Saturday, February 22, 2014

Who Are These Guys #2.5: a SECOND Update on the Unknown Padre

John Sipin, Japanese Baseball Star from the 1970s

Rod from Padrographs was kind enough (or bothered enough by the visage of our unknown Padre) to post the photo below at Gaslampball on the excellent SB Nation Network of blogs.  And, I think we have a positive identification:  John Sipin.

Sipin's story is a very interesting one as well.  Born and raised in California, he made it to the majors for just one season -- 1969, as Rod picked up on based on the patch on the uniform sleeve -- at the age of 22. Sipin showed good pop and decent plate patience in his 6 years in the minor leagues as well.  In AAA in 1970 and 1971, he hit 40 homers, drove in 157 runs, hit .310, stole 17 bases, and had a .361 on base percentage in over 1100 plate appearances at the ages of 23 and 24.  These days, those numbers probably would put Sipin on a few prospect lists.

Granted, he was not a great fielder at 2B -- his range factors were not very high and he made a few errors...well, he made a lot of errors in 1968 at AA in the St. Louis system (34 in 129 games).  But, one would think that today's talent evaluators would look past those shortcomings to get his bat and his batting eye in the lineup.  As a bit of a comparison, look at Jeff Kent's stats from age 23 in AA -- not AAA:  12 HRs, 61 RBI, 25 steals, .256 BA, .379 OBP in 540 plate appearances.  Certainly, the PCL even then was a better hitters' league than the Southern League of 1991, but Sipin's numbers are not that far off and are at a higher level of competition at the same age.

Rather than get discouraged by being stuck behind ESPN's Dave "Soup" Campbell (obtained by the Padres after the 1969 season with Pat Dobson for Joe Niekro), Sipin went to Japan and played for Taiyo and Yomiuri for 9 seasons, racking up 218 homers, 625 RBI, a .297 batting average, and a .356 OBP in over 1000 games and 3779 AB.  As for his fielding, he even won two Japanese Gold Gloves!

So, thank you, Rod, for finding out who my photo is and for introducing me to the fascinating story of John Sipin's baseball career.  Shoot me an e-mail with your address so I can send you a thank you gift!


  1. Nice to get this figured out! Sipin didn't seem to get a MLB card, but has at least one from his time in Japan.

    1. I agree. I have had this stack of photos since 1987 or so, so I've been trying on and off to figure out who these guys are for a long, long time!