Being a Padre fan and living 1,307 miles away from Petco Park isn't always easy. Among the most troubling things is missing the end of games that start after 9:00 central time. It doesn't happen a lot, usually I stick it out to the end if the outcome is still in question, but my body has been rebelling lately and I'm getting sleepier earlier. I've also been churning through the new episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix with my wife, so my time has been divided.
Another thing that is difficult is missing out on the occasional awesome things that the Padres are doing in San Diego, things that can't be captured with a MLB.com monthly subscription:
As you can tell by the picture in the blog header, I love the retro nights that the Padres have. Usually it's just a fun way to commemorate the many uniform styles that the Friars have gone through (side note: do the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals or Yankees have a "retro night"? Other than changing the "LA" to a "B", I'm not sure there's a big difference with any of those).
However, on June 14th, the Padres will not only be celebrating the greatest Padre team to ever be assembled, but the players from the 1998 team will be signing autographs before the game!
How awesome is that?
I mean, don't get me wrong, there are plenty of today's players that I'd be stoked to get autographs from and chat with - Yonder Alonso, Luke Gregerson, Chris Denorfia, Jedd Gyorko, Kyle Blanks, Chase Headley, Dale Thayer, Alexi Amarista, Mark Kotsay, Brad Brach, Andrew Cashner, etc.
But some of those names on the list? Joey Hamilton? Andy Ashby? Greg Vaughn? Sterling Hitchcock? ARCHI CIANFROCCO? Oh man, I wanna be there!
But I can't. So, in honor of the guys on the list who are planning on being there, here are some cards that I pulled and present to you readers out there who may be unfamiliar with the greatness of the '98 Padres.
Andy Ashby went 17-9 with a 3.34 ERA for the Pads in 1998. This card is from 1997 Upper Deck, and mentions that the picture is from a game where he out dueled future Padre Greg Maddux on 4/11/96. He was an All-Star in '98, and again in '99, but got shelled in his only World Series game.
Kevin Brown is the main reason that the Padres even made it to the World Series in '98. He went 18-7 with a 2.38 ERA in the regular season, but turned it up a notch in the playoffs, including an 8 inning, 16 strikeout performance against Randy Johnson in the first game of the Division Series. Money well spent, if only for a year.
My man crush on Archi Cianfrocco is pretty well documented on this blog, but for those not in the know, Archi is awesome. Were I to be attending the event, I'd be stopping by to see him first. 1998 was Archi's last in the bigs, and due to his less than stellar season, he was left off the postseason roster. Still, he's the utility player that you love to have on your team.
To be honest, I had no idea that Ben Davis was even on the team. But, it turns out that he got one at bat in 1998, giving him a batting average of .000. Whenever I get excited about Padres current catching prospect Austin Hedges, I try to curb my enthusiasm by remembering Ben Davis. Love this card, though.
If loving Chris Gomez is wrong, I don't want to be right. Gomey batted .267 for the Pads in 1998, and was a big reason the Padres won the NL West crown in 1996. Dude was a grinder, and a fan favorite.
No introduction necessary for Mr. Padre. He has been on both Padre teams that went to the World Series, in 1984 (his second year in the bigs) and in 1998. Tony batted .321 in '98, good for 9th best in the NL, and it would be the last time he would rank in the top ten in season batting average. He went 17 for 57 in the playoffs in 1998 (.298), and would hit a home run in Game 1 of the World Series in Yankee Stadium.
Joey Hamilton was brought up through the Padres organization and made his debut in 1994. He had some good years for the Friars, going 15-9 in 1996 and 12-7 in 1997. He would have his worst year as a Padre in ’98, though, going 13-13 with a 4.27 ERA. It wouldn’t get better for him, as he would bounce around with Toronto and Cincinnati after ’98, going 19-29 after leaving the friendly confines of Jack Murphy.
Carlos Hernandez, the former Dodger catcher had a decent year at the plate in ’98, but handled arguably the best starting rotation that the Padres have ever put together. Catchers are cool.
Sterling Hitchcock will probably always be my favorite Padres pitcher of all time. Dude had a decent year in ’98, going 9-7 with a 3.93 ERA, but he really flipped the switch in the post season. In four postseason games in ’98, Hitchcock went 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA, going 22 innings and striking out 32! He won the NLCS MVP honors by winning games 3 and 6, giving up one run in ten innings and striking out 14. The guys he beat? Just some dudes named Glavine and Maddux.
I’m surprised that Jim Leyritz got the invite, but I guess it was probably an open invitation to all. Though he was clutch in the playoffs in ’98 (including a game tying home run and a game winning homerun in the NLDS against the Astros), he is better known for his post-career exploits, which involve a DUI charge that unfortunately killed another person.
I had hoped that I had a card of Merv’s playing days, but this from the 1992 D.A.R.E. Safety set is all that I’ve got. Whatever Merv did with Greg Vaughn, it worked, as his home run total jumped from 18 in 1997 to 50 in 1998. Vaughn showed the potential to mash before he met Ken Caminiti, so I’m going to assume it was the hitting coach and not any “other” help he might’ve had.
As a kid, my dad would give nicknames to lots of “lesser known” Padres, usually the ones who weren’t so great. Spencer became known as “Stan Spencer, the home run dispenser”. ’98 was his rookie year, and he went 1-0 with a 4.70 ERA in 30.2 innings, but didn’t pitch in the postseason. The next year, he would go 0-7 with a 9.16 ERA, giving up 11 dingers in 38.1 innings. Ouch.
No surprise that Sweeney is making an appearance here, as he is currently the “guy on the field” during the Padres broadcasts. His first year on the job, my brothers and I were at Spring Training and he doing a practice run-through about how much of a “game changer” Cameron Maybin was. He made it sound like a good thing, though Maybin has been a pretty big disappointment in his time in San Diego. Still, Sweeney seems like a decent guy and is one of the greatest pinch hitters of all time, which is an interesting title to have. How is this the only card of Sweeney that I have?
I remember where I was when I heard that the Padres had traded for Greg Vaughn. We had stopped by a card shop on our way home from the beach, and my brother and I were going through our pack results while we listened to the local sports talk radio. I remember that he pulled a Vaughn card, and I quickly traded for it, since he hadn't been listening. He wasn't as into baseball cards as I was, so I didn't feel too bad about it. Anyways, Mo's cousin killed it in '98, mashing for career highs in homers (50), RBI (119), hits (156), runds (112), doubles (28), and slugging percentage (.597). It'd be cool to meet him.
I'd rank Veras as the best player named Quilvio to ever play the game, and maybe the second best second baseman the Padres have ever had, behind Mark Loretta. Dude was a slick fielder who had a solid year in '98.
I didn’t have any cards of Ed Giovanola, but he was one of my favorite “unknown” Padres for a while. Kinda weird, but when I looked online for some cards of him today, I didn’t even know what he looked like. I guess that’s listening to games on the radio for ya. I didn’t have any cards of Brian “Throw ‘Em A Dinger” Boehringer, but he also got a nickname from my dad, so I’ll never forget him.
As great as some of the guys on the guest list are, there are some pretty glaring omissions in my opinion. Wally Joyner was a big fan favorite during his time here, people would line up to meet him. Steve Finley is one of my all-time favorite players, and he was a big part of that ’98 team. I think he even lives in San Diego, so I’m not sure why he’s not on the list. The biggest, though is Trevor Hoffman. What is HE doing? I thought that he worked for the Padres, but maybe he’s got something else going on.
Maybe it’s going to be as lame as a class reunion (okay, I’m only assuming, since I didn’t go to my ten-year last year), and maybe the World Series sweep at the hands of the Yankees still stings a little, but I think this would be way cool to go to. Hopefully they’ll show a little of it on MLB.TV and I can get all nostalgic here in Texas.