Greatest Moments In Padres History #8: Padres Sign Steve Garvey


In 1981, Dick Williams had been fired by the Montreal Expos after finishing 44-37 during a strike-shorted season. It wasn’t long after that, Ray Kroc and the San Diego Padres came calling. After all, Williams had won titles in all but one of his previous stops, including a Pennant with the Boston Red Sox in the American League in 1967, two World Championships with Oakland in the A.L West, in 1972 and 1973, and the second half N.L East division title (thanks to the strike) with the Expos in 1981. 

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As a result of the foresight of Kroc, Williams was hired in 1982 to guide the Padres. Before his arrival, the Padres had had exactly one winning record, which came in 1978, when the Padres finished 84-78. In thirteen seasons the Padres had compiled a 833-1210 record, a .408 winning percentage, never finishing higher than fourth (out of six) during 13 seasons as a professional baseball club.

In Yuma, Ariz. that year, old school Dick Williams showed up and brought with him his no-nonsense, hard-nosed approach and explained his grand design to the likes of Ruppert Jones, Broderick Perkins, Sixto Lezcano and a 22-year-old rookie outfielder named Tony Gywnn. Whatever it was Williams sold, the young team with a mix of veterans bought it, and finished 81-81, only their second non-losing record in franchise history.

On the heels of that season, the Padres sought a veteran presence, and the biggest name on the free agent market that year was former Dodger Steve Garvey. The rivalry between the Padres and Dodgers was just gaining momentum, and public enemy No. 1 was reserved for Fernando Valenzuela, but there were plenty of fans who did not care for the Dodger first baseman.

All that changed December 21, 1982. Garvey and the Padres agreed to a five-year deal worth $6.6 million, which remains to this day the biggest name free agent signing in team history. I can still remember hearing the news on the radio and celebrating with my father.

Spring Training in Yuma had a different vibe in 1983. Longtime Padre Tim Flannery had agreed to give up his number six to Garvey, with Flannery switching to 11. The team immediately had a strong veteran presence it desperately needed and an instant draw. In fact, after the Garvey signing, season ticket sales went up by more 6,000.

In his first year with Padres, Garvey would hit .294, with 14 homers and drive 59 RBIs. However, before there was Cal Ripken, Jr, Garvey also brought with him a National League record 1,207 consecutive game streak, which still stands, but would end against the Braves, during a double-header, on July 29, 1983, I game I was in attendance for.

In five years with the Padres, Garvey was a two-time All-Star, played in 605 games, hit 61 home runs, and drove in 316 RBIs.

And in 2008, Sports Illustrated categorized the signing as the fifteenth best free agent signing ever.

But it was what went on in the playoffs, and in 1984, that separated Garvey from the rest.

Runner Up: Gaylord Perry wins second Cy Young Award in franchise history in 1978, going 21-6 with a 2.73 ERA at age 39.  Perry pitched in 260.2 innings, striking out 154.