Nate Colbert

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Nathan Colbert Jr.

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Biographical Information[edit]

“As I walk up to the plate... I automatically touch my helmet. It gets me thinking about what I want to hit. Then I draw a Roman numeral seven in the dirt, backwards, with the end of the bat. I don’t know why I do it. I just do it. It clears my mind.” - Nate Colbert, 1973

Nate Colbert cleared his mind and swung a mighty bat in ten seasons in the big leagues, belting 173 home runs. The first superstar in the existence of the San Diego Padres, he twice hit 38 homers in a season before back problems hastened his big league departure at just 30.

Colbert broke in with the Houston Astros in 1966, seeing fleeting action in parts of two seasons before the Padres took him 18th in the expansion draft prior to 1969. Nate immediately became a regular in San Diego, leading the inaugural Padres team in home runs (24) and RBI (66) while hitting .255/.322/.482. In 1970, he belted 38 homers for the first time, part of a .259/.328/.509 season with 84 runs scored and 86 RBI. In 1971, he made his first All-Star Game appearance, hitting .264/.339/.462 with 27 bombs for a team that only hit 96.

Nate's 1972 was his signature season. He made the second of three consecutive All-Star appearances, socking another 38 home runs while batting .250/.333/.508 and establishing career highs in runs scored (870 and RBI. He racked up 111 RBI for a team that scored only 488 runs all season. No one else on the team had as many as 50, and no player had ever driven in such a high percentage of his team's runs. Colbert's RBI performance in 1972 is memorialized in an article in The Complete Armchair Book of Baseball titled "Nate Colbert's Unknown RBI Record". His signature moment also came that season. On August 1st, Nate tied Stan Musial by hitting five home runs in one day against the Atlanta Braves. In the first game of the doubleheader, Colbert had two homers and five RBI. He followed with three homers and eight RBI in the nightcap. Game 1 of the doubleheader Game 2 of the doubleheader

After another good season with the Padres in 1973, with a .270/.343/.450 line and 22 home runs, Colbert tailed off sharply in 1974, hitting only .207/.319/.364 in his final season with over 100 games. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers after the season, then spent some time with the Montreal Expos and Oakland A's. Hampered by back troubles, he hit under .200 while playing only 99 games between 1975 and 1976.

To this day, Colbert remains the Padres career leader in home runs with 163. He was an inaugural inductee to the club's Hall of Fame in 1999. The similarity scores method shows similar players as a cornucopia of more recent sluggers, including Lee Stevens, Paul Sorrento, Lucas Duda and Brandon Moss.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 1967 Player of the Year Texas League Amarillo Sonics
  • 3-time NL All-Star (1971-1973)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 5 (1969-1973)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 2 (1970 & 1972)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1972)

Records Held[edit]

  • Home runs, doubleheader, 5 (August 1, 1972)
  • RBI, doubleheader, 13 (August 1, 1972)
  • RBI highest percentage of team runs, 22.75% (111/488, 1972: second place is Wally Berger, 22.61%, 1935 Braves)

Year-by-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Playoffs Notes
1995 Grays Harbor Gulls Western Baseball League 31-59 4th
1996 Clarksville Coyotes Big South League 31-41 5th

Further Reading[edit]

  • AJ Cassavell: "Nate Colbert, Padres' all-time HR leader, dies at 76",, January 6, 2023. [1]
  • Nate Colbert (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, October 1987, pp. 75-77. [2]

Related Sites[edit]