Yup, I know it’s Throwback Thursday and I’ve already re-published a post from the past, but today is also Opening Day, so let’s shout out a loud…
Yes, today is Opening Day for Major League Baseball as the San Diego Padres begin a four-game homestand at Petco Park against their NL West rivals, the San Francisco Giants. This is a special year for the Padres as they will be celebrating their 50th season. Over the last decade, the Opening Day hopes of realistic Padres fans centered around a .500 season finish, but with the acquisition of 3rd base slugger, Manny Machado (photo left), on February 19th, the team and the fans are beginning to set their sights higher. But let’s not get carried away. Although the Padres have the best farm system in the Majors, it will take some time for the young blue chippers to mature. Look for the Padres to start competing for the NL West next season. But this year we can all cheer the slugging “El Ministro de Defensa”!
Below are the Padres’ expected Opening Day starters:
C – Austin Hedges or Francisco Mejia
1B – Eric Hosmer
2B – Ian Kinsler
3B – Manny Machado
SS – Fernando Tatis, Jr. – a 20-year-old, blue chipper who has improbably been promoted from Double-A straight to the Majors based upon his outstanding Spring Training
LF – Wil Meyers
CF – Manuel Margot or Franchy Cordero
RF – Hunter Renfroe or Franmil Reyes
P – Eric Lauer
While the season ends for another team…
I had no interest in ice hockey for fifty-three years, although the sport is very popular here in Rochester. However, nine years ago on a whim I started following the Rochester Institute of Technology (my alma mater) Men’s Hockey Team. It’s the only Division I college team in Rochester and home games are broadcast on cable TV. This past season, Coach Wayne Wilson led the club to 15-14-4 overall and 13-11-4 Atlantic Conference records, certainly not a great year, but good enough for the #5 seed in the conference’s postseason tournament. Two weekends ago, the Tigers took the postseason quarterfinal series 2 games to 1 against #4 seed, Sacred Heart (Argh, what a name!). However, this past Friday night in the semi-finals, RIT lost to #6 seed, Niagara, 1-0, in overtime. Season over. Shout-out to graduating seniors, Abbot Girduckis, Mark Logan, Christian Short, Gabe Valenzuela, and Erik Brown (photo right), RIT’s all-time leading scorer at the Division I level.
…while this team limps to the finish line.
The hapless New York Knicks are at the tail-end of their season with a 14-60 record and 8 games left to play. The Knicks have a very good chance of beating the franchise record of least amount of wins in a season; 17. With tons of cap space after jettisoning Porzingis and Hardaway, can the lowly Knicks lure free agents, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, in the offseason?
By Dave Dravecky with Tim Stafford
Zondervan, 1990, 252 pages
After posting last week about the exploits of three Christian amigos on the 1984 San Diego Padres; Eric Show, Dave Dravecky, and Mark Thurmond (see here), I borrowed a copy of Dravecky’s book, “Comeback,” from our local library system.
Ever hear of Dave Dravecky? Well, EVERYBODY in America was talking about him thirty years ago in 1989.
Dravecky was drafted out of college by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1978. He spent three years in the Bucs’ farm system before being traded to San Diego as a minor league prospect in 1981. Ex-Catholic Dravecky was playing in Amarillo, Texas for the Double-A Gold Sox when teammate, Byron Ballard, led him to the Lord. Praise God! Dravecky was called up to the Padres in 1982 and went on to help the Friars win the 1984 NL Pennant. Half-way through the 1987 season, the Padres traded Dravecky to the San Francisco Giants.
While he was with the Padres, Dravecky had noticed a small lump on the shoulder of his left throwing arm, but the Friars’ training staff told him just to keep an eye on it. During the 1988 season with the Giants, Dravecky started developing severe pain in his left shoulder and the lump seemed to be getting bigger. A biopsy was done and the lump was determined to be cancerous. The surgeons removed the tumor and about half of his left deltoid muscle in October, 1988. Many of the cells of the humerus arm bone were also deadened by the surgeon as a precaution. The doctors warned Dravecky that he would have trouble doing even simple things with his arm after surgery let alone ever pitch again in Major League Baseball.
But Dravecky was determined to pitch again and entered into an aggressive, year-long rehabilitation program. Defying all odds and medical science, Dravecky was reinstated to the Giants’ active roster and pitched on August 10, 1989, beating the Cincinnati Reds. Giants fans and the entire nation stood up and applauded Dravecky’s determination. On his following start, a week later against the Expos, Dravecky’s left humerus snapped while pitching. The bone was still weak from the surgical procedure of the previous year. If that weren’t enough, on October 10th, Dravecky’s left humerus was broken AGAIN when he became tangled up in an on-field celebration following the Giants’ victory over the Cubbies to clinch the 1989 NLCS.
This book concludes in 1990 with doctors determining that cancer had returned to Dravecky’s left shoulder and that he would finally be retiring from baseball. From other sources I learned that Dravecky had two more surgeries, but his left arm continued to deteriorate, and on June 18, 1991, Dravecky’s left arm and shoulder were amputated. But the Lord had plans for Dave and he began his thirty-year “career” of witnessing for the Lord and inspiring others as a motivational speaker.
I REALLY enjoyed this book! Dave praises the Lord throughout and gives Him the glory. But he’s also honest. Throughout his trials, Dave didn’t always have a smile on his face, but the Lord lifted him up again and again. I like that kind of transparency. As a Padres fan, I wish Dave had written more about his six seasons with the Friars. This book would have also been a good opportunity for Dravecky to address the 1984 controversy involving himself and teammates Eric Show and Mark Thurmond and their connection with the John Birch Society, but those are minor criticisms. Even non-sports fans will enjoy this testimony to Dravecky’s resolve fueled by God’s grace and salvation in Jesus Christ. After researching and writing last week’s post about the John Birch Society fiasco and Eric Show’s downward spiral, it was refreshing to read Dravecky’s uplifting testimony.
For more information on Dave Dravecky’s ministry, see the link below. The six-minute video at the bottom is also a blessing.
The San Diego Padres are currently down in Peoria, Arizona in Spring Training preparing for their 50th anniversary season. In recognition of this milestone, we’ve already taken a look back at the team’s National League championship seasons in 1984 (see here) and 1998 (see here). Last week, I posted my player selections for the San Diego Padres’ 50th Anniversary All-Time Team (see here).
At this point, how about if I just put my keyboard on ice and wait for Opening Day, March 28th, when the Padres will host the San Francisco Giants to open what will hopefully be a winning season now that free-agent slugger, Manny Machado, is on the roster? Well, on second thought, I do have another important post about the Padres that needs to be told that actually involves spirituality.
I have a special fondness for the 1984 Padres team. After fifteen very lean years, the collection of wily vets and young players assembled by GM “Trader Jack” McKeon came out of Spring Training like gangbusters and never looked back, eventually winning the 1984 NL Pennant. I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1983, so I was very interested when I found out that three of the pitchers on the ’84 team; Eric Show (rhymes with “cow”), Dave Dravecky, and Mark Thurmond, were all born-again Christians and hung out together. While their teammates went out barhopping when the Padres were on the road, the trio would stay behind in one of their hotel rooms and have fellowship together with God’s Word and prayer.
But the three also caused quite a bit of controversy for the team. Show was very interested in conservative national politics and had joined the John Birch Society (JBS). If you’re younger than fifty, there’s a good chance you may have never heard of the organization. The JBS was a radical conservative group founded in 1958 that believed America was being undermined by a national and worldwide communist conspiracy. As just one example, they linked the civil rights movement directly to the Kremlin in Moscow and argued that it was the inviolable right of each state to determine its own racial/segregation policies. As a result, the general public equated the society with the Ku Klux Klan and the “Red Scare” hysteria of the 1940s and 50s. By 1984, the JBS was already beginning to fade into obscurity, but Show talked Dravecky and Thurmond into joining the organization and the three would regularly regale their teammates with tales of how the U.S. was being betrayed by its political leaders. Show revealed the extremity of his politics when he told everyone who would listen that even President Ronald Reagan was too liberal for his liking. Huh?
The political debates stayed within the teams’ clubhouse until June 15, 1984 when Show, Dravecky, and Thurmond manned the John Birch Society information booth at the Del Mar Fair twenty miles outside San Diego dressed in their Padres uniforms. The resulting media feeding frenzy threatened to sidetrack the Padres’ quest for the NL pennant. When reporters asked the African-American players on the Padres what they thought about their teammates’ affiliation with the JBS, they replied that they certainly didn’t like the society, but felt the three were not personally racist. Padres management clamped down and ordered Show, Dravecky, and Thurmond to keep their politics to themselves.
Mark Thurmond was subsequently traded to Detroit during the 1986 season and quit the JBS in the early 90s. He has declined to talk about his former political activism and leads a quiet life in Texas.
Dave Dravecky was traded to San Francisco in 1987. Cancer was subsequently found in the shoulder of his pitching arm in 1988, and the surgery to remove the tumor forced him out of baseball. But Dravecky was determined to return to the sport he loved and followed an aggressive rehabilitation program. He caught the attention of the entire nation when he made his improbable comeback on August 10, 1989, but suffered a dramatic arm break while pitching in his next start. Shortly afterward, X-Rays determined the cancer had returned. After subsequent treatments proved unsuccessful, his left arm and shoulder were amputated in 1991 as a life-saving measure. Praise God, Dravecky has used his public platform to witness on behalf of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I’m looking forward to reviewing Dravecky’s book, “Comeback” (1990), which I borrowed from our local library. Like Thurmond, Dravecky also left the John Birch Society at some point.
Eric Show played for the Padres until 1990 and amassed more wins – 100 – than any other pitcher in team history. But Eric missed his two good friends and Christian brothers (Dravecky had been his roommate on the road) and became increasingly alienated inside and outside the locker room. A couple of rather infamous on-field incidents badly shook Show’s confidence.* At the time the team released him, Show was in a downward spiral of drug addiction. Ironically, Eric Show had become a poster boy for the moral decay he had railed against as a John Bircher. He began by using methamphetamine to give him an “edge” while playing and “graduated” to cocaine. In 1994, separated from his wife because of his drug addiction, Show died in a rehab center after ingesting a “speedball” (a mixture of cocaine and heroine). Dravecky gave the eulogy at Show’s funeral service, the only former teammate to attend.
What can we take away from the above? Well, I’ll venture to say that the three Christian brothers got sidetracked by the temporal. Remember 1 Peter 5:8:“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Fame, fortune, and worldly concerns and pleasures ultimately don’t satisfy, but sometimes even believers get caught up in the whirlwind of temporal temptations and circumstances. In his eulogy, Dravecky warned that every believer can potentially lose their focus, just like Eric did. Run the race, brothers and sisters. Don’t get sidetracked. Don’t quit. Finish strong for God’s glory!
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7
*On Sept. 11, 1985, Show gave up the hit to Pete Rose that broke Ty Cobb’s previous long-standing record of most career hits. Show was roundly criticized, even by his teammates, for sitting down on the mound while the celebration for Rose in Cincinnati continued unabated for twenty minutes. On July 7, 1987, three days after Dravecky was traded, Show tried to brush back Chicago Cubs slugger, Andre Dawson, and hit him in the face. Brushing back hitters is part of baseball, but even Show’s teammates turned on the him over the incident.
In recognition of the San Diego Padres’ upcoming season-long 50th Anniversary celebration, we’ve already taken a look back at the team’s two National League Championship pennant seasons, in 1984 (see here) and 1998 (see here). It’s now time to choose the Padres’ 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Compared to the major-market ball clubs with their high payroll$, the small-market Padres haven’t had a lot of big-name stars. Relatively few quality players have had long tenures with a club that can’t afford to keep free-agent All Stars on the roster. With that said, here’s my take on the Padres’ 50th Anniversary All-Time Team:
C – Benito Santiago (1986-1992) – The 1987 NL Rookie of the Year wowed players and fans alike by throwing out base-runners from his knees.
1B – Adrian Gonzalez (2006-2010) – The three-time All-Star is second in career HRs with 161 only behind Nate Colbert’s 163.
2B – Mark Loretta (2003-2005) – The Padres were not overloaded with All-Star-caliber players at the second base position, but Loretta was outstanding both offensively and defensively.
SS – Garry Templeton (1982-1991) – Gave the Padres ten solid years at shortstop despite sore knees. Had a rifle for an arm.
3B – Ken Caminiti (1995-1998) – NL MVP in 1996. Struck fear in the heart of every opposing pitcher. Leads all Padres hitters in SLG (.540) and OPS (.924). Career tainted by the admitted use of PEDs. Died of drug abuse in 2004.
OF – Dave Winfield (1973-1980) – Four times an All-Star before being lured away by Yankee dollars.
OF – Steve Finley (1995-1998) – Easily the best center fielder to wear the Padres uniform. Awarded three Gold Gloves in his four-year tenure with the club.
OF – Tony Gwynn (1982-2001) – They don’t call him “Mr. Padre” for nothing. 3141 hits, a lifetime .338 BA, sixteen All-Star appearances, and inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.
Pitcher – Randy Jones (1973-1980) – Won the Cy Young award in 1976 as the best pitcher in the National League.
Pitcher – Eric Show (1981-1990) – Show’s 100 wins tops all Padres pitchers.
Pitcher – Jake Peavy (2002-2008) – 92 wins and a 3.29 ERA. The winner of the 2007 NL Cy Young Award.
Reliever – Trevor Hoffman (1993-2008) – 552 saves and a 2.76 ERA. Six-time All-Star. The best closer of his era. Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.
Special mention: There’s too many players to name, but some of my other favorites of the past include Roberto Alomar (2B), Andy Ashby (P), Heath Bell (P), Kevin Brown (P), Joe Carter (1B), Nate Colbert (1B), Steve Garvey (1B), Brian Giles (OF), Goose Gossage (P), Kahlil Greene (SS), Wally Joyner (1B), Terry Kennedy (C), Ryan Klesko (OF), Fred McGriff (1B), Phil Nevin (3B), Bip Roberts (2B), Gary Sheffield (3B), Ozzie Smith (SS), and Greg Vaughn (OF).
Is there a spiritual bottom line to all of this blathering about the Padres? Actually, there is. Tune in next week.
Newsflash!: Yesterday, the Padres signed free-agent slugger, Manny Machado, to a $300 million, ten-year contract. Will Machado be the marquee franchise player the Padres can build a pennant winner around or will he turn out to be the club’s biggest bust?
In commemoration of the San Diego Padres upcoming 50th anniversary season, we’re taking a look back at the Padres’ 1984 and 1998 National League Championship teams. Last week, we revisited the 1984 champs (see here) and this time we’ll take a look at the excellent 1998 club.
The Padres were shut out of the playoffs for eleven years following their appearance in the 1984 World Series, although they did have five .500+ winning seasons in that span. Former Padres back-up catcher, Bruce Bochy, was brought on board as manager in 1995 and Kevin Towers was hired as General Manager in 1996. The two were able to pilot the Friars to the 1996 NL West title aided by NL MVP Ken Caminiti’s 40 HRs and 130 RBIs. However, the Padres lost the NL Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-0. The team took a bit of downturn in 1997 (76-86), but rebounded strongly in 1998, going 98-64 (.605) and winning the NL West. The Padres then took the Division Series against the Houston Astros, 3-1, and the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, 4-2. But when the Padres showed up to play the Yankees in the World Series, there was nothing left in the tank and were embarrassed, 4-0.
But getting to the World Series is no joke, so let’s took a look back at that solid 1998 NL Champion roster:
C- Carlos Hernandez: The ex-Dodger veteran gave the Padres stability and leadership behind the plate.
1B – Wally Joyner: Joyner’s All-Star years were behind him but he was still solid offensively and defensively.
2B – Quilvio Veras: The Dominican had a quiet, three-year tenure with the Pads.
SS – Chris Gomez: Gomez was a solid SS/2B with a sixteen-year career to show for it.
3B – Ken Caminiti: Was a monster at the “hot corner.” His numbers had dipped a bit since his MVP showing in 1996, but he was still an imposing player. Caminiti later admitted to using steroids during his career and died of acute drug intoxication in 2004.
LF – Greg Vaughn: The outfielder had a spectacular All-Star year in 1998 with 50 HRs and 119 RBIs.
CF – Steve Finley: Was in the prime of his long career in ’98 and was a solid centerfielder for the Friars for four seasons.
RF – Tony Gwynn: The future Baseball Hall-of-Famer and “Mr. Padre” completed what was easily the best outfield trio in Padres team history.
Pitching –Kevin Brown (18-7) and Andy Ashby (17-9) led an excellent rotation which also included Joey Hamilton, Sterling Hitchcock, and Mark Langston. If the starters got in trouble, they could always depend on closer, Trevor Hoffman, to bail them out. The future Baseball Hall-of-Famer recorded 53 saves in ’98, a career high.
Vaughn, Gwynn, Brown, Ashby, and Hoffman were all selected to the 1998 NL All-Star team.
Gwynn, Hoffman, Caminiti, and Towers were later inducted into the San Diego Padres Hall of Fame.
Following their disappointing performance against the Yankees in the World Series, the Padres cleaned house. Caminiti, Vaughn, Finley, and Brown were gone the following season. The Padres would not appear in the playoffs again until 2005 followed by another appearance in 2006. The Friars have been shut out of the playoffs ever since.
In commemoration of the San Diego Padres’ upcoming 50th anniversary season, I thought I’d take a look back at the club’s outstanding 1984 and 1998 seasons when they won the National League Pennant. We’ll kick things off by taking a look at the 1984 season.
I began following the Padres in their second season in 1970, but it was slim pickins for quite awhile for myself and other fans of the team. The expansion club only had one winning season in their first thirteen years, but things began to percolate in the early-1980s. Dapper “Trader Jack” McKeon was hired as GM in 1980 and began to piece together a solid roster. Crusty, no-nonsense manager, Dick Williams, was brought aboard in ’82. The Padres put together respectable .500 seasons in ’82 and ’83 and broke it wide open in 1984 with a 92-70 (.568) record and the National League West title. The aging vets (Garvey, Nettles), brought in by Trader Jack nicely complemented the home-grown kids (Gwynn, McReynolds). The pitching staff, though unspectacular, was solid, especially in relief with ex-Yankee, Rich “Goose” Gossage, as the intimidating closer.
Few gave the Padres a chance in the 1984 National League best-of-five championship series against the sentimental favorites, the Chicago Cubs, led by Ryne Sandberg, Leon Durham, 16-1 pitcher, Rick Sutcliffe, and closer, Lee Smith. Down 0-2 after the first two games, the Padres battled back and did the impossible, winning the next three games in a row, led by the heroics of Steve “Popeye arms” Garvey. The Padres’ poor 1-4 showing in the World Series against Detroit was anti-climactic after their amazing NLCS comeback.
Here’s the 1984 Padres starting roster with some 35-year-old memories I have of the players:
C – Terry Kennedy: Solid catcher who handled the young pitchers with remarkable aplomb.
1B – Steve Garvey: The long-time (1969-1982) Dodgers All-Star still had some occasional pop in his bat.
2B – Alan Wiggins: A remarkable lead-off hitter who ran like the wind but later succumbed to drug addiction.
SS – Garry Templeton: Tempy had a rifle for an arm and was sufficiently humbled after his temper got him into trouble in St. Louis. He ended up playing ten productive years for the Padres at one of baseball’s toughest positions.
3B – Graig Nettles: The former Yankee All Star’s best years were behind him, but he could still play the “hot corner” better than most.
LF – Carmelo Martinez: Couldn’t catch a cold, but the Friars kept hoping he would develop some consistency with his big swing.
CF – Kevin McReynolds: The kid had great potential that led to a twelve-year career, mostly with the Mets.
RF – Tony Gwynn: One of the greatest “Punch and Judy” singles hitters of all time. Enjoyed a twenty-year-career, all with the Padres, including 3141 hits and a lifetime .338 BA. Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. Tony also worked hard to become a good defensive outfielder in spite of his increasing girth.
Pitchers – Eric Show, Tim Lollar, Ed Whitson, Mark Thurmond, and Andy Hawkins made up a solid starting rotation anchored by Rich “Goose” Gossage, Dave Dravecky, and Craig Lefferts in relief.
Garvey, Gwynn, and Gossage were selected to the 1984 NL All Star team.
Gwynn, Williams, Templeton, and McKeon have been inducted into the San Diego Padres Hall of Fame.
The Padres had some decent seasons after their stellar 1984 NL Championship year, but wouldn’t return to the playoffs again until 1996. Next week we’ll take a look at the 1998 National League Champion Padres.
The San Diego…er…Los Angeles Chargers had a very good season, going 12-4 and defeating the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, they were manhandled by the Belichick & Brady steamroller in the divisional playoffs, so it’s time to put football to bed (Super Bowl? What’s a Super Bowl?) and think baseball.
This upcoming season is a special one for San Diego Padres fans because the franchise will be celebrating its 50th year. I was one-year late to the party. I began following the then-San Diego Chargers in September 1969 and my thirteen-year-old mind reasoned that if I was going to follow the Chargers, I might as well follow the expansion Padres, too, even with their mustard-yellow and brown scurvy uniforms. So I jumped on board in 1970, the ball club’s second season, when the only good player on the roster was first-baseman, Nate Colbert (photo below).
Being a Padres fan hasn’t been easy. Yes, there were the two World Series appearances in 1984 and 1998, but the club has only had fourteen .500+ winning seasons in fifty years and only one winning season in the last eleven years. With no salary cap in MLB, the small-market Padres just can’t compete with the large-market big-spenders.
Still, I look forward to another season. Pitchers and catchers report on February 13th. The team will open the season at home with a four-game series against the San Francisco Giants beginning on Opening Day, Thursday, March 28. As usual, I’m hoping for a .500+ season, but that’s asking a lot given the Padres’ anemic bats and unsteady pitching. With the Padres, it’s always about the “farm system” and next year. But the cash-strapped club constantly pulls the rug out from under itself by trading away young players with talent before they reach free agency.
Is it strange that a guy with a blog named “excatholic4christ” roots for a team called the “Padres” with a “Swinging Friar” for a mascot? Yes, it’s quite an irony, but I don’t get wrapped around the axle over it.
In the upcoming weeks, in commemoration of the Padres’ 50th season, I will be be discussing the Padres’ 1984 and 1998 NL Championship teams and also selecting the unofficial, All-Time Padres team.
Today, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots soundly defeated Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers, 41-28, in an NFL divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The final score doesn’t really indicate just how thoroughly the Pats dominated the Bolts throughout most of the game (it was 38-7 with 1:16 left in the third quarter).
The Pats advance to the AFC Conference Championship Game versus the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday at Kansas City.
Some people might assume I’m upset by the Chargers’ embarrassing showing. Not me. The bottom line is professional football (as well as baseball, basketball, and hockey) is just a bunch of grown men playing a kids game.
Well, folks, the Bolts won, but it was a scary ending. In today’s first-round playoff game, Philip Rivers (photo above) and the Los Angeles Chargers had the Baltimore Ravens against the ropes, 23-3, with 6:30 left in regulation, but went back on their heels and allowed the Ravens to score two quick touchdowns to make the score 23-17 with 2:00 left to play.
Rivers and crew somehow held on for the victory and will travel to Foxboro next Sunday at 1 p.m. to tangle with pretty boy, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots.