Padres History with Joe Furtado: Chapter 5 – “1972″ Murphy’s Law

*Back in 1988, Padres fan and local San Diegan Joe Furtado, started writing a book based on Padres history up to that point. 21 Chapters later he finished it and after a few failed attempts at getting it published, put it back on his shelf never to see the light of day…..that is until now. To read the other entries, click here.

By Joe Furtado:

Did you ever have one of those days? You get up in the morning with everything planned out. You’re excited to take on the challenge that lies before you and come out like a champ. Then something happens that you didn’t anticipate, a couple of things go wrong, and before you know it, the day is shot. All you want to do his crawl back into bed and start all over.

For the Padres, 1972 was a lot like that. It started off great. Some personnel changes; in the front office, in the radio booth, and down on the field convinced the fans that Buzzie Bavasi was sincere in his efforts to keep the team in San Diego. Talk of moving to Washington, D.C. had all but subsided. Fan interest was at an all-time high, as were season ticket sales, and the community as a whole was rallying around the team like never before.

The club even got some new uniforms. They were double-knits, which made them quite comfortable, especially on those hot summer days, and they were colorful. Boy were they colorful. The Padres called them mission gold, but to everyone else, they appeared more yellow than gold. An apt description might be mustard yellow. One thing everyone did agree on was that they were bright. Jokes would abound all season long–peacocks, hot dogs, etc., but it was an effort to change the Padre image for the coming season, so mission gold it would be.

With the approach of spring training, there was excitement in the air. Pre-season injuries to Ivan Murrell (broken wrist), and John Jeter (fractured arm), did not deter Bavasi from taking personal charge of training camp.

He had some specific guidelines he wanted the team to work on; shorter workouts with more concentrated, personalized instruction, giving the youngsters a fair shot at making the team, and re-shaping the team to fit spacious San Diego Stadium, which meant shoring up the defense and playing for one run at a time. He also had specific tasks for two of his coaches. Hitting instructor Bob Skinner would teach the speedsters on the team on how to get on base more frequently, and pitching coach Roger Craig was told to teach his staff how to pick runners off base, something they hadn’t been very successful at doing in the past. It was all going so well.

Then things started to unravel. Three youngsters counted on to help the team for many years to come made some startling decisions regarding their careers. Tommy Dean, Al Severinsen, and Mike Ivie all quit the team for various reasons. Dean, who batted .114 last season, wanted a raise or at least a guarantee that he would remain on the team for the entire 1972 season. When management couldn’t give him either, he retired. Severinsen, the relief specialist who was 2-5 in 1971 stated that he didn’t want to play on the west coast. Unless he was traded to a team back east, he too would retire. His attitude changed midway through the spring, but he fell behind in his conditioning and started the season in Hawaii. Ivie, the team’s #1 draft pick in 1970, was just plain fed up with the game of baseball. After signing for $100,000 and experiencing problems throwing the ball back to the pitcher in Lodi last season, he came to camp with a shot at making the team. In the very first intra-squad game, Ivie went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. He was also admonished several times by his manager for the way he threw the ball back to the mound. In a fit of frustration, he left camp and headed home to Georgia.

As if that wasn’t enough to worry about, there was the usual talk of a player’s strike. Though there were enough signs to indicate that the times were changing, everyone felt that no matter how disgruntled the players might get, they would never go on strike. The pension plan agreement, signed in 1969, was set to expire on March 31, 1972. Negotiations, which had been going on for some time, were progressing very slowly. The players, led by Marvin Miller, were asking the owners for increased retirement benefits of about $800,000. They were also asking the owners to absorb an anticipated increase in annual medical and health benefits in the amount of $400,000. The owners were adamant in their refusal to accept any of the playerÆs demands. Augie Busch, owner of the St.Louis Cardinals, speaking for the other owners said, “We voted unanimously to take a stand. We’re not going to give them (the players) another God damn cent. If they want to strike, let ’em!”

With the owners refusing to budge, the players decided to call their bluff. The results came as a surprise to the owners, the fans, and probably even Marvin Miller himself. Of the 673 votes cast, 663 were in favor of striking, 2 players abstained, and only 10 players voted not to strike. Miller wholeheartedly supported the vote, contending that the issue was not money, but rather the ownerÆs efforts to break the union.

As a team, the Padres voted 26-0 to strike. Bavasi was quite miffed. He felt betrayed by his players. After talking to several members of the team, he knew of at least four players who would not vote to strike. He felt they lacked courage in not standing up for their convictions. But the players were caught between a rock and a hard place. They felt a closeness to their boss and yet they had a loyalty to the union. As some players put it, it didn’t really matter how they voted, everyone else supported a strike. The Padre vote was a vote of unity.

So on April l, 1972, for the first time in the 103 year history of baseball, the players went on strike. Major League clubs immediately began closing down spring training camps. Opening day, April 5, came and went with very little movement on either side. The fans sided with the owners. They felt the players didn’t have a legitimate gripe; they were already making more money than most people. Former players were not too sympathetic either. Ex blooper pitcher Rip Sewell stated his opinion quite eloquently, “First the players wanted a hamburger and the owners gave them a hamburger. Then they wanted filet mignon and they gave them filet mignon. Then they wanted the whole darn cow and they got the cow. Now they want a pasture for the cow. You just can’t satisfy them.”

To read all of Chapter 5, download this PDF: 5Murphy’sLaw

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