This is where we gather from time to time to talk about something big in the Padres world or just the Padres or just baseball. It’s a roundtable discussion. Except, you know, no round tables. This is a Public House…so we’re at the bar.
*All opinions are of those who are attributed to them. No opinion here should be construed to be that of the collective.
Padres Trail wrote an excellent post a couple of weeks ago regarding the most seminal Padres moment. His choice, a fine one, was Game 3 of the 1996 NLDS. If you haven’t read his post already, go check it out here.
This topic got a lot of us thinking “what are our seminal Padres moments?” It’s a somewhat complicated topic for a team with 0 World Series titles and only 2 appearances. But seminal doesn’t necessarily mean “great.” They are moments, for better or worse, that stay with you. An easy way to test what moments these would be for you? They are the first moments that come to mind when you think “Padres.”
Here, we’ve limited ourselves to picking 3 moments in total. Some good, some bad, all memorable.
So, presented for this week’s roundtable discussion, The Bar presents “Seminal Padres Moments.”
Left Coast Bias
1996 Sweep of Los Angeles to Win Division
So, there the Padres were. After losing two games to Colorado they found themselves 2 games back of the Dodgers for the Division title. The good news? The Padres had 3 games vs the Dodgers to end the season. Destiny was in their hands. The bad news? It would require a 3-game sweep of the Dodgers. In Los Angeles. Losing one game would end the season. Just one. The nearly blew it in Game 1. That was, of course, before Caminiti went deep in the Top of the 8th to tie the game at 2-2. Caminiti wasn’t done being a hero. As this game went to the 10th, Caminiti doubled to left field, scoring Finley. Myself. I was hiding under the sheets of my bed, suppose to be fast asleep. Listening on an AM radio as the Padres saved their season for another day.
I don’t remember Game 2 of this series. I don’t know why but I think it’s because my memory of the final game of the season is so strong.
Bob Tewskbury pitched 7 scoreless innings in L.A. on that Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, so did the Dodgers. In fact, neither team came through with a run. Until the 11th inning. When, with 2 runners on and no one out, Gwynn hit a 2-run double, giving the Padres a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Not the Gwynn you’re thinking of though. That was brother Chris Gwynn.
As a postscript to this story, I remember hearing Tony Gwynn say once that his proudest moment as a baseball player, other than hitting a HR at Yankee Stadium, was seeing his brother get that hit.
2007 Jake Peavy’s Cy Young Season
In the Petco era of Padres baseball, Jake Peavy is probably my favorite player. I loved having a guy on our team that other teams absolutely feared. That other teams would hope wouldn’t be up in the rotation during their three-game series vs San Diego. And that was never more true than during Jake’s 2007 Cy Young season.
You know you are a special player when, every time you make a start, I’m already mentally chalking up a win. When he gave up more than 2 runs in a game, I was literally shocked. Seriously, look at these game logs from 2007!
It was a ton of fun that year watching Peavy. Thus, he makes my list.
Tony Gwynn’s Last Game
Tony Gwynn announced his retirement before the 2001 season, turning that season into his swan song. Unfortunately, it was a season that was marred by injury, relegating Gwynn to pinch-hitter status.
After 9/11, the final game of the season was moved to Oct. 7. I of course had to be there, making the 7 hour drive from Tucson to sit in the upper deck of Qualcomm Stadium. I could barely see anything. But that couldn’t have mattered less. The Padres lost that game (finishing a 73-89 season). But that couldn’t have mattered less. Tony Gwynn got one at-bat, in the bottom of the 9th. He grounded out to SS (finishing the season at a BA of .324). But that couldn’t have mattered less.
Because everyone there was there to say goodbye and thank you to the greatest Padre of all-time. It was a surreal moment. For as long as I have been watching baseball, Tony Gwynn has been playing it. The following season would be a the dawning of a new era in Padres history. The post-Gwynn era. But no one was worried about that on Oct. 7th.
We were just there to say good-bye. And thank you.
Son of a Duck
Final game at San Diego/Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium
2003 was a miserable season by many standards, although it was our first as season-ticket holders and we sat with a lively bunch in the left-field bleachers. Free-spirited Rod Beck helped make the second half bearable.
The final game in Mission Valley told the season’s story, as the Padres lost to a lousy Colorado team, but nothing could detract from the postgame celebration. Padres players of all eras took the field one last time at their old stomping grounds: Ken Caminiti, Dave Dravecky, Steve Garvey, Mark Grant, Tony Gwynn, Randy Jones, Wally Joyner, Ozzie Smith, Garry Templeton, Dave Winfield, etc.
The crowd went nuts, especially when Caminiti returned. It was truly a seminal moment for Padres fans.
Tony Gwynn’s Hall of Fame induction
This isn’t just a seminal Padres moment, it’s a seminal life moment. I drove from San Diego to watch Gwynn’s induction. It was a religious pilgrimage of sorts.
With all due respect to the great Dave Winfield, who played with many other teams throughout his career, Gwynn was and evermore shall be Mr. Padre. When we saw him on the podium, we saw our guy, no ifs, ands, or buts.
Cal Ripken Jr. was also inducted, and since Cooperstown is just a short drive from Baltimore, the place was overrun by folks who had come to see him. One of my favorite memories from that day was Orioles fans spotting me in Padres gear and walking over to tell me what a class act Gwynn was. As a fan of the team and a citizen of San Diego, that meant a lot to me.
So did meeting fellow Padres fans who had made the trip, both strangers and Ducksnorts readers I had communicated with for years online but never met in person (or not seen in a long time). For all of the Hall of Fame’s faults, it is baseball’s Mecca, and celebrating Gwynn with fellow Padres fans is an experience I’ll never forget.
Trevor Hoffman’s retirement ceremony
Watching Hoffman leave the Padres for Milwaukee after so many years wasn’t easy for us fans. Even though the Brewers’ uniform of the time bore strong resemblance to that of the Padres, it just didn’t look right.
It didn’t feel right, either. I’d made a point to sit behind the visitors dugout for the three-game series when he first came to town with the Brewers. A lot of us did, and we cheered whenever he did anything, but it was weird.
Hoffman’s retirement ceremony undid all of that for us. He isn’t Gwynn (nobody is), but despite having spent the beginning and end of his career elsewhere, Hoffman is a San Diego icon.
Seeing him on the field with his family and friends, hearing “Hells Bells” one last time, watching video of his late father Ed sing the National Anthem at Fenway Park made me feel proud to be a Padres fan. And as fellow Padres fans will attest, it isn’t always easy to feel proud of this team. But when it comes to Gwynn and Hoffman, there’s never any doubt: They are great, and they are ours.
As is true with most Padres fans, I generally categorize the club’s biggest moments as unpredictable highs or the embarrassing lows. These are the two I generally associate with.
The High: Sterling Hitchock & the 1998 Playoffs
I was born during the 1983-84 offseason, so my introduction to San Diego Padres baseball was a bit different than those that suffered through a decade and a half of no better than 4th-place finishes or a .500 record. While I remember absolutely none of it, my family wastes little time reminding me I was born & raised during the franchise’s golden age. Although it took them twelve seasons to return to the postseason (and another two for their next postseason win) it’s hard to forget the 1998 season due to the highs of a club-record, 98-win season. The way 60,000 fans singing along to “Hell’s Bells” can, literally, rattle the upper deck. How parking at the Hazard Shopping Center was more convenient with a nearby Rally’s and a newly-expanded trolley line. Or that when my parents picked me up early from school for the three midweek postseason games, it represented the first times since the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film was released that I had been allowed to skip classes for non-illness related issues.
While most fans remember the career years from Trevor Hoffman, Greg Vaughn, and – obviously – Kevin Brown (not only is his 9.3 fWAR for that season an unrivaled franchise-best, but his trademark torso rotation became my staple on the mound for years afterward), I for some reason still see the 1998 run as some magical mystery tour that culminated with Sterling Hitchcock at the wheel for the postseason stretch run. It’s not as if he had any one game that was extraordinary or came close to rivaling Brown’s 16-strikeout game – he just…kept…winning. And wearing those turtlenecks. Once the calendar turned to October, a good season unexpectedly transformed into a great one despite increasingly intense competition, and their continued success gave me three weeks of incomparable baseball. And countless ballpark churros. I loved those churros.
The Low: May 12, 2001 – A.J. Burnett’s Reign of Terror
9.0 IP, 9 BB, 7 K, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 3 SB. Zero. Goddamn. Hits.
Not only was this the longest 2 hours 40 hours I’ve ever spent at a ballpark, but it didn’t even dawn on me that this shit show was a no-hitter until midway through the 7th inning. It meant I couldn’t escape earlier. There’s something brilliant about witnessing an odd footnote in history, but it’s awful to watch your favorite team stumble through – especially against a guy like Burnett. MLB Network had the audacity to air the game replay a couple years ago and I, a glutton for punishment, watched the whole thing. Embarrassingly, despite that horrendous line and the fact that it still ranks among the worst no-hitters ever thrown, Burnett’s 85 Game Score was better than any other Padres pitcher during that same 2001 season. It also happens to be the same Game Score as another no-hitter against the Padres…Dock Ellis’s LSD-fueled no-no.
My top 3 euphoric moments:
Ken Caminiti HR, 5 Oct 1996
As described. The shot that tied NLDS Game 3 at 5. Bedlam.
Tony Gwynn single, 20 Oct 1998.
Once upon a time one could listen to baseball through the internet for free. Every team’s flagship radio station streamed their broadcasts. Thanks for turning that into a revenue stream, Bud. Anywho I was living in Virginia during the 1998 World Series and, no longer being able to stand the national broadcast team calling the game, I started streaming the game from KFMB’s website. The radio call lagged the TV feed, but no matter. Sterling Hitchcock and Quilvio Veras reached to start the sixth, bringing up Gwynn. Gwynn hit a hard ground ball between first and second, which eventually scored both runners. Jack Murphy erupted, heard clearly through my computer. Once everything calmed down, Ted Leitner said it was the loudest he had ever heard the Murph.
Andy Ashby, 5 Sept 1997 (vs Atlanta); Chris Young, 30 May 2006 (vs Colorado) – (tie).
No Padre pitcher has thrown a no-hitter – YET. My money’s on Andrew Cashner throwing the first. Several Padre pitchers have come close. I was fortunate enough to be in the building on both these days, when first Ashby and then Young took a no-no deep into the game. Young retired the first 11 hitters he faced before walking Todd Helton. After he got Helton to fly out to deep CF leading off the seventh, many of us in the stands thought Young would do it. Sadly Brad Hawpe led off the eighth with a double. So much for that. Ashby got the perfect game out of the way by walking Ryan Klesko to start the second. Then he retired the next 13 in a row before walking Tom Glavine. Later in that inning with two on and two out, Ashby got Chipper Jones on a fly out to DEEP LC and we began thinking no-hitter. Ashby retired the next six, including back-to-back strikeouts to end the eighth, and the Murph was alive with anticipation. Kenny Lofton dashed our hopes with a leadoff single to start the ninth. Dammit.
But that’s being a Padres fan – equal parts euphoria and disappointment.
Ghost of Ray Kroc
Let me show you guys how a countdown works…
1984 NLCS Game 4
October 6, 1984. Why does this date stick in my mind?
Yes, it was the date of Steve Garvey’s dramatic home run to RCF at Jack Murphy Stadium.
Yes, the Padres were going to a Game 5 after being down 2 games to none.
But the reason it sticks in my mind is because I was sitting in a campground in Santa Clarita, CA, listening on the radio to that game.
My parents had decided it was time for my brother and I to experience Magic Mountain. And, being 11 years old, I was more excited about that than the Padres postseason game. Until, that is, that moment. As soon as Garvey’s home run cleared that wall, my parents started packing up. Just so I could get home to watch Game 5 on TV.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Tony Gwynn’s 3000th Hit
August 6, 1999. Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Announced attendance that day was 13,540. I’m sure it was less. The Expos were a couple of years away from becoming the Washington Nationals. The sad part was the fact that the game before, Tony Gwynn hit number 2,999 in St Louis before a capacity crowd. Talk about polar opposites.
One advantage of that “crowd” at Olympic Stadium: I scored two unused tickets on eBay a couple of days later.
April 9, 1974 – The Announcement
On April 9, 1974, while the Padres were on the brink of losing a 9-5 decision to the Houston Astros in the season opener at San Diego Stadium, Ray Kroc took the public address microphone in front of 39,083 fans. “I’ve never seen such stupid ballplaying in my life,” he said.
Do I really have to explain this?
(I couldn’t find a photo of Chub Feeney flipping off the fans at Jack Murphy Stadium, so I just put in a link to Bob Chandler’s story.)
Avenging Jack Murphy
These are in chronological order, each moment being very important to my Padres fandom.
1989: The Batting Title Chase Between Tony Gwynn and Will Clark.
In the final series of the year Tony Gwynn and Will Clark went back and forth for the N.L. batting crown. I hadn’t lived in San Diego for very long so I was still making the transition to “Padres Fan” but when I think of the precise moment I became a Padres fan this may have been it. At the very minimum I had become a huge Gwynn fan. My best friend Rob and I were dropped off for the Saturday night game. Clark (.334) went 1 for 4 and Gwynn (.333) went 3 for 4 pulling to within 1 point of Clark. It was also “Flan Appreciation” night and I still have the pin.
1998: Game 4 of the NLCS Against the Atlanta Braves.
We tailgated all day long in anticipation of a 4 game sweep against the Braves. As we entered our section 10 minutes prior to the 1st pitch we were greeted by a capacity crowd waving towels in unison. I have never heard a more energized crowd in my entire life – an overwhelming excitement and proof that San Diego can be a pretty good sports town – sometimes.
2007: Tony Gwynn’s Statue is Unveiled Prior to his HOF Induction.
Early in the 2007 season someone sold me tickets right behind the visitors’ dugout. The game turned out to be the Saturday game the week before Mr. Padre left for Cooperstown to enter the HOF. It was also the game where Tony’s statue took up permanent residence at the Park in the Park. As Ted Leitner MC’d the ceremony I watched all of the Phillies perched up on the dugout railing. Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Pat Burrell all seemed enthralled by what they were seeing. I know I was. The Phillies smashed the Padres that night. But it was OK.
The Vocal Minority (David)
9/22/2001: vs. San Francisco Giants Game 2 of “Tony Gwynn Weekend”. Sort of.
This weekend was originally scheduled to be both the final homestand of the season and Tony Gwynn’s career, with the Padres finishing the season in San Francisco. The attacks of 9/11/2001 put baseball on hold, and the missed games were scheduled to take place once the original schedule had been played. While “final game” festivities were moved to what became Tony’s final career game (10/07/2001 vs. Colorad), the Padres went ahead with rest of Tony Gwynn Weekend as originally scheduled. The crowd was tense (as most of the country was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11), but it was looking to let loose. Down 2-0 in the 7th, Gwynn stepped to the plate to pinch-hit with the bases loaded. 60,000+ Padres fans go absolutely bonkers, and DO NOT STOP during the Giants pitching change. Hobbling, knees finally having had enough, Tony was relegated to pinch-hitting duties to finish his career. No matter, we knew he was going to save us. With Colangelo at third, Arias at second, and Lankford at first, Gwynn ripped a single to right, plating the tying runs. Rickey Henderson followed with a sac fly and blah blah blah, who cares? I have never heard that stadium as loud as it was the moment Gwynn walked off the field for a pinch runner. My childhood hero was broken and at the end of his career, a portion of time I should want to forget. However, it’s the moment of his career that sticks out the most. In the 10th inning, Mike Darr hit the last home run of his life for a Padres walkoff win.
Tony Gwynn Hall of Fame induction
The future Mrs. and I made the trek out to Cooperstown, because there wasn’t any other option. Amongst a massive crowd (which I believe still stands as the all-time attendance record), the small-but-mighty Padres contingent made themselves known amongst the sea of Orioles orange and black. Watching Tony take the stage took me through every moment: $5 bleacher seats in RF (dad hated baseball and wanted to spend as little money as possible on it, I wanted to watch Tony), the 1994 All-Star Game, all the batting titles, the home run in game 1 of the 1998 World Series, the moment mentioned above… There was joy, there were tears, and I’ll be damned if we didn’t hold our own. Not that we needed to, as the Orioles fans were tremendous neighbors. Such respect from both fanbases for both players.
Bud Smith no-hits the Padres
I’ve seen a no-hitter, and Bud Smith of the Cardinals threw it. “Who?” Exactly. Being a fan of a team without a no-hitter (or a cycle. Or a championship.), this was just rubbing salt in the wound. And, somehow, appropriate for the Padres.
RJ’s Fro (SDPads1)
The Final Game at Qualcomm/Jack Murphy Stadium (September 28th, 2003)
As Geoff Young mentioned above, 2003 was a downright miserable year for baseball. On the flip side 2003 was the last great year for Padres promotions. The majority of the giveaways were solid. They had some amazing retro nights where the team went all out instead of just slapping old jerseys on the team and then throwing some awful photo shopped pictures of current players faces on movies from that time. And then there was the last game. It was a magical night and the team truly pulled out all the stops. I am happy to say that I was there that day. Tons of great players from the past showed up, including Ken Caminiti, in which he got the loudest standing ovation I had heard. After being injured for most of the year and having returned a few weeks prior, Trevor Hoffman came out of the bullpen to AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” instead of his usual “Hells Bells”. Why you ask? Because Rod Beck was the closer that season and even when Trevor returned, Beck continued to close the rest of the season. It wasn’t until after the game that Trevor would emerge from those gates to “Hells Bells” one final time at the Murph, which also received a loud ovation. I also remember Tony Gwynn throwing out the “last pitch” and then they dug up home plate and then Mayor Dick Murphy delivered it to Petco Park. All in all, horrible game, but amazing post game ceremony and I’ll never forget that.
Trevor Hoffman Number Retirement Ceremony (August 21st, 2011)
You won’t find a bigger Tony Gwynn fan than myself. I was at Tony’s final game. I listened to hit #3,000 on the radio and remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. I was at the game where his number 19 was retired. I was at the game where they unveiled his statue. But none of these compare to the Trevor Hoffman number retirement ceremony. I was there in person crying like a little baby among a sea of Padres fans also bawling their eyes out. I’m pretty sure most of you remember this one so I’ll just leave it at the top moment….”His long deceased father was on the scoreboard singing the National Anthem before the game.” Magical.
The 1996 Season
Having been only 3 years old in 1984, I had never really experienced playoff baseball. I have always been a Padres fan though. I guess that’s what happens when your parents take you to a Padres game when you are only 10 days old (yes 10 days, not years) and I “witnessed” Tom Seaver throw a gem against the hapless Padres. After a couple close calls over the years, 1996 came and having been in first place for most of the year this appeared like it would finally be the year I’d get to witness (and fully remember) playoff baseball in San Diego. Then on September 13th the Padres lost 3-1 to the Reds dropping them to 2nd place behind the hated Dodgers. Despite winning the next 3 games in a row they could not gain ground. Over the next 7 games the Padres would alternate wins and loses and fall to 1.5 games back in the standings. Then another loss to the Rockies would drop them 2.5 games back just before a 3 game series to close out the year in Los Angeles of all places. They would have to sweep to lock up the division with 2nd place getting the Wild Card, but no we wanted the Division, especially against the hated Dodgers. The Padres would win the first 2 games of the series. Then game 3 came. It was scoreless for 10 innings before Steve Finley and Ken Caminiti would hit back to back singles to start the inning. Up came pinch hitter (and former Dodger) Chris Gwynn who would lace a 1-1 pitch to deep right-center for a double to score both runners putting the Padres up 2-0. Trevor then came in and sat down the Dodgers in order locking up the teams 2nd ever NL West title. Despite being swept by the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs, the fans gave a standing ovation to the team after the game. Suddenly the entire Padres team came out and started to give a standing ovation back to the fans. Then started slapping fives and signing autographs for the fans. It was an amazing moment in Padres history and really shows what San Diego fans are all about.