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by Harold Friend
In 1996, Ken Caminiti had a career year, batting .326, hitting 40 home runs, and batting in 130 runs. Ken had a .408 on base average, slugged .621. and won his second consecutive gold glove. As a result of his great season, Ken Caminiti was selected the National League's Most Valuable Player by a unanimous vote. It was only the fourth time a National Leaguer won the award unanimously (Orlando Cepeda, 1967, Mike Schmidt, 1980, Jeff Bagwell, 1994).
Ken Caminiti Showed Courage, Determination, and Loyalty
During the 1996 season, and for most his career, Ken Caminiti showed great courage, determination, and team loyalty by overcoming many aliments. He played most of 1996 with a torn rotator cuff, which was finally repaired at the end of the season. A game against the New York Mets during August in Monterrey, Mexico, exemplified Ken Caminiti's character and courage. '
A Candy Bar Helped
Ken was dehydrated from illness. Before the game, he was given two liters of intravenous fluids, and despite his compromised physical condition, Ken told Padres' manager Bruce Bochy that he was going to play. The game started, but Ken didn't feel right. Hoping to increase his sugar level, he ate a candy bar. It worked.
Two Home Runs
In the second inning, Caminiti hit a bases empty home run to put the Padres ahead, 1-0, and with two runners on and two outs in the third, he blasted a three run home run. Behind the pitching of Joey Hamilton, Dario Veras, and the great Trevor Hoffman, the Padres coasted to an 8-0 victory over New York's other team.
Ken Caminiti Did His Job
After the season, the modest Caminiti, reacted typically when told he had won the MVP award. "I got picked for MVP for doing my job, basically."
It was not all wine and roses for Ken Caminiti. In helping the Padres win the 1996 National League Western Division title in 1996, and the National League pennant in 1998, Ken battled he battled alcoholism, became addicted to pain killers, and was troubled by a smokeless tobacco habit. Ken Caminiti had problems. He also had guts.
A Great Trade for the Padres
The Padres acquired Caminiti's services from the Houston Astros in an 11 player trade in 1994. With the Astros, Ken never hit more than 18 home runs in a season. In his first full year as a regular, he hit 10 home runs, but he tailed off the following season, hitting only four. WIth the Padres, Ken Caminiti became a feared slugger.
Some Great Achievements
No one claims that Ken Caminiti was one of the third base greats, but the only Hall of Fame third basemen who hit as many as 40 home runs in a season are MIke Schmidt and Eddie Mathews, and only Pie Traynor, Freddie Lindstrom, Jimmy Collins, Frank "Home Run" Baker, George Brett and Wade Boggs batted more than .326. One cannot help but wonder what Ken Caminiti would have achieved if he had been healthier and had played his entire career without needing medical help. He might have become the Barry Bonds of third basemen.
Ken Caminiti at Baseball-Reference
Ken Caminiti at Baseball Library
By MURRAY CHASS. (1996, November 14). Caminiti Gets M.V.P.; Matt Williams Gets Traded :On a hot day at the hot corner, San Francisco's slugger goes to Cleveland for three players. Caminiti Is M.V.P. and Williams Is Traded. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. B17. Retrieved November 25, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 115927548).