When three Christians on the Padres became embroiled in political controversy and took their focus off Jesus Christ

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.

Remembering Baseball’s Right-Wing Rotation

That’s Eric Show waving to yours truly in Montreal when the Padres visited the Expos in 1986(?). To the right of Show are Dave Dravecky and Ed Whitson.

The San Diego Padres’ 50th Anniversary All-Time Team

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?

Remembering when the San Diego Padres clinched the 1998 NLCS

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.

A Season of Heroes: The 1998 San Diego Padres

Remembering when the San Diego Padres clinched the 1984 NLCS!

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.


Triumph & Tragedy: The 1984 San Diego Padres

The San Diego Padres usher in their 50th season in 2019!

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.

Have you ordered your Padres 50th Anniversary cap yet?
Padres’ first baseman, Nate Colbert, prepares to launch one out of the ballpark. Ugh, those old uniforms! Nasty!

Pats steamroll Chargers, 41-28. Who cares?

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.

Chargers 23, Ravens 17!

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.

Go Bolts!!!

The Bolts vs. Purple Pain

After compiling a very impressive 12-4 record in the 2018 regular season, the San Diego…er…I mean, the Los Angeles Chargers earned a wild card berth in the NFL playoffs. The only thing that prevented the Chargers from claiming the AFC Western Division title were the equally impressive Kansas City Chiefs, who also compiled a 12-4 record, but possessed the tie-breaker. Despite that, the Chargers are happy to be in the playoffs and will be traveling to Baltimore this coming Sunday to play the Ravens. The game will be broadcast by CBS at 1:00 p.m.

The Bolts lost to the Ravens in Los Angeles, 22-10, just a couple of weeks ago on December 22nd. Chargers quarterback, Philip Rivers, ended the season with two poor performances, first, in the loss to Baltimore and then, in the final game, a win over Denver. Rivers’ combined stats for those last two games were a dismal 37/61 (60.7%), 357 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT.

Does 37-year-old Rivers’ still have enough in the tank after a long, arduous season to lead the Bolts to victory? He’s going to have to play the game of his career against a very tough Ravens defense. Going into the game, Baltimore is a three-point home favorite. But the Bolts were this season’s “Road Warriors,” compiling a 7-1 record away from the not-so-friendly confines of StubHub Center Stadium. Rivers has more than enough offensive weapons* to score against the Ravens, but Joey Bosa and the Chargers’ “D” must find a way to contain the Raven’s wiley, rookie breakout sensation, QB Lamar Jackson.

*RBs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler combined for 2333 all purpose yards in 2018 despite missing a combined 6 games due to injury. WRs Keenan Allen, Michael Williams, and Tyrell Williams combined for 2513 receiving yards.

Chargers beat Chiefs, 29-28, in closing seconds! My condolences to K.C. fans.

I don’t usually post two messages in one day, but I felt duty-bound to send out my impromptu condolences to the fans of the Kansas City Chiefs after Philip Rivers and the San Diego, er, I mean Los Angeles Chargers improbably snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat at Arrowhead Stadium last night. The Chargers came from behind and won the game, 29-28, in dramatic fashion, with a touchdown and a gutsy two-point conversion call by head coach, Anthony Lynn, in the closing seconds.

The AFC West rivals are now both 11-3 as the season winds down, although the Chiefs still retain their paper-thin lead in the the West because of their better inter-divisional record. By beating the Chiefs last night, the Bolts clinched at the very least a wildcard playoff spot.

The last time the Chargers appeared in the playoffs was 2013. Second-year head coach, Lynn, and the Chargers have put together an impressive run, going 20-6 in their last 26 games. Everyone recognizes that fiery, 37-year-old Philip Rivers has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL since he became a starter in 2006, but the knock against him has been that he hasn’t taken the Chargers to the Super Bowl (as if that was all his fault). Could this be the year? To complement Rivers and the offense, the Chargers have assembled a decent defensive unit this season, which has perennially been the franchise’s Achilles’ heel.

Final Update: San Diego Padres barely avoid 100-loss season

Well, my San Diego Padres finally wrapped up their pitiful 2018 campaign this past Sunday with an atrocious 66-96, .407 final record, just barely avoiding the ignominy of a 100-loss season. Only 5 teams in MLB had worse records. In the last 11 years, the Padres have had only one .500+ season (90-72 in 2010).

Bright spots this year? There weren’t many. Rookie outfielder, Franmil Reyes, looks very promising. After the All Star break he batted .318 in 51 games with 10 homers. Young outfielder, Hunter Renfroe, went on a tear after the break with 19 homers. Nice! But as a team, the Friars hit a dismal .235 for the year, ranking them 28th (out of 30) in MLB. That’s pitiful, folks. Free agent slugger pickup, Eric Hosmer, was a disappointment, batting .253 for the season with only 18 dingers. Reliable starting pitching was a real problem and only Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer are assured of spots in the 2019 rotation. Kirby Yates did a decent job as closer after Brad Hand was traded at the break. The team ERA was 4.40, ranking them 21st in MLB. What that stat doesn’t show is how opposing teams routinely built up leads on the Padres’ starters in the early innings, which the Padres’ anemic bats could not overcome.

Given the lack of a salary cap in MLB, small-market teams like the Padres just can’t compete with the large-market big-spenders. The fix is in before the season even starts.

As far as my other favorite teams go, the San Diego…er, I mean Los Angeles Chargers are currently 2-2, the RIT Tigers men’s hockey team starts their season October 12th, and the New York Knicks tip off their season on October 17th.

It’s fun to follow sports…a little bit. But all things in perspective. Worldly entertainments won’t mean a thing in eternity.

via Update: Play ball! Opening Day, 2018!