Inspired by Left Coast Bias’ excellent post earlier today.
I bought season tickets for the 1997 season during the 1996 season, because it came with guaranteed playoff tickets for the 1996 post-season. Although that NLDS didn’t end well, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Tony Gwynn hit in 1997, his last truly great offensive season, even though the Padres finished 76-86.
When the season ticket renewal came in the mail, I didn’t renew my tickets. Why? I was on active duty at the time, my orders were up, and I’d be heading off to a Navy school, then a new home port, in 1998. Didn’t make sense to spend the money. I knew the Padres would be good – they had obtained Greg Vaughn, signed Kevin Brown, Dave Stewart was the pitching coach – but them’s the breaks.
The 1998 Padres are probably my favorite team as well, because I was forced to watch them from a distance. It was a tangible link to a city I’d reluctantly left. Thinking back on the team, and the year, it reminds me of professional challenges faced, new life-long friends met, and San Diego winning their second NL West Division Title in 3 years. It reminds me of Tony Gwynn turning a ridiculous slider from Randy Johnson into a double down the LF line, Sterling Hitchcock pitching lights-out, and beating heavily favored Atlanta in a six game NLCS. It reminds me of Gwynn and Vaughn homering into the old Yankee Stadium RF seats, listening via the internet to Ted Leitner call the games, Trevor coming in to Hell’s Bells.
I never got to see this team play live. I am really looking forward to seeing them tonight.