07/12/08 10:56 PM ET
Padres pay tribute to 1998 team
Gwynn, Vaughn, Finley among 20 players, coaches to return
By Ronald P. Clark / MLB.com
Twenty players and coaches returned to PETCO Park from that 1998 squad and many of them haven't seen each other since the last time they took the field as a unit.
"It's awesome, it really is," former outfielder and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn said. "In some cases, I haven't seen these guys since the last out of the World Series. We got on a plane, flew home and you have guys scatter. You don't see them again until you're competing against them."
Kevin Brown, Greg Vaughn and Steve Finley were among those to return to see some of their old teammates. But that team was more than the household names. It was good from top to bottom.
"It was a group of guys that worked well together," former catcher Greg Myers said. "Almost every facet of our team was good. The starting pitching was great, the bullpen was unbelievable, the position guys were strong up and down and the bench was good. The whole makeup was great."
That team was undeniably close-knit with a clubhouse atmosphere that was inclusive.
"We didn't have a team, we had a family here," former second baseman Quilvio Veras said. "We played like a family and everybody cared about the next guy. Everybody was on the same page. "
In 1998, the Padres set numerous records as they made their march to the World Series.
They won a franchise-best 98 games and set a club record with 54 home wins. Trevor Hoffman tied a then-National League record for saves in a season with 53. Hoffman's total also set a club record.
Five members of that team made the trip to Denver for the All-Star Game. Gwynn, Hoffman, Brown, Vaughn and Andy Ashby all participated in the event.
But Saturday was about remembering that team and what it meant to this city to see them get four wins away from bringing a World Series title to San Diego, a team that Myers, Veras and Gwynn all agreed was the best team they've been on.
"It's nice that the fans get to express their opinion about this team because I think that all of us in this room realize that that was a special group," Gwynn said in reference to the auxiliary locker room where the players and media mingled prior to the game. "The fact that so many of the guys came back, shows you how special it was."
Amid all the commotion in the locker room, Ashby and Myers agreed, that they "just can't believe it's been 10 years."
Ronald P. Clark is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.