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Celebrating 40 Years of Padres Baseball

40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winners

As part of the team's 40th Anniversary celebration, the Padres asked you, the Friar Faithful, to share your favorite Padres memory over the last 40 seasons. The memories below were the winning submissions.

Thank you to everyone who sent in your memory. We look forward to providing you with many more memories in the years to come.

As a child growing up I was subjected to baseball on a regular basis. My mom was a true fan of the game and a devoted Dodgers fan. Being young and foolish, I rooted for the Dodgers, and was lucky to see live baseball at several ballparks. Eventually I grew up and developed my own love of baseball - as a Padre fan!

My mom and I had many friendly bets when the Padres and Dodgers met; we even attended a few games together. She was able to hear Hells Bells a few times, though she was not impressed because it meant the Dodgers were losing. Our biggest bet was for the 1998 MVP for the National League. She bet on Mike Piazza and I, of course, bet on Ken Caminiti, who won MVP, and I won lunch. She never felt right about that, as she loved and believed in Mike Piazza. He was her favorite and, even when he became a Met, she was still a Piazza fan.

That next year my daughter and I, along with my parents, took a trip to the east coast and, with various other family members, attended our last ball game together, at Camden Yards. It was a great time and in hindsight very special. My mom died in October 1999 - the Monday after the end of the regular baseball season. The night she died Mike Piazza, playing for the Mets in post season, hit a homerun and we were all convinced Mom had something to do with that.

In 2006, when Mike Piazza signed with the Padres, we all knew the impossible had happened - somewhere, my mom was cheering for the Padres. He said thanks by hitting a homer on his first at bat. So on September 23rd 2008, when I received the opportunity to go on the field for a randomly selected player's shirt, I was sure that my mom had a hand in it. I was on cloud nine. We just had park passes for the game, so we stood at the rail in our regular section. At the end of the 6th it was time to go winner's random drawing. I was about 5th from the end, so there were not a lot of balls left. I reached my hand in and pulled out #33. I just couldn't believe it - Mike Piazza! Mike Piazza was my player! Being able to be on that field and receive the jersey of a man my mom admired so much, was a feeling that I'll never be able to fully explain. After he signed and handed over his jersey, I was able to tell him that my mom taught me to love baseball and that he was her favorite player, getting his jersey was a true honor. He thanked me and then when we separated he thanked me again. No matter what you believe, I know that I was destined to get that jersey and tell him about my mom.
  - Debi Workman, 40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winner

My favorite memory was in the 1970's when the Padres were playing the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards had a rally started with Willie Davis on first base and the fans began to boo the Padre pitcher. The next batter swung at the first pitch and lined the ball to deep right field, but to everyone's surprise Dave Winfield fielded the ball off the grass and threw a strike to the waiting second basemen to force a stunned Willie Davis.

Willie Davis tried to protest the call to the second base ump who kept his hand up in the out sign. On the way back to the dugout Davis turned around toward Winfield and just waved "nice play". The boo's turned to cheers and everyone could not stop talking about the throw. Winfield just tipped his hat and smiled. Willie Davis walked back to his dugout and grabbed his glove for the next inning.

Dave Winfield kept every fan on the edge of their seats with that rifle of an arm. He is in the Hall of Fame for his hitting but wow what an arm.
  - David Cook, 40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winner

In 1996 I attended my first ever Major League ball game with the YMCA of San Diego County group. I was amazed-the players were actually "real" people on that field and baseball was so fun. And so began my love for baseball and the Padres.

But the story does not end there - I became a season ticket holder and was in my seat in left field in 1998 for all the memories, the goose bumps and the hoarse voice days after. It is impossible for me to explain how incredibly excited I felt about all the things that occurred that season - especially having moved here to San Diego from the Detroit area-our AL team challengers in 1984.

I saw the wins, the HRs by Greg Vaughn, the "never miss a catch in center" by Finley, the Wally guys and of course Cami and Trevor Time. (And what about those starting pitchers?) The playoffs were incredible but the World Series games???? What a roar, what electricity in the stands, what a site to see the white squares being twirled in the air throughout the stands. Everyone was a star that season-everyone was a contributor-and the fans made it electric too.

The World Series was not to be ours in 1998 but we loved our team. I went to the Gaslamp for the parade (took the day off work with my boss) and was up close to the players and staff as they paraded down the streets. Tony and his wife looked so proud of the city turning out to honor them. Steve Finely had the biggest smile on his face, Sterling Hitchcock, Chris Gomez, Joey Hamilton - everyone looked so appreciative and proud. What indoctrination into the game - what a season it was.

Opening Day 2004 - I was there in my left field seat in Petco Park - very privileged to do so. So many things transpired between the first game at the Q and the first game at Petco - skunks and cats on the field, lines at the restrooms, bee swarms on the out of town scoreboard and lights blowing out over our heads at the Q to preopening day tours of Petco Park - the total feeling of awe at the new ball park - it was just gorgeous. Opening day was a triumphant for everyone who had spent years at the Q-in good times and bad. In the end I guess it is not just one memory of the best-it is a total picture of all the years since that first game in 1996.

For me personally-our San Diego team has meant new friends in the stands and on the field. My thank you goes out to the players, the coaches and the front office staff; because even during some meager years being a fan-I have always loved the game and loved the team. Padres thank you for being in San Diego-thanks for the memories!
  - Beth Cain, 40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winner

"Break the Ty!" By 2001, I had been a Padres fan for 21 years, ever since I moved to San Diego in 1980. The end of the 2001 season was magical. Tony Gwynn was about to retire and Rickey Henderson was looking to break Ty Cobb's career run record and looking for his 3,000th hit.

On October 4, 2001, I was finishing up a few things at work before I slipped out the back door to attend the day game against the Dodgers. About 30 minutes before game time I thought of making a sign to bring to the game that simply said "Break the Ty!" I typed the three words on my computer, printed it out, found a poster board in the storage room, went across the street to Kinkos, blew it up, tacked it onto the board, and made it to our seats in Section 42 by the second inning.

At the beginning of the 3rd inning, Rickey was in the on-deck circle when the camera found me and the sign. Rickey was looking up at the big screen above home plate, and I knew he saw it. When he came up to bat, well, we all know the story. Home run! "Ty" broken! Rickey slides on home.! What a moment.

At the game last night (Aug. 1st) they replayed that moment, including a shot of my poster! It was cool to see it again. I still have that poster, waiting for the day when I can meet Rickey Henderson and have him autograph it so I can have it framed. Padres fan 4-ever!
  - Anna Kimber, 40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winner

It was August 11, 1971. The National League leaders in Earned Run Average were to face off at San Diego Stadium -- Tom Seaver for the Mets and Dave Roberts for the Padres. Only 10,828 were in attendance to witness a true masterpiece, as the Padres were a team destined to lose over 100 games that year. But my father and I loved great pitching and just had to be there.

The Mets got their leadoff hitter on in the first, and promptly sacrificed him to second. "BUNTING in the FIRST INNING?" we exclaimed! The Mets couldn't score, and neither could the Padres.

In the 8th inning, with one out and Donn Clendenon of the Mets on 2nd base, CF Larry Stahl made a diving catch of a sinking line drive, Clendenon was already around 3rd when the catch was made -- neither he nor the fans could believe that Stahl had made the catch -- and was doubled off to end the inning.

Seaver pitched 10 innings and struck out 14 against 2 walks and 3 hits. Roberts pitched an unbelievable 12 innings that night, and gave up no runs at all! In the bottom of the 12th, Stahl led off with a double down the right field line. After the Mets' Danny Frisella walked Nate Colbert intentionally, the Padres tried a double steal. The Mets' All-Star catcher, Jerry Grote, promptly heaved the ball over the third-baseman's head into left field, scoring Stahl with the lone run of the game!!

In just 2 hours and 35 minutes (today, that game would have gone past 3 hours) my father and I had seen perhaps the greatest display of pitching that he or I have ever seen. Those 1971 Padres didn't do much scoring that year, and even less winning, but they, for one night at least, played with the former World Champions of baseball and beat them at their own game, winning with pitching and defense.

And I recently presented a framed Box Score of that game to my father for his Father's Day gift in 2009. This will forever be the most treasured memory of all my Padres memories--my father Ted ("T.A.") who always took me to the games in my youth and teen years, and I sharing one of our mutual passions in life: A great Padres baseball game. OUR TEAM, in OUR TOWN.
  - David Adams, 40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winner

My favorite Padre memory happened in Las Vegas in April 2001 at Big League Weekend. My son chose to go to Big League Weekend for his 10th birthday instead of any celebration. He has been a big Padre fan since he was 3 and his favorite player has always been Tony Gwynn. He was hoping to see get a glimpse of his favorite player up close. We happened to live in Las Vegas at the time.

Before the game the players were signing autographs for a little while. All the bigger kids and adults where pushing the littler ones out of the way. My son had to be careful because he had just dislocated his elbow badly in February. He was devastated because he wasn't able to play spring little league. Going to the game meant a lot to him. By the time he got up to the front Tony was leaving. My son was almost in tears. Knowing how much my son wanted to get his autograph and since this was on his actual birthday. I yelled out to Tony that this is my son's birthday and that all he wanted was to see him. Tony turned around and came up to the bar above the dugout and said to meet him after the game near the locker room.

Well Tony happened to leave the game a little early, so I took my son down where Tony said to meet him. I explained to the door guy what Tony said. He went to verify what I said and came back to let us in. Tony was already dressed in a nice suit. He let my son have his picture taken with him and he told my son he didn't have a ball to give him. He had something more special. He had the guy loading the truck up with their bags to give him his bag back. He pulled out his own spring training hat that he had worn and gave it to my son. My son's face lit up brighter than anything in the world.

He treasures that hat to this day and he always talks about that birthday as being the one that will always mean the most to him. For Tony Gwynn to take the time for my son like that was just so awesome. My son felt so special that day and I will always be so grateful to Tony for lighting up my son's heart that day (4/3/2001).

Someday I would like to have the photo enlarged to an 8x10 and have Tony sign a special message on it for him, because that was truly a moment he will never forget and neither will I.
  - Dawna Kenney, 40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winner

My Favorite Padres memory has to be at the end of the 1996 season when the Padres had to travel to LA. They were two games down with 3 games to go, so in order to win the division the Padres needed a sweep.

The Padres had secured the first two games including an extra innings thriller the first game, and the final game would decide who won the division. Both teams were being shutout for 10 innings, thanks to stellar pitching from Bob Tewksbury and reliever Dario Veras.

In the top of the 11th inning the game was still tied at 0 and I remember Chris Gwynn coming in as a pinch hitter and hitting a double to the gap which drove in two runs that gave us the lead. The sideways clapping from Gwynn as he stood at second base is unforgettable. Then Trevor Hoffman came in the 9th inning to save the game and finish off the sweep of the Dodgers. The Padres won the division and celebrated in front of a stunned Dodgers crowd, that was just priceless.

I know there are more significant Padre moments, but I hate the Dodgers so sweeping them at home to win the division was just the best. That moment brought me to tears from the excitement hopefully there are moments like that for future Padre fans including my children and grandchildren.
  - Jose Luis Gallardo, 40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winner

In 2005 my father-in-law was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. My wife who works at UCSD, was working in operations at the time, opening the new Moores Cancer Center. While attending the opening gala fundraiser for the cancer center, we won the silent auction for a sports package. With it came the honor of throwing out the first pitch at a Padres game.

For Father's Day that year we gave him 2 pieces of great news. The first was that my wife was pregnant and he was going to be a 1st time grandfather. The second was that he was going to be throwing out the first pitch at a game in the fall as we gave him the auction package. The whole family are big Padres fans, so over the course of that year we worked with the group ticket office to plan the event and eventually ended up bringing over 30 family and friends to watch him throw out the first pitch.

Even though he was 3 cycles into chemo and quite looking the part, you would have never known how bad he felt by the look on his face when he threw out that pitch. Utter joy. It was a great moment for him and all of us watching in person and at home. Unfortunately I could not be there in person as I had recently had an unexpected serious back problem which required emergency back surgery and was confined to a bed in recovery. However, while watching at home by myself I was still connected to the game as Matty V and the Mudcat gave a special tribute. First to my father-in-law for his challenges and accomplishments, and second to me for putting it all together and wished me well in my recovery. It was the best feeling watching baseball that night.

We are all doing perfect now. My father-in-law is in complete remission (3 years), my back is 100%, and we had a second healthy child just last year. Oh yeah, and that night he threw a perfect strike.
  - Brian Byrnes, 40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winner

I've been lucky enough to grow up a Padre fan. I've been there for many memories, like Trevor Hoffman's 500th save and Greg Maddux's 350th career win. But since I was about two years old I have wanted nothing more than to meet Tony Gwynn. If his amazing achievements on the field weren't enough to keep him my number one favorite player, Tony's 2000th and 3000th hits were on August 6th, his mother's birthday which is also my birthday. I've always boasted about sharing a birthday with Tony Gwynn's Mom!

So practically all my life I've wanted to meet Tony Gwynn, but I've always seemed to come so close and then miss the opportunity. If I'd arrive early enough for batting practice, Tony wouldn't be out. If there was an autograph signing, I would find out about it after the fact. It just seemed impossible to meet him.

Finally I heard about a signing at El Cajon Ford, and even though I was there early and Tony signed well past the allotted time, they stopped the signing when I was about ten people away from him. For years it has been a joke in my family how I never get to meet him. I honestly thought that the closest I'd ever get to Tony Gwynn was his statue at Petco Park.

But last year at the 1998 celebration game I was early enough to get in line to meet some of the 1998 players. The lines weren't marked at the time so I just got in the one that was closest to me. After standing around for a while an usher informed me I was in fact in the line for Mr. Padre himself, Tony Gwynn. Well I just about fainted! And then I really started to freak out. I waited and waited and waited. It was only about an hour wait but it felt a lot longer and I was sure I'd be next in line and they would say it was too late. But thankfully I finally got to the autograph table and the usher told me to step up to the table. It was a quick exchange, like most autograph appearances are, but it was the most amazing experience I've had as a Padre fan. After 20 years, I had finally met Tony Gwynn, Mr. Padre!

I returned to my seat and called everyone in my family to tell them the great news. The ball that Tony signed is by far one of my most precious possessions. The only question I have left now that I've met him is: what do I do now?
  - Caitlin Wion, 40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winner

The fourth game of the 1998 World Series was not much to cheer about. Padres were swept in four by the Yankees and an American League team was celebrating on our pitcher's mound. The crowd in the stands did not seem to mind the outcome and kept waving the rally towels and cheering and cheering and not leaving.

After a few minutes a head poked out of the dugout and then disappeared. The story said that one of the Padres looked out and went back to the locker room and told the team that the fans did not leave. One by one the team came back to the field. Trevor, Steve Finley, Tony Gwynn, Bruce Bochy, Cami, Andy Ashby, Sterling Hitchcock and more. They grabbed a microphone and spoke to the crowd. Mutual admiration society is usually not a good comment, but this was the ultimate of admiration for the players by the fans and by players for the fans. Easy to stay and cheer when you win, but the greatest show of love for a team is staying, like we did in 1998, and cheering when you lose.

We loved that team and all the excitement they gave us during the season. Nothing can top that day in Padres memories for me.
  - Sharon Cook, 40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winner

My best memory was back in 1984. We were a poor Mexican family of 9 brothers and sisters. We weren't able to afford going to Jack Murphy Stadium but I did like the Padres and heard them on the radio or saw them on television all the time. Baseball was my life, and I remember the voices of Jerry Coleman, Dave Campbell, Ted Leitner, and Bob Chandler like if it was yesterday.

I was 11 years old at the time, and my mother's boss gave her 3 tickets to the 5th game of the National League Championship against the Cubs. My mom was not a baseball fan and my brother was a Dodger fan at the time, because of Fernando Valenzuela (Former Padre) but for me it was a dream come true.

I remember not being able to sleep the night before of excitement. My mom drove us to the Murph on an old beat up station wagon. I was afraid it was not going to make it to the ballpark. We parked and showed the usher our tickets, and they showed us exactly where they were. When my eyes saw the field for the first time, I couldn't believe how beautiful it was. I can still see it to this day. The song Ghost Busters was being replayed a thousand times over the stadium speakers. Our seats were the best seats in the house, sixth row above the Cubs dugout. I say they were the best seats in the house, because everyone around us were the best people in the world. I am not sure but I think everyone knew it was our first game, and probably had a sign in our foreheads that we were poor, because everyone was buying us food and candy. I didn't care at the time because my dream had come true.

I remember the Cubs hitting two homeruns, but the Padres came back on a couple of sacrifice flies, and remember Tim Flannery hit a ball that trickled under Durham's legs. We went crazy, it was to good to be true! Garvey followed with an rbi single and remember the stadium shaking so much, I thought it was going to fall down. Again and again the song Ghost busters came on!

Goose Gossage came to pitch and the Cubs got three runners on base in the last two innings but were not able to score. Gossage pitched the last pitch ("A one hopper to Nettles to Wiggins, and the Padres have the National League Pennant. Oh Doctor!") My mom had heard of how bad the traffic got after the game, so she got us by the hand and started running to the car. When we got to the car, we were the only ones in the parking lot. My heart was still in the ballpark, but I didn't care I had just witness my first game and we won the Championship. I remember driving on 40th street, before the I-15 was built and seeing everyone on the streets waving Padres souvenirs. I was the happiest boy in the world just sitting back in the back seat that faced the back of that old beat up station wagon. The biggest Padre fan was born that same day!
  - Mario Alonso, Third 40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winner

Major League baseball finally comes to San Diego. My brother and I attended the first game against the Astros, sitting in the Upper Deck, Section 23. Dick Selma pitched a great game, and Ed Spiezio hit the first Padre home run. It would be the first of hundreds of games, which I still attend, to this day. I've been there for the Padres largest crowds, and their smallest. I will be a Padre fan until the day I die. But not many of us can say we were at the very first game.
  - Joe Kocherhans, Second 40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winner

It was "Baseball under the Sun" at the old ballpark. It was called San Diego Stadium back then and the Friars were about to do battle with the Atlanta Braves. The usual sparse crowd of 10,000 fans could not have imagined what lay in store on this wonderfully sunny "Businessman's Special Thursday" afternoon. We were about to be treated to the greatest defensive play in Padres and perhaps Major League Baseball history.

The Padres' roster that season featured wily veterans like pitchers Mickey Lolich, Rollie Fingers and the ageless and cagey Gaylord Perry. But this day would forever belong to young Osborne "Ozzie" Earl Smith, a rookie making only the tenth start of what would become a Hall of Fame career.

Heading towards the middle innings, it had been a relatively uneventful game. That all changed with two out in the top of the fourth and big Jeff Burroughs standing at the plate. Burroughs takes a mighty swing and smashes a scorching ground ball up the middle. Everyone just assumed that it was ticketed for centerfield. Ozzie moves to his left and dives behind the second base bag. Suspended in midair, his glove-hand extended, he instinctively reacts when the ball takes a bad hop and caroms towards his knees. Somehow still hovering above ground, Ozzie reaches back with his bare hand and snags the spinning baseball. In one fluid motion, he bounces up from the turf and throws a perfect strike to nail the lumbering Burroughs at first base.

Even more amazing than that wondrous play was the reaction of the crowd. We sat there for what seemed like three full seconds, quiet and motionless. It was as if our brains were telling us not to believe this "special effect" we had just seen. When we finally came back to our senses, San Diego Stadium erupted. Even the opposing players, most just shaking their heads in disbelief, knew they had just witnessed greatness. Ozzie simply dusted himself off and went about his business.

I have been a Padres fan since their Minor League days at Westgate Park and have been fortunate to be in attendance at many a Padres Milestone. Whenever I meet a fellow old-timer at the park, we usually discuss our favorite baseball memories. The subject of "The Play" invariably pops up. To this day, I still relive this memory to whoever will listen and fill with pride in proclaiming that I was one of the lucky few to sit in stunned silence at Ozzie's athletic masterpiece.
  - Robert Eagleman, First 40 Years of Padres Memories Contest Winner