The National League Championship Series of 1984 was a strange odyssey between two cities starved for recognition and respect. The Padres had never finished above fourth place in their short history, and San Diego seemed a distant outpost to the Eastern-centered media mecca. The Cubs, on the otherhand, had been around for a very long time but had not entered the baseball sweepstakes since Harry Truman was president.
Game 1 in Chicago pitted Eric Show against the Cub's seemingly unbeatable Rick Sutcliffe, who had won 16 of 17 decisions. This one was no contest. Eric Show's second pitch was deposited into the left field bleachers by Bob Derneir, and the rout was on. It didn't end until the Cubs had collected 14 hits, five of them home runs, on the way to 13-0 beating.
The next day was closer, but no happier for the Padres. In Game 2, lefthander Steve Trout pitched eight strong innings, and the Padres left Chicago down by two games after a 4-2 Cub victory.
No National League team had ever come back from two games in arrears, and this fact must have weighed heavily on everyone's mind during the long flight back to San Diego
Game 3, the first post-season play ever witnessed Mission Valley, was more like what Padres fans were accustomed to seeing. Ed Whitson tight-roped his way through the first three innings, but was brilliant thereafter. Shortstop Garry Templeton turned matters in favor of the Padres with a two-run double in the sixth inning. One inning later, Kevin McReynolds decided it with a three run home as the Padres coasted, 7-1.
Game 4 was everything Damon Runyon and Grantland Rice ever wrote about.. exciting, enthralling, exhuberating... the kind of game in which legends were born. It was a game in which Steve Garvey placed his name alongside autumn heroes like Bobby Thompson, Bill Mazeroski and others.
The Padres utilized some timely hitting and a couple of breaks to jump to a 2-0 lead. The Cubs utilized the power of Jody Davis and Leon Durham, who, in two swings, game them a 3-2 lead. A Garvey single tied the game in the fifth, and another Garvey single and a wild pitch gave the Padres a 5-3 lead.
If not for Garvey's ninth-inning drama, Davis' name might well have been legend material. Davis totaled three hits and four RBI for the day, however it wasn't good enough. With one out in the Padres ninth, Garvey, who had already driven in three runs, anticipated a Lee Smith fastball and drove it toward right-center field. The ball rose higher and higher, as did the crescendo from the crowd. Rightfielder Henry Cotto leapt high, using the fence to aid his jump, but it was no use. The ball struck the permanent wall about five feet above Cotto, and when it did, there was a thunderous explosion in the stands and at home plate. The 7-5 victory left everyone wilted, drained, perhaps too spent to rally one more time.
Pressure. Game 5 had plenty. Rick Sutcliffe was again matched against Eric Show. Show did a little better than Game 1. This time, he left after falling behind 3-0 on home runs by Davis and Durham. But first Andy Hawkins, then Dave Dravecky, Craig Lefferts, and finally Rich Gossage held steady. The Padres came unstuck from the Sutcliffe magic to squeeze across two runs in the sixth to make it 3-2. Carmelo Martinez walked to open the seventh, and was sacrificed to second. Tim Flannery pinch-hit for Lefferts and squirted a grounder toward Durham at first. By grand design or perhaps divine intervention, the ball scooted through Durham's legs. The game was tied at 3-3. Alan Wiggins pitched a soft wedge shot in front of Gary Matthews in left, putting runners on first and second. Once again, the Padres benefited from a lucky bounce. Gwynn lined a one-hopper toward Ryne Sandberg at second base. The ball struck something and took a crazy hop over Sandberg. Two runs scored. Garvey then finished Sutcliffe with a run-scoring single, giving the Padres a 6-3 lead. Gossage took care of the rest, and the Padres had won the pennant.
The World Series would match the Padres against the American League Champion Detroit Tigers. The Tigers seemed to lay waste to everything in their path in 1984, winning 104 games and making a mockery of the three-game LCS with Kansas City. The Padres would enter the World Series as underdogs with something missing. Something which had been present in the games against the Cubs. Perhaps, emotions and voices reached a critical point. The World Series... it seemed almost anti-climatic.
Detroit won the series in five games largely due to the misfortunes of the Padres starting pitchers. Not one lasted beyond five innings. The Padres were not without the spotlight, however, as Lefferts, Hawkins, and Dravecky pitched splendidly. Artist Andy Warhol once said everyone is a star sometime in their life, and for Kurt Bevacqua, Game 2 of the World Series was his time. Always playing bit parts, Bevacqua now had a stage... such occurrences are frequent in baseball lore. And his performance merited a curtain call. Bevacqua stroked three hits in Game 2, including a decisive three-run homer off Detroit righthander Milt Wilcox. His dream had become reality, and he took a magical mystery tour around the bases.
The Padres won Game 2, 5-3, but lost Games 1, 3, 4, and 5. No matter. An elusive dream had come to form for the 1984 Padres. Nothing could take the pennant away. San Diego's dream came true by participating in one of sport's premier events.