My Favorite Padres Memory
By Billy Brost
My San Diego Padres memory isn’t from some historic day for the franchise, nor was it any special occasion for a Padres’ player. It was a regular season game, at the end of July, 1992. Let me give you a little bit of background about myself and why I’m drawn to the Padres as my second favorite team, behind the New York Yankees.
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I grew up on the west coast, in the Pacific Northwest in Oregon. The closest big league squad to me was the Seattle Mariners. I am a child of the 1980s and early 90s, so there wasn’t much to be thrilled about if you were a Mariners fan. My Dad and Mom took me to my first big league game at the Kingdome in 1981. It was there that I was within spitting distance of Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield. Well, a big day from both, and I was hooked as a Yankees fan. It was just that simple.
Some of you, our reading audience, have noticed and made comments about the fact that I am wearing a New York Yankees cap in my profile picture, while serving as a co-editor for Friars On Base. Some of the comments include “tacky” “epic fail” and the like. Well, if you didn’t know, I also serve as the co-editor of Fansided’s Yankees site, Yanks Go Yard. When we set up our profiles, regardless of how many different sites we may work for, we only use one picture. If I was able to have a picture posted for this site, in one of the many Padres’ caps I own, trust me, I would.
My Dad grew up a die hard Yankees’ fan. His favorite players were of course, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. Then something happened to my Dad. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and would serve two tours during the Vietnam War. In between tours, he was assigned to work out of Balboa Naval Hospital. My Dad was also a shrewd investor and was always looking for a solid deal to buy in to. His chance came when he purchased a home just off of Mission Beach. During his time in the Navy, another thing happened. The Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres converted into the National League Western Division San Diego Padres. My father’s greatest in-person Padres memory was attending that first game back in 1969.
After Dad’s time in the Navy was complete, he returned to Oregon, married my Mom, and together, they had me. They saw me and said enough! Anyway, as a family, we spent several vacations in San Diego, and the city became my adopted second home. While growing up, I was able to wintess the likes of Steve Garvey, Tony Gwynn, and of course, two former Yankees in Graig Nettles and Rich Gossage, code name Goose. As the 1980s turned into the 1990s, my parents were looking to unload the home at Mission Beach, as I was inching closer to leaving for college. Our final family vacation down to San Diego, came during the summer of 1992. When we weren’t staying there, my folks would rent the home out to various members of the San Diego Chargers over the years. By the way, I’ve always been a diehard Denver Broncos fan!
During our final trip as a family unit to San Diego, Dad as always, snagged some primo seats for the Padres at the Murph. My favorite Padre of all-time, and I know this sounds funny, was Gary Sheffield. He spent all of about 15 minutes in a Padres uniform before being a part of the unspoken fire sale.
My favorite Padres memory came on July 29th, 1992. No special day in baseball for any reason. But for our family, it was an extremely special day. It was my Dad’s birthday. This was a time when the Padres were in their heyday in terms of collective talent. Along with Gwynn and Sheff, Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez were still Padres, as was former NL Rookie of the Year, Benito Santiago. It was a great time to be a Padres fan, especially one from out of state that watched the team each year a handful of times. The Cincinnati Reds were in town, and I was excited to see the Nasty Boys, or what was left of them. Rob Dibble and Norm Charlton were still on the Reds roster, as was Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin. I was excited to see former Yankees’ farmhand Hal Morris, and of course, Sweet Lou Piniella.
We arrived early for batting practice, and my Dad, being the guy he was, some how, found a way for us to get down close to the field, where Sweet Lou took plenty of pics with yours truly, and had Morris and Larkin sign a ball for me. Gotta love Sweet Lou from his legendary days in pinstripes. I also got the chance to talk with Tony Gwynn and my guy, Sheff prior to the game during the Padres’ BP session. It felt like it was MY birthday. Well, a couple days after my Dad’s, it would be, on August 2nd. But I was here to celebrate my Dad’s special day. He and I took photos with Gwynn and that was as if he died and gone to heaven. Mr. Padre was easily Dad’s favorite player, as was Steve Garvey and Nettles in years prior.
Long forgotten Padres’ hurler Frank Seminara got the starting nod for the Friars, and the Padres jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after a Darrin Jackson home run. In the top of the third, the Reds got a run back, and San Diego answered right back by scoring their third run in the bottom of the frame as one-time Reds shortstop (who was beat out to be the shortstop of the future for the Reds by Larkin) Kurt Stillwell, hit a solo shot. Seminara came out after 5, with the Padres well in control of the contest. The Reds’ offense was nowhere to be found. In his place came Mike Maddux, brother of former Padre Greg. He allowed a run for the Reds to get within 4-2.
Aside from spending a perfect baseball and birthday afternoon with my Dad and Mom, the show for me came in the 7th inning. The man with the bat waggle and to this day, the quickest wrists I’ve ever seen, crushed the baseball for what was his 19th bomb of the year. Yes, the Sheff left the building. The Padres went on to win the game 7-3. I didn’t get to see two-thirds of the Nasty Boys work in the game, but at least they were next to the dugout playing catch.
This game holds more meaning for me now than it did back in 1992. Sure, I got to see my favorite Padres’ hitter hit one out. Yes, the Padres won the game, which is always nice, but the fact that this game was the final one I got to spend with my Dad, the Padres fan, holds special meaning for me. You see, coming up right after the turn of the year, I will be remembering my Dad, the Vietnam veteran, as it will mark the fifth anniversary of his passing from lung cancer. I’m an only child, and while I’m a grown man, the little boy in me still misses my Dad every single day. He was taken from my family far too early in his life. He worked hard his entire life to provide for my Mom and I, and to make sure I was able to experience the very best that life had to offer, including many, many afternoons at the Murph and various other ballparks, sharing our love of baseball together.