It would be hard for me to pick one Padres game that brings back the most memories because, in hindsight, it wasn’t always about what actually took place on the field. Let me start with a little background.
As a child of the ‘70s, like many, I grew up with divorced parents. I spent most of the year in Salt Lake City, but the summers with my dad, who lived in a little town in San Diego’s North County known as Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
I don’t know why, but one thing my dad decided to do one summer was take me to a Padres game. It was 1977 and I was all of seven-years-old. I still remember several things well from that game. It was against the Giants and our seats were not very good. Regardless, I remember him pointing to and explaining to me who Willie McCovey was and that he would one day be in the Hall of Fame. I also remember him keeping score in the program he had purchased.
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For whatever reason, I was hooked from that point on. The Padres were now my team. And keep in mind these were Padre teams that were not good. Their best year had come in 1976, when they finished 73-89. In 1977, the average attendance for the season was 16,991.
That same summer, after that game, I started collecting baseball cards. But what I really did, without realizing it at the time, is I studied the back of these cards and became more familiar with the game, its players and the stats that went along with it. And If I had a question, my dad had an answer.
By the end of 1980, I was living with my dad full-time, this time just down the road in Solana Beach. I had two Padre jerseys by this point; their home whites and road brown, both of which my father had got for me for a birthday or Christmas. The brown jersey now sits in a frame above the fireplace so I can see it everyday.
Needless to say we started to going to more Padre games, and when I think about those games, those are the memories I cherish the most. My dad would take me to the games when the gates opened, at my request, so I could watch batting practice and try to get autographs. During that time, I got a chance to see Nolan Ryan pitch at the Murph shorty after the Dave Winfield-Ryan brawl that took place in the Astrodome. I got to see Pete Rose add more hits and Mike Schmidt play third base. I also got to watch Terry Kennedy, Juan Bonilla and Ruppert Jones start to play pretty good baseball in Dick Williams‘ first year as manager.
There are two games I remember the most from that period. The first is my dad taking me to Opening Day in 1983, a game against the Giants the Padres won 16-13. The other is a day game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. My dad got the tickets and actually let me cut school just to go to that game. At the time, the Padres were trying to establish a rivalry with the Dodgers and Fernando Valenzuela was pitching that day. The Dodgers beat the Padres 3-2, but it was becoming an exciting time to be a Padres fan and the game was well attended. In fact, the team would finish at 81-81 in 1982 and 1983. However, I didn’t know it at the time, but things were about to change.
In February of 1984, we moved to Colorado and I don’t have to explain what 1984 means to Padres fans. Still, on March 31 there was an exhibition game played that year at the old Mile High Stadium and it just so happened that the Padres would be playing the Boston Red Sox. Again, my dad got tickets. Spring in Colorado is usually pretty miserable, and this day was no exception. It was cold and threatening to snow, but I was excited to see some old faces along with seeing Goose Gossage and Graig Nettles in Padre uniforms for the first time. I don’t recall who won that day, but I could say I watched the Padres play during their National League Championship season.
My dad and I still occasionally make it down to Coors Field to watch the Padres play the Rockies, but it was those early years that I recall the most. The Padres have been a big part of my life for more than 30 years now, thanks to my dad. I remember when I first got Steve Garvey’s autograph. We were sitting along right field at the Murph and we were the only ones out there before the game. I was standing at the railing watching Garvey, my dad in his seats. Garvey came over and signed the old yellow-ruled pad of paper I brought to games for autographs. I thanked Garvey and turned to my dad and he looked as excited as I was. Those, and others that all involve my dad, are my best memories from Padres games.