Watching an archived interview between Tim McCarver and the late Harmon Killebrew on The Tim McCarver Show recently, my mind drifted back to the sweltering midwest summer days of my early childhood and those colorful voices of Harry Caray and Jack Buck announcing St. Louis Cardinals play-by-play on the radio. (My 89-year old father is a tried and true Cardinals fan and a passionate fan of baseball in general. Rest assured we lived, breathed and listened to a whole lot of baseball in our house!) So it’s the late 1960’s and Red Schoendienst captained an all-star crew: Bob Gibson’s brilliant pitching during the 1967 and 1968 World Series, Lou Brock stole bases like a veteran thief, Julián Javier and Orlando Cepeda drove in countless RBI’s, Tim McCarver caught (and hit!) while Gibson and Steve Carlton commanded the mound, Roger Maris, Brock and Curt Flood covered the outfield while Mike Shannon, Cepeda and Javier protected the bases in that crowning 1967 season when Carl “Yaz” Yastrzemski and the Boston Red Sox finally succumbed to the Cards in a grueling 7-game World Series. As Jack Buck so often declared, “That’s a winner!”
Fast forward to October 15, 1988 at Dodger Stadium, game 1 of the ’88 World Series. Suffering from debilitating injuries in both legs, Dodgers outfielder Kirk Gibson is pinch-hitting on 3-2 count against Oakland A’s closer Dennis Eckersley in the bottom of the ninth inning. Mike Davis has stolen second base; the A’s are leading by a score of 4-3. And then it happened … Gibson sealed a glorious L.A. win by crushing a walk off homerun over the right field fence. No one could have said it better than Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!” That moment clearly set the tone of the 1988 World Series as the Dodgers clinched the series in a 4-1 route of the A’s, and it rightfully remains deeply imbedded in the minds of millions of baseball lovers today.
And ohhh, the 2010 and 2012 San Francisco Giants! They pitched their way into history with the likes of Barry Zito, Javier Lopez, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner. And they hit their way into history with third-baseman Pablo Sandoval, along with catcher and 2010 Rookie of the Year Buster Posey, who posted a .336 batting average and won the 2012 National League Batting Champ and MVP titles. Those Giants steamrolled the 2012 post season by coming back from a two-game deficit in the Divisional series and sweeping the Cincinnati Reds, then defeated the 2011 World Series Champion Cardinals in the National League Championship. But the 2012 “coup de gras” … Giants-style was clearly their 4-0 romp of the Detroit Tigers to secure a second World Series Championship title in just three years! Ya’ just gotta LOVE baseball!
So here we are … a quarter of the way through 2014 already! The good news is the MLB season has arrived, and that equates to warm San Diego afternoons spent at Petco Park watching those boys of summer. Yes, I’ll be praying that the Padres can pull off a few miracles this year by securing a spot in the National League pennant race. (Given our dismal record of World Series appearances, I’ll not be requesting such a monumental miracle.) That being said, whatever the outcome of the 2014 Padres season, spending a warm afternoon or balmy evening at Petco Park is a mighty fine way to occupy a day! A splendid bit of real estate with a ubiquitous presence amongst downtown San Diego’s skyline and perched just off San Diego Bay, there’s something really special about this ballpark. I can’t wait to walk through those gates, grab a fish taco from Rimel’s Rooftop, the quintessential “Diego Dog” or juicy burger from Hodad’s, then a crisp chardonnay from Wines at the Park or perhaps an icy cold bottle of suds from Craft Beers of San Diego, find my seats and kick back for an afternoon enjoying the great American pastime! And ohhhh doctor … I’ll always envision the late great Jerry Coleman dangling that golden star out the pressbox window after a stellar Padres play and hollering “You can hang a star on that baby!” April 20th; 1:10pm; Petco Park; Padres vs. Giants … a stellar way to spend a Sunday afternoon. See you at the park!