Tenace Homered Twice, and I Was There

I might not be remembering actual events. I might be remembering my memory of events. Gene Tenace homered twice, and at some point I asked my father what quarter it was. My father used to take me to Chargers games when Dan Fouts would get booed and occasionally pulled for an aging James Harris, so football was what I knew.

I’ve gotten details of this story wrong in the past. I said several years ago that the game was in 1977 and later repeated my error in another interview. Tenace homered twice in a game on three different occasions that season. However, those came in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Montreal. Aside from a brief stop at the Pittsburgh airport on the way home from a trip to Toronto, I’ve never visited these cities.

This is where I admit that the article you’re reading now is a blatant rip-off of Left Coast Bias’ article that ran a few weeks ago. If you haven’t read that yet, please do so.

Anyway, thanks to the magic of Baseball-Reference, we know that the tragically underappreciated Tenace homered twice in a game at San Diego Stadium three times while with the Padres:

  1. May 9, 1978 vs Cubs
  2. July 28, 1978 vs Cardinals
  3. September 9, 1980 vs Giants

I can eliminate the third right away, because I’d attended an Angels game in 1979. I got Rod Carew’s autograph in the parking lot. He smelled spicy.

I’ve long thought that it could have been either of the other two games. But then, I had trouble solving Encyclopedia Brown stories, so my powers of deductive reasoning aren’t the best.

Despite this limitation, in a recent and unexpected flash of insight, I discovered the answer. When I was 9 years old, I lived in Los Angeles with my mother, spending weekends and the summer with my father in San Diego.

Although the May 9 game is close enough to my birthday to give me pause, there’s no way I would have been in town on a Tuesday night while school was in session. Ergo, it must have been July 28, which depressingly happens to be 35 years ago this week.

That was a needlessly long setup. To the game:

  • In addition to my father and me, there were 17,215 other folks at the ballpark.
  • The game lasted 2:09, which felt like an eternity because baseball is boring to a 9-year-old whose father watches a sport where people are constantly running around.
  • Randy Jones went the distance, scattering nine hits en route to an 8-3 victory.
  • Garry Templeton went 4-for-4 for the Cardinals. Others in the lineup with ties to the Padres included Jerry Mumphrey, Ted Simmons, and George Hendrick.
  • The Cardinals’ second baseman was named Mike Tyson, part of the “No Not THAT One” team.
  • The late Aurelio López, who beat the Padres in the fifth and deciding game of the 1984 World Series, served up the second of Tenace’s two homers.
  • Two Hall of Famers played in this game, both for the Padres: Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield. You could make an argument that Simmons belongs as well.
  • Two former first picks overall played for the Padres. Bill Almon (1974) started at third base and batted eighth, going 0-for-3 with a walk and two errors. Dave Roberts (1972) pinch-ran for Oscar Gamble and scored on Tenace’s second homer. The Padres have a long history of bad picks at number one, dating back to well before Matt Bush was born.
  • Tenace’s first homer, a solo shot against starter John Denny with two out in the sixth, tied the game at 2-2. Those of you who enjoyed Anchorman are welcome to say “Whammy!
  • Tenace’s second homer, a two-out three-run blast the next inning, made the score 8-2. Please don’t say “Whammy!” again.
  • I vaguely recall my dad hyping Winfield and me being unimpressed. To a 9-year-old, either you homered or you did nothing. I’ve had it in my head that Winfield did nothing, but he singled, walked, and stole a base in four trips to the plate. That’s an 833 OPS. Keep that up for a career, and you’ll find yourself in Cooperstown. (Winfield’s career OPS was 827.)

Although this article didn’t help me reclaim my past, it did remind me of something. One of my old articles that I linked to earlier contained the following passage:

I love baseball because it affords me the opportunity to forget about the mundane concerns of everyday life for a while and to spend an unpredictable amount of time with others who take pleasure in enjoying a similar respite.

How does this relate to my first game? I have no idea. And I still don’t know what quarter it was.

* * *

What was your first game? Why do you love baseball? Leave a comment, send an email (geoff@sonofaduck.com), or hit me up on Twitter (@ducksnorts).

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  • Lonnie Brownell

    Nice detective work, Dr. Young. Just enough clues to figure it out.

  • SDPads1

    If I ever run into Rod Carew I’m going to awkwardly smell him.

  • Mike

    1983. Sadly I don’t remember the team or the month even. I think it may have been a Giant’s game because I have an early baseball memory where my older brothers and other Padres fans in the section dipping napkins in beer and throwing them at Giants fans. When did we become so accommodating to them? I remember it was a night game & it was cold and wet, so it was probably April. So possibly it was this game http://www.baseball-reference.com/games/standings.cgi?date=1983-04-06 . Most of all I remember when Rupert Jones would make a play or come up to bat and the crowd would cheer, “Ruuuuuuuuupe” and I wondered why fans would boo a player on their own team, especially one that seemed as good as Rupert Jones.

  • Frank K

    Hey, Geoff: It’s kind of a long story, and I might have told you before. Way back in about ’78 I worked with Gene Richards wife and got into a conversation with Mr Taciturn, George Hendrick. It was the day after a game I saw when he missed two bunt signs from Dark with Tenace on deck. I don’t think he knew what sign was for the bunt, as I recall he said he had never been asked to, and this time he got a hit instead. He was notorious for not talking to reporters, but was a really nice guy. Tenace at the time was money in the clutch, so I can’t really blame Dark. I think he rates even an edge on Benito for best stick by a Pad catcher ever, he had a great eye that drove up his OBP.

    • Geoff Young

      Thanks, Frank… good stuff. I never saw Hendrick here but remember him with the Cardinals and always thought it was a mistake to trade him for… oops, Eric Rasmussen. The Padres have made some terrible trades with St. Louis, which might make for an interesting future article. As for Tenace, he is one of my all-time favorites. I think his career .241 batting average keeps many people from realizing how good he was. When you hit 20 homers and draw 100 walks a year, you can get away with .241. Tenace was a stud.