Only On Paper: Nearly 1969 Padres

I’ve been intrigued by expansion teams since I was young, when the Blue Jays and Mariners sprang into existence. There’s something about making a whole new team out of nothing that just fascinates me.

Over the past few years I’ve run across a few instances of players who were on expansion team rosters at some point, only I hadn’t been aware of it because he got traded away before Opening Day or even before Spring Training. In some cases he didn’t even make it on to a baseball card with that team.

So in this potential series, I wanted to feature the notable players who were acquired by an expansion team ahead of the first season but, for whatever reason, wasn’t on that team’s roster come Opening Day.

For the 1969 Padres we’ve got two such players.

Dave Giusti
Dave Giusti’s situation makes me want to know more about what was going on. In 1968 he was a swingman with the Astros and went 11-14 with 2 complete games and a shutout. The Cardinals traded for Giusti a few days before the National League expansion draft to stock the rosters of the Padres and Expos. St. Louis left him unprotected and the Padres took him with their second pick. The Cards clearly realized they made a mistake, because a couple of months later, during the Winter Meetings, they traded four young players to the Padres to get Giusti back.

1969 Topps lists Giusti with the Padres but shows him in an airbrushed Astros (or Colt .45s?) uniform, along with a note on the back of the card about how the Cardinals had to send 4 men to reacquire him.

By the way, the two cards featured in today’s post are in a COMC batch I’m about to request shipment on, so the cards you see are technically mine, but still in a warehouse in Washington state.

Zoilo Versailles
The 1965 AL MVP with the Twins was seeing his numbers on the downswing at a relatively young age. The Dodgers acquired the former MVP in a late 1967 trade, possibly hoping that a change of scenery would revive him somehow (sound familiar, Albert Pujols?), but for Versailles it didn’t happen in Los Angeles. He was left exposed in the 1968 expansion draft and San Diego took him with the 20th pick.

San Diego fans who had been excited to see the Cuban former All-Star may have been disappointed when he became the player-to-be-named-later in a pre-draft deal which sent Indians prospect Bill Davis to the Padres. Davis would be the Opening Day first baseman for San Diego but didn’t hit enough and was replaced by Nate Colbert.

Like with Giusti, the back of Versalles’ card has a note about the trade to Cleveland.  The same photo of Versalles in Twins pinstripes was also used on his 1970 Topps card, by which time he was a member of the Washington Senators.


I’ve been toying with this “Only On Paper” idea for a while now, so I hope to make this something of an ongoing series. I’m not sure where I’ll go next, but if all goes according to the vague plans in my head, I will eventually cover all of the expansion teams from 1961 to 1998.

6 thoughts on “Only On Paper: Nearly 1969 Padres

  1. A very interesting column regarding expansion teams and players who never appeared for those teams. The Seattle Pilots also had several players who were depicted on Pilot baseball cards but never played for the team. As a corollary, there were also several Pilot players who DID play for that woeful squad who did NOT receive cards in 1969. Among them were veteran pitchers, teammates and roommates Jim Bouton and Gary Bell. Future Cy Young winner Mike Marshall is another one, I believe, and there are probably five or six others who played but had no card issued in 1969 Topps set.

    • There were a number of players who were in 1970 Spring training with the Pilots, appeared on 1970 Topps cards with the team but, of course, never played for them because the team moved to Milwaukee just before the season started. The Pilots are definitely on my list, and might get two posts out of the deal

  2. I like combing through first-year expansion cards like these because of all the confusion they seem to create. I know a lot of the Seattle Pilots cards I own feature a good handful of guys who never even played for them.

  3. I didn’t learn about Zoilo Versalles until a few years ago. Pretty sure I discovered him from a 1982 Topps Kmart card… which means that I might have learned about him when I was a kid… but forgot his name over the years. Didn’t realize he was with the Padres organization for a brief time. We’ll always wonder if he would have been more successful than what the Padres threw out on the field that season at 2b or SS.

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