In 1998, Greg Vaughn became the only Padres player to hit 50 home runs in a season. Six years earlier, Fred McGriff became the only one to lead the National League in homers, with 35.
The last Padres player to lead a league in home runs before McGriff? That would be Deron Johnson, who knocked 33 dingers in 1963 to pace the PCL. It was a great season for the Poway native and graduate of San Diego High School, which later produced Graig Nettles and Jacque Jones.
It was also Johnson’s only season playing for his hometown team. The next year, he hit 21 homers for the Cincinnati Reds. A year later, he led the NL with 130 RBI. He won a World Championship with the A’s in 1973 and finished his career with 245 homers. Johnson, who remained in baseball as a coach after his playing days were over, died far too soon, succumbing to lung cancer in 1992 at age 53.
Before Johnson, you have to go back to 1949, when PCL Hall of Famer Max West launched 48 bombs. West also led the PCL in 1947. And when he graduated to the NL’s Pittsburgh Pirates a year later, fellow lefty slugger Jack Graham filled the void, leading the PCL with 48 in ’48 and being named the circuit’s MVP. He would’ve hit even more if not for a horrific beaning (they didn’t wear helmets) that cost him 46 games.