “big 2” out of the way, let’s move on to some other backstops in the history of the franchise. Chris Cannizzaro. Now that is a name you should know if you are a Padres fan. Why is Mr. Cannizzaro so important?
Well for starters, he was part of the original 1969 Padres team, but not only was he part of that team, but Mr. Cannizzaro was also the Padres’ first-ever all-star. He was the lone representative for the Padres in the Nation’s Capital that year, where the all-star festivities were being held. Cannizzaro did not have a spectacular year, nor did he play in the actual MLB All-Star Game, but he will always be the first Padres’ all-star. That can never be taken away from him.
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