Thirty years ago tomorrow, the Padres beat the Cardinals, 10-0, at Jack Murphy Stadium (box | pbp). Eric Show went the distance, scattering seven hits en route to his fourth win of the season and the 15th of his career. You already know that he went on to win 100 games as a member of the Padres, becoming the only pitcher in history to do so, but there was another hero that Wednesday evening in Mission Valley.
His name is Mario Ramírez, and you are forgiven for not remembering him. Taken from the Mets in the 1980 Rule 5 draft, the man known as “Ñato” spent parts of five seasons in San Diego, mostly doing very little. But on May 4, 1983, he had the game of his life.
Ramírez had been recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on April 30 to replace shortstop Garry Templeton, who was having trouble with his left knee. At the time, Ramírez owned 2 RBI in 66 previous big-league plate appearances.
On May 3, against the Cardinals, he drove in two more to double his career total. The following night, he drove in four, again doubling that total.
Ramírez wouldn’t drive in his next run until a month later, but for two days, he was unstoppable, with half of his RBI total for the season coming in those games. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Jayson Stark, this prompted St. Louis skipper Whitey Herzog to say, “He looks like Baby Ruth to me.”
Ramírez tortured the Cardinals throughout his brief career, hitting .381/.440/.619 against them. He was an RBI machine:
On this evening, Ramírez played shortstop and batted eighth, behind Tim Flannery and ahead of Show. Everyone in the starting lineup knocked at least one hit against flamboyant starter Joaquín Andújar, former Padres right-hander Eric Rasmussen, and 44-year-old southpaw Jim Kaat.
Ramírez first came up in the second, with the Padres already ahead, 1-0. Flannery had singled with one out and advanced to third on an error by center fielder Willie McGee on the play. Ramírez followed with an infield single to score Flannery.
After lining out to third his next time up, Ramírez faced Rasmussen with nobody out in the sixth. With the Padres now leading, 3-0, Rasmussen had intentionally walked Flannery to load the bases. Ramírez followed by whacking a double to center that cleared them. He was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple, but this was small consolation for the Cardinals.
Ramírez got one final opportunity in the seventh. With the score now 10-0, Kaat got him to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. Show, meanwhile, kept putting guys on base and leaving them there en route to his third career shutout.
After the season, writer Art Turgeon of the Providence Journal gave out fictitious “Dubious and/or Totally Irrelevant Awards.” Among these were the “Sugar Ray Leonard Try-Try-Again award,” which went to Padres manager Dick Williams, “who kept sending Mario Ramirez up to pinch-hit, even though Ramirez went 0-for-15.”
Much later Ramirez would reward his persistent skipper. On June 28, 1985, the reserve infielder hit a two-run pinch-homer off Cincinnati left-hander Joe Price. Still, a career .161/.316/.290 pinch-hitting line hardly intimidates.
Ramirez hit .119/.278/.237 in 73 plate appearances for the 1984 NL champion Padres and even batted twice in the NLCS. He got into 37 more games (including the Opening Day start at second base) the following season, then played for Toledo in the Twins organization in 1986 and Yucatan of the Mexican League in 1987 before retiring at age 29 and then disappearing.
Ramírez died February 22, 2013, at the far-too-young age of 55. There is a story that he once told a reporter that the RAK patch on the Padres uniform meant “Really Ass Kicking.” It sounds like an urban legend to me, but who knows. As urban legends go, it’s really ass kicking. Just like Ramírez’s performance at Jack Murphy Stadium 30 years ago tomorrow.
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