Greatest Moments In Padres History #2: The 1984 National League Championship


Prior to old school, hard-nose Manager Dick Williams‘ 1982 arrival  in America’s Finest City, the San Diego Padres had managed to go 833-1210 with a robust .408 winning percentage in the franchise’s first 13 years. That’s 377 games under .500. The team had one winning season, in 1978, when they finished with a 84-78 record. The Padres had gone through eight managers in its first 13 years, including Preston Gomez (180-316), Don Zimmer (114-190), John McNamara (224-310), Bob Skinner (1-0), Alvin Dark 48-65), Roger Craig (152-171), Jerry Coleman (73-89) and Frank Howard (41-69) before the old school, hard-nose Williams was hired by Trader Jack McKeon

More from Padres History

And no nonsense Dick Williams came with an impressive résumé. He had managed the Red Sox in the American League East, winning the 1967 pennant in his first year at the helm. He had managed Oakland to three first place finishes in the American League West and two World Championships in ’72 and ’73. He had managed the hapless Montreal Expos for six years, winning the National League East during the 1981 strike-split season. Williams was a winner; he compiled a .545 winning percentage with Boston, a .603 winning percentage at Oakland, and .523 winning percentage with Montreal. At the time of his hiring, only three active managers had more career victories: Gene Mauch, Ralph Houk and Earl Weaver.

“I’m not here to win a popularity contest,” Williams told the Associated Press. “I’ll be stern but I’ll be fair … there is talent good enough to make a contending ball club.”

“He provides us with the direction we need and I think the players are going to find that he’s going to be tough,” McKeon, the Padres’ Director of Baseball Operations, added.

In 1982 with the likes of Terry Kennedy, Garry Templeton, Joe Lefebvre and John “The Count” Montefusco, plus a rookie outfielder named Tony Gwynn, the Padres managed to finish 81-81 in Williams’ first year as skipper.

Fans didn’t know it as the ’82 season ended, but the team was about to add some instant credibility. On December 21, longtime Dodger Steve Garvey and the Padres agreed to a five-year deal worth $6.6 million.

In 1983, the Padres would break Spring Training in Yuma with Kennedy behind the plate, Garvey at first, Juan Bonilla at second, Garry Templeton at short, Luis Salazar at third, Bobby Brown in left, Ruppert Jones in center and Sixto Lezcano in right.

The team’s rotation included Eric Show, Dave Dravecky, Tim Lollar, Ed Whitson, Andy Hawkins and Mark Thurmond.

The bullpen was comprised of Gary Lucas, Luis DeLeon, John Montefusco, Elias Sosa and Sid Monge.

The ’83 team matched the efforts of the prior year, finishing a respectable 81-81, but change was in the air.

In 1984, on January 6, the Padres signed veteran closer Goose Gossage to a five-year contact worth $5.5 million. The longtime AL reliever shrugged off any concerns regarding pitching in the Senior Circuit. “I’ve got to throw it and they’ve got to hit it,” Gossage told Mike Clark of the Associate Press. “I’ve never fooled anybody in my life.”

In another move to strengthen the bullpen and add some offense, the Padres acquired pitcher Craig Lefferts and outfielder Carmelo Martinez from the Cubs as part of a three-team trade that saw Gary Lucas go to Montreal.

Greg Booker, a former 10th round pick in the 1981 amateur draft by the Padres, as well as  McKeon’s son-in-law, joined the bullpen for the ’84 season. Dravecky would also be moved from the rotation, although he would still make occasional starts, to the pen to provide some left-handed support.

The rotation included Show, Lollar, Whitson, Thurmond and Hawkins.

More from Padres History

Kevin McReynolds, a 1981 first round pick (6th overall), impressed in his audition the previous year and would man centerfield, with Martinez on his left and Tony Gwynn on his right.

Speedy Alan Wiggins, a 1980 Rule 5 Draft pick from the rival Dodgers and originally an outfielder, would be moved to second base.

The bench would include Salazar, Brown, Tim Flannery, Bruce Bochy, Kurt Bevacqua, Mario Ramirez and Champ Summers.

Then, on March 30, McKeon traded pitcher Dennis Rasmussen to the Yankees for All-Star third baseman Graig Nettles.

The team would get off to a 8-2 start and never look back. At the All-Star Break, the Padres were  49-34.  After 140 games, 80-60. The team would wind up finishing 92-70, winning its first National League West title.

As winners of the NL West, the Padres would be facing the perennial fan-favorite Cubs, who had won the NL East with a record of 96-65. If there was a Cub fan in the closet, they were now out in full force.

Back in 1984, the NLCS was the best 3 out of 5. Plus, Wrigley Field had no lights.

The first two games would take place in Chicago. In Game One, the Padres would face eventual Cy Young Award winner Rick Sutcliffe, who had gone 16-1 with a 2.69 ERA since being acquired from the Indians on June 13. Show (15-9 3.40 ERA) started for the Padres. The Cubs totaled 16 hits, while the Padres managed only six in the process of being shutout in a 13-0 drubbing.

In Game Two, Mark Thurmond (14-8 2.97 ERA) would face off against Steve Trout (13-7 3.41 ERA). By the end of the fourth inning, the Cubs held a 4-1 lead. The final score would be 4-2. Garvey and McReynolds accounted for the Padres two RBIs.

Outscored 17-2 in the first two games, the series turned to San Diego. No National League team had ever come back from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series in the history of Major League Baseball.

In Game Three, Ed Whitson (14-8 3.24 ERA) squared off against Dennis Eckersley (10-8 3.03 ERA). The Cubs got on the board first after a Keith Moreland double and a Ron Cey single to center. However, that would be the only run the Cubs would score. In the fifth, Kennedy and McReynolds singled. Templeton then doubled to center, scoring the two runners. Alan Wiggins added another singe that would score Templeton, making the score 3-1.

In the sixth, the Padres added four more runs thanks to singles by Gwynn, Nettles and Kennedy and a home run by McReynolds. The four-run inning made the score 7-1, which was also the final tally for game three.

In Game Four, the Padres got on the board first with two runs in the third, thanks to a Templeton steal, a Wiggins single, a Gwynn sacrifice fly, and a Garvey double.

The Cubs answered back with three runs in the fourth, thanks to home runs by Jody Davis and Leon Durham, making the score 3-2.

The Padres tied the game in the bottom of the fifth after a Flannery single, a sacrifice bunt by Wiggins and a Garvey single to center.

The Padres would add two more runs in the bottom of the seventh, after a walk to Brown, an intentional walk to Gwynn, a Garvey single, and a passed ball to Nettles, which would make the score 5-3.

The Cubs would answer right back in the top of the eighth, with two runs of their own, as Ryne Sandberg singled and stole second. Moreland then singled to left, scoring Sandberg. Jody Davis than doubled to center, which scored pinch-runner Henry Cotto, and tied the game 5-5.

In the bottom of the ninth, with score knotted at 5-5, and Cubs’ closer Lee Smith on the mound, Tony Gwynn singled to center after Wiggins had struck out. Steve Garvey then walked to the plate and hit the most famous home run in San Diego Padres history, winning the game 7-5.

In Game Five, Sutcliffe would again face Show. The Cubs scored runs in the second and third innings, thanks to Gary Matthews and Jody Davis home runs, making the score 3-0.

The Padres wouldn’t get on the board until the sixth, when Wiggins, Gwynn and Garvey walked. Nettles and Kennedy then followed with sac flies to score Wiggins and Gwynn, 3-2 Cubs.

The Padres, however, would bust out in the seventh. Sutcliffe walked Martinez. Templeton then bunted him to second. Flannery reached base on an error, which allowed Martinez to score. Next Wiggins  singled center. Gwynn then drove a double to center, which scored both Flannery and Wiggins. Finally, Garvey singled to center, which scored Gwynn and made the score 6-3. Goose Gossage came and got three outs thanks to a pop fly and two strikeouts.

After 16 seasons, many of which were the worst in all of baseball, the San Diego Padres could finally call themselves champions — 1984 National League Champions.