Williams, a San Diego native, will be honored both for his time as a member of the Pacific Coast League Padres during the 1936 and 1937 seasons and for his lifetime contributions to the game of baseball. Regarded by many as the greatest hitter who ever lived and one of the greatest athletes ever to come from San Diego, Williams grew up in North Park and graduated from Herbert Hoover High School. At the age of 17, he signed with the Padres in the midst of the club's first season in the Pacific Coast League, hitting .271 in 42 games in 1936. He followed that campaign by hitting .291 with 23 home runs in 138 games in 1937, helping the Padres win the Pacific Coast League title that year, San Diego's first professional baseball championship. Williams' time as a Padre was brief; he was spotted by a scout for the Boston Red Sox and signed a Major League contract with Boston in 1938. He made his Major League debut in a Red Sox uniform in 1939 at the age of 20, and went on to have one of the most successful careers in Major League history, playing 19 seasons and being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966. Williams' playing career was twice interrupted to serve his country: in World War II and the Korean War.
"In their own distinctive ways, Ted Williams and Ken Caminiti played pivotal roles in the story of the Padres," said longtime Padres beat writer Bill Center, who now serves as a Padres historian and a contributor to Padres Social Hour. "Ted went straight from Hoover High to Lane Field to become a member of the original Padres in 1936. He returned to San Diego in the 1990s, where he developed a close friendship with Padres legend Tony Gwynn. He also lent his time to the campaign to build a new downtown ballpark for San Diego - what is today Petco Park. Six decades after Williams helped get the Padres started, Caminiti, in production and persona, became the on-and-off field leader of the Padres as the franchise's only player to ever win the National league's Most Valuable Player award."
"Without Ken Caminiti and the 1998 National League champion Padres, quite simply, there is no Petco Park. And today's major-league Padres trace their lineage back to very humble Pacific Coast League beginnings in 1936, all the way back to a fresh-faced kid who helped start the professional story here before becoming San Diego's most important export to the baseball world at large," said Scott Miller, chairman of the San Diego chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "There is a rich baseball story to tell here in San Diego and, by resurrecting their Hall of Fame with gusto, the Padres are filling in the missing chapters. In my opinion, the story of how we got here has been the only thing missing from the civic treasure that is Petco Park. From Ted Williams to Tony Gwynn to today, the story in the Padres Hall will be fun, entertaining and, look out - as with any thoughtful museum, you'll probably even learn a little something along the way, too."
Members of the Caminiti and Williams families are expected to be in attendance as the two men become the 12th and 13th Padres enshrined in the Padres Hall of Fame, which was created to honor the club's 30th anniversary in 1999. Caminiti and Williams join (in order of induction) Randy Jones (1999), Nate Colbert (1999), Ray Kroc (1999), Dave Winfield (2000), Jerry Coleman (2001), Buzzie Bavasi (2001), Tony Gwynn (2002), Dick Williams (2009), Trevor Hoffman (2014), Benito Santiago (2015) and Garry Templeton 2015).
The new Padres Hall of Fame at Petco Park is set to open on Friday, July 1 on K Street behind the left field seating area. It will feature an in-depth timeline of the organization's history and greatest moments from the Pacific Coast League (1936-68) through the National League years (1969-present), as well as interactive displays and tributes to the players, broadcasters and executives who have made a tremendous impact on baseball in San Diego.