Padres History with Joe Furtado: Chapter 6 – “1973″ The Wrong Game In the Wrong Town

*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:

In spite of the announcement that the team would still be in San Diego in 1973, there were still those who felt it was only a matter of time before poor attendance forced the Padres to move. As devoted as C.Arnholt Smith appeared to be, he was still a businessman, and businessmen don’t enjoy losing large sums of money year after year. Whatever the future held for the team, management could not afford to sit around and wait for something to happen. A new season was approaching, and with it came the hope of better times.

In the winter free agent draft, the Padres, choosing third, selected 20 year old Dave Wehrmeister, a right-handed pitcher from LaGrange, Illinois. The number one pick in the draft was Arizona State infielder Alan Bannister, taken by the Phillies.

As spring training approached, the enigmatic Mike Ivie announced that he would make a bid for the #1 catching spot. After marrying his childhood sweetheart and seeing a psychologist in the off season, Ivie declared that he had matured and put all of his problems behind him.

Nate Colbert became the highest paid Padre when he signed a new, $60,000 contract, and in an effort to help Nate and the rest of his teammates, the front office talked about shortening the dimensions of San Diego Stadium. For the past two seasons, the Padres scored fewer runs at home than any other team in the majors, and in 1972, they actually had a better record on the road (32-41) than they did at the stadium (26-54).

On the labor front, the basic agreement expired at the end of 1972, and in an effort to avoid an 11th hour confrontation, the players and the owners began negotiating back in September. Some six months later, very little progress had been made and a confrontation appeared imminent. This time the owners made the first move, closing all the “early bird” camps. Those are the camps that the pitchers and catchers report to before the rest of the team.

The owners also threatened to keep regular spring training camps closed until there was a settlement.

On February 25, a new 3-year contract was approved and spring training opened on March 1.

Some of the highlights of the new agreement would have a major impact on the game for years to come. Salary arbitration was agreed upon by both sides whereby an impartial third party would decide upon salary disagreements between owners and players. For a player to be eligible for arbitration, he must have two full years or three broken years of major league service. Owner representatives and player representatives would each submit a salary figure they felt was just, and the arbitrator would decide on one of the figures. There would be no compromise. The ten and five rule was also instituted. A player with ten years in the league and five years with the same team could veto any trade in which he was involved. The minimum salary was increased to $15,000 in 1973 and 1974, and then it would go up to $16,000 in 1975.

There were some drastic rules changes made too. The American League made one of the most significant changes in the history of the game when they voted to implement a designated hitter for a three year trial basis. For each game, managers could designate a player who would not play in the field, but would hit in place of the pitcher. The National League held off on the plan, wanting to see how it would work before using it.

Another rule that went into effect for the new season allowed relief pitchers to earn “saves”. The criteria for gaining a save were fairly simple. Upon entering a game as a reliever, a pitcher would be credited with a save if he faced the potential tying or winning run either on base or at the plate. He could also earn a save by pitching three or more effective innings and, in either case, preserving the lead. This new rule was implemented by both leagues.

To read all of Chapter 6, download this PDF: 6WrongGame

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