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Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2006 | That didn’t go so well did it? Among other things Boch, twice manager of the year, took a shot at being the baseball genius of all time by starting a pitcher old enough to have gout, a disease I thought had been eradicated by Jonas Salk, maybe Louis Pasteur? The old boy didn’t do all that badly but even two runs were too much to give up for a team that often as not scores none.
That and some mediocre play brought us to “wait ’til next year” again. I can handle that. I hail from Sevastopol, Indiana where everybody – all 32 of us – were Cub fans, folks who lived through all those years when our heroes would swoon just in time to avoid playing ball in October.
Still there were lots of memories and lots of big games, but, old as I am, I can never remember a game that could top San Diego’s big one. In my opinion it was the best postseason game of all time.
In 1984 there was only one round of playoffs. When the Pads sneaked in, most San Diegans were mildly happy to see them do that. The Cub fans were the ecstatic ones. Their perennial losers were finally “that close” to their first pennant in nearly 40 years and, possibly, their first World’s Championship since 1908, the year David Wells was born.
Most laid-back southern California dudes had other priorities such as surfing and saucing it up at the Beachcomber in Mission Beach. Why spend time worrying about a game played on dry land by guys from out of town who probably couldn’t tell a rip current from the green room? That’s with apologies to third baseman Tim Flannery who actually knew what both are and which one to go into.
Hell, local folks were so laid back there hadn’t even been much resentment in 1974 when the team packed up and was ready to leave for the nation’s capital. For some reason Ray Kroc stepped in and stopped that. He bought the team, and added an element of amusement for the fans, all by himself and his microphone.
Then came 1984. After the first couple games it looked as if rooting for the home team was a lost cause. The locals out-swooned the Cubs, dropped both, and were outscored 17 to 2 at Wrigley. I’m sure baseball purists in San Diego – if such existed – were disheartened at watching their guys fold so completely.
But baseball is not just a spectator sport in San Diego. The fans participate! Until the snooty folks at PETCO finally put a stop to it, bouncing a beach ball around the stadium was as much a part of the game as a home run. In the 70s, several fans marched with The Famous Chicken in the best ad hoc sports demonstrations the world has seen.
McNamara’s Band consisting of a Marine with a tuba, another with a drum, a tambourine lady (who had no idea how to play a tambourine), and a rag tag assortment of followers paraded around the stadium giving with an um-pah CHARGE in a vain effort to rev up the Pads. It didn’t work but it was fun watching or marching, whichever one decided to do.
And so it went into the playoffs. The Pads won the third game and there would be a fourth, and one more excuse for a party. I stood in line to get a couple tickets for the missus and me. All that were left were up high, very high, in the upper deck in left field. Hey, I could see the field. What more could you want?
During the player introductions, when each Cub’s name was announced, the fans shouted, en masse, “WHO’S HE?” Later when things slowed down, or often when it didn’t, restless fans would start the wave. Sometimes one would go one way, the other the opposite way.
Beach balls flew everywhere, all chased by hapless ushers. It was going to be a fun game no matter that it might be the last of the season.
And most of us watched the game itself, especially when the Garv came to bat. Then the aficionados made with a low pitched, eerie mantra: GAAAARRRRVEY GAAAARVEY. The man who wanted to become a senator responded by driving in five runs. When Gwynn was walked in the bottom of the ninth to get to our hero, a few fans started with the traditional BOOOOO, but the rest of us went with the mantra.
I don’t know what the Cubs pitcher, Lee Smith, thought of GAAAARRRRVEY echoing throughout San Diego Stadium, but he choked up one of the few gofer balls of his life. It was one that will live forever in the hearts of the 7 or 8 million people at the stadium that night.
The Garv smacked it out of the place. Well it was a few inches over the glove of Henry Cotter, Cubs’ right fielder, but far enough. My loyalty shifted southwest 1727 miles. I stood and cheered my first Republican since Dwight Eisenhower.
San Diego became a baseball town that night.