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.
- May 9, 1978 vs Cubs
- July 28, 1978 vs Cardinals
- 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.
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.
* * *