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10/03/05 11:45 PM ET

Rally Monday draws big crowd

Fans celebrate division title and prepare for playoffs

SAN DIEGO -- Picnic Hill and the rest of the Park at the Park at PETCO Park were alive with the sounds of playoff fever.

More than 2,500 loyal fans attended Rally Monday at the Park at the Park to celebrate the San Diego Padres' first trip to the playoffs since 1998.

Game 1 of the best-of-five series with the St. Louis Cardinals may be scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis, but on Monday at dusk in San Diego, Padres fans certainly had their game faces on.

And Sonny the Clown was leaving his own special marks on some of those faces -- including his own.

"I'm here to face-paint, blow up balloons and sign Padres gear," said Sonny (a.k.a. John Wise of Chula Vista, who works for the Padres). "I've been doing this for six years, but it's the first time we've had a rally like this, and it's really special."

Dia and Judy from La Mesa both had the Padres logo on their faces and were waving their blue Padres rally towels and Major League Baseball's special white World Series towels.

"We were here all last week every day," said Dia. "We were there for the clincher on Wednesday. And we're going to get a group together and watch the game [Tuesday] morning. But this is great being here tonight to celebrate."

Seth and Wylma Molino, both in their 80s, were sitting on Picnic Hill decked out in matching Padres shirts highlighting past Padres successes in 1984, 1996 and 1998.

"We've been married 62 years and are still in love with each other and the Padres," said Wylma.

Chet Carney of San Diego State fame and the Swinging Friar warmed up the crowd for good cheer before the TV lights came on at 5:30 p.m. PT. Local musician and season-ticket holder Steve Poltz provided entertainment in and out of the TV breaks.

There was a distinct mixture of past, present and future Padres accomplishments featured on the stage on the infield at the ballpark.

Masters of ceremonies Matt Vasgersian, Mark Grant and Billy Ray Smith introduced members of past Padres playoffs -- including Archi Cianfrocco, Kurt Bevacqua, Terry Kennedy and Norm Sherry, the pitching coach of the 1984 squad -- all of whom spoke to the crowd.

"It's so exciting," said Cianfrocco, who was part of the '98 run. "I've got my tickets and I'm ready to put my Padres jersey on and go out and rally the troops."

Cianfrocco, who has been throwing batting practice at times during the season, said, "The chemistry on this club today is a lot like we had in 1998. These guys are unselfish, hard-working guys, and no prima donnas. It's been a long year and at times a tough year, but they are where they wanted to be -- in the playoffs. So let's everyone enjoy it."

"1984 was a remarkable year," said Sherry. "Fans are so important to a team. I remember when we came back from Chicago after losing the first two games to the Cubs, there were 1,000 people at Jack Murphy to meet us. And that enthusiasm continued at the ballpark the next two days and we went on to win the pennant. You fans can help do it again."

Bevacqua's home run that series in 1984 was shown on the Jumbotron on Monday. There were also interviews from Monday's workout in St. Louis with current Padres players Jake Peavy, Tuesday's starter; Dave Roberts, who said he's close to 100 percent and will start in center field; and manager Bruce Bochy, with a cameo appearance in the background by prankster Robert Fick.

"I remember how important the fans in San Diego were to us in 1984," said Bevacqua. "If it hadn't been for the fans of San Diego in 1984, I doubt very seriously if we would have swept the Cubs three games here in San Diego. You can be a big part of this ballclub, so take advantage of it. And let's all go out and have some fun."

The fun certainly continued with the raffling off of two sets of tickets for Saturday's Game 3, along with an autographed Mark Loretta bat and Trevor Hoffman and Peavy autographed baseballs.

The formal part of Rally Monday concluded with fireworks as fans raised their "Go Padres" signs and waved their Padres Rally towels and World Series towels, which they hope to use for real in a few weeks.

Sandy Burgin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.