On this day 42 years ago, following their fifth season as a major league team, the Padres traded for a past-his-prime superstar, setting a blueprint for all the decades that have followed. That's not to say Willie McCovey was a flop in his two-plus years in brown and yellow. He hit well in a pitching-dominated era, but he just wasn't the 1969 version of himself. Then again, who was?
Along with McCovey, San Diego also acquired the original Bernie Williams in exchange for swingman Mike Caldwell. Williams appeared in just 14 games for the Friars, collecting two singles in 15 at-bats and appearing in only three games on defense. After the 1974 season, Williams headed to Japan, where he hit well in six seasons for the Hankyu Braves, even being named to an All-Star Game.
Caldwell had just completed his second full major league season at the time of the trade, and neither of them were particularly good. In the same way McCovey's numbers look better in context, Caldwell's 3.80 ERA in his time with the Padres is even less impressive than it would be today. The Giants promptly placed him in their rotation, and the stability seemed be just what he needed. He went 14-5 with a 2.95 ERA in 189.1 innings over 30 games (27 starts), but fell back to previous form in 1975 and '76 when returned to a swingman role. After the 1976 season, the Giants traded him to the Cardinals, who in turn traded him to the Reds before the 1977 season began. He lasted less than three months in Cincinnati before they traded him to Milwaukee, where he finally put it all together and spent the last eight seasons of his career.
As mentioned, McCovey hit well in 1974 and '75, but he played in just 128 and 122 games, respectively. Despite his decreased workload, McCovey's 22 home runs were good for tenth in the league in 1974, and his 23 were seventh the following year. He was third in at-bats per homer, then fifth. His 1976 season was the worst of his career to that point, ultimately surpassed by only his swan song in 1980. He slashed just .203/ .281/ .351 with seven homers in 202 at-bats over 71 games before his contract was sold to the A's. He fared no better in 11 games with Oakland, and returned across the bay for a reunion with the Giants. McCovey played his final four seasons back where he started, performing ably in the first three of those. It's their hat he wears on his Hall of Fame plaque, which he was awarded in 1986, his first year of eligibility, but he does hold the distinction of being the first Hall of Famer who once played for the Padres.