Nate Colbert Passes Away


Former major leaguer Nate Colbert has passed away, the Padres announced. He was 76 years old.

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Padres Hall of Famer Nate Colbert,” team chairman Peter Seidler said as part of the club’s statement. “Our hearts go out to his wife, Kasey, and the entire Colbert family at this very difficult time.”

Seidler’s statement goes on to note that Colbert still holds the Friars’ franchise record for home runs, with 163 longballs in a San Diego uniform. That’s perhaps his most famous achievement, though the St. Louis native was a three-time All-Star who spent a decade in the big leagues. Originally signed by his hometown Cardinals in 1964, Colbert made it to the majors with the Astros just two years later. He appeared in 39 games with Houston between 1966-68 and got his first extended action after landing with the Padres during their first year of existence.

Selected by San Diego during the expansion draft that predated their 1969 debut, the right-handed hitting Colbert quickly cemented himself as one of the game’s better sluggers. He hit 24 home runs during his first full season, then connected on 38 longballs during his second campaign. That figure tied for eighth in the majors in 1970 and set the stage for three consecutive All-Star showings from 1971-73.

That three-year stretch saw Colbert hit 27, 38 and 22 longballs, respectively. Only Johnny Bench had more homers in 1972. Over his first five seasons with the Friars, the 6’2″ first baseman hit .260/.333/.483 in just over 3000 plate appearances. Colbert finished ninth in cumulative homers and 19th among qualified hitters in slugging. His overall offensive production was 28 percentage points above that of the league average hitter during that time, as measured by wRC+.

Colbert’s numbers fell off after his 28th birthday. He had his first below-average season in 1974 and the Padres traded him to the Tigers as part of a three-team deal with St. Louis the ensuing offseason. Colbert subsequently made brief stops with the Expos and A’s but struggled. He retired after the 1976 season, his age-30 campaign.

While he didn’t have as long a playing career as it once seemed he would, Colbert had a strong half-decade peak as one of the sport’s better power hitters. He collected a trio of All-Star appearances and placed eighth in NL MVP balloting in 1972. Over parts of 10 seasons, he hit .243/.322/.451 with 173 homers, 520 runs batted in and 481 runs scored. The Padres selected him for their organizational Hall of Fame as part of their inaugural class in 1999.

After his playing career, Colbert spent some time as a minor league hitting instructor. He later became an ordained minister; as part of his statement, Seidler noted that Colbert had “(dedicated) his time to disadvantaged youth through his ministry.” MLBTR sends our condolences to Colbert’s family, friends, loved ones and former teammates.

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