The starting lineups were introduced. The national anthem was sung. The players were about to take their position onto the field.
Uh, just one problem here.
There were no umpires.
The umpiring crew was still in their locker room, fervently pacing while awaiting the arrival of their equipment. Finally, at about 1 p.m. Thursday, just five minutes before the scheduled first pitch, the truck with their gear pulled up into San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. They hurriedly dressed, told the Padres and St. Louis Cardinals to stand by, and after a 12-minute delay, the game was under way.
"I don't know what happened," said Bob Davidson, the first-base umpire. "I think it got at the airport in plenty of time, but I don't think the driver knew the best way to get to the ballpark. He said something about getting stuck in traffic."
If the Padres had had any foresight about what would happen during the afternoon, they would have thrown up a roadblock, backed by a tank or two, to ensure that the truck would never reach its destination.
As it was, once the game started, the Cardinals proceeded to bury them, 7-1, leaving the crowd of 23,173 wondering why they hadn't spent the day at the beach.
Padre starter Walt Terrell certainly had plenty of time to get in his work and still get there before rush hour, pitching just two innings and to five batters without an out in the third, allowing seven hits and six runs.
The Cardinals built a 6-1 lead after three innings, stretched it to 7-1 in the sixth, and their pitchers ended the game by retiring 13 of the last 14 batters. The Cardinals out-hit the Padres, 15-5, getting four runs and a season-high six hits against the Padres in the third inning alone. Meanwhile, the Padres were floundering at the plate, failing to advance a runner to second after the fifth. Even Jack Clark's hitting streak came to an end at 14 games.
"Well, at least we got our pitchers some work today," deadpanned Padre Manager Jack McKeon. "And we got some guys (position players) some rest. If you're going to lose, you hope to get the crap kicked out of you early so you can get some guys out of there."
The Padres, coming off two consecutive complete-game performances by their starters for only the second time this season, certainly were in no danger of having their bullpen become rusty on this day.
Pedro Guerrero homered off Terrell in the first. Tom Brunansky added a three-run homer in the third. Jose Oquendo stretched his hitting streak to 18 games, the longest in the big leagues this season. And Terry Pendleton added four singles.
The only Cardinal starter who did not get a hit was leadoff hitter Willie McGee. And at least he had an excuse--he just came off the disabled list two days ago.
When asked about the Cardinal offensive barrage, triggered by Terrell's performance, McKeon let out a huge sigh, threw his hands up in the air and said: "You saw it. You write it. They hit him around pretty good."
The defeat was Terrell's 13th this season, which leads the major leagues. It was the first time this season that he failed to pitch at least four innings and a far cry from his last outing, when he threw a complete game against the Pirates.
"He was getting beat on his fastball," said Pat Dobson, the pitching coach. "He just kept getting the ball up, and they kept hitting them harder and harder."
And as Terrell can tell you, when you're making mistakes with your pitches to the likes of Guerrero and Brunansky, they're going to make you pay the price.
It was the 21st time in his career that Guerrero has homered at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, and for Brunansky, it was the sixth in nine games here. There's not a park where Brunansky enjoys hitting more, and if the Padres don't like it, he said, they can come and get him.
Brunansky is in the final year of his contract, with an option year for 1990. If the Cardinals choose not to exercise it, he said, guess who he'll call first?
"I'd love to play here," said Brunansky, who bought a home in Rancho Bernardo during the winter. "This is a great place to play, and it's a good team.
"Really, I'm surprised they're not doing better than they are. During the winter, that's all I read about was how good they were going to be. And then when they started getting guys like Clark and (Bruce) Hurst, I'm thinking, 'Geez, this team's going to be awesome.' I don't know what happened."
For one thing, the Padres have yet to figure out a way to beat pitchers such as Cardinal starter Joe Magrane (11-6). Magrane won his sixth in a row, throwing just 90 pitches through eight innings, and lowered his career ERA to 1.15 in seven starts against the Padres.
Maybe Magrane would like to pitch for the Padres, too.
"Nah, I couldn't take it," Magrane said. "This place is just too pleasant. I don't feel competitive when I'm out there. The weather's so beautiful, and the park's so perfect, I think my brain would get a suntan if I stayed out here.
"I just like the fact that the only thing I have to worry about the rest of the time out here is catching that flight back home on Sunday."
Scott Reid, Chicago Cub special assignment scout, has been at Texas Ranger games the past two days, fueling speculation that a trade could be worked out in the future involving the Padres, Rangers and Cubs. The Rangers, desperate for a catcher, have inquired about the Padres' Sandy Alomar Jr. and Chicago's Damon Berryhill. They're reportedly offering shortstop Jeff Kunkel, triple-A third baseman Scott Coolbaugh and another prospect for Berryhill. If the trade is consummated, it would make Cub starting shortstop Shawon Dunston available. But none of the three potential teams involved are optimistic about a deal being completed before the end of the season.
Third baseman/outfielder Bip Roberts played for the first time Thursday since suffering a pulled rib cage muscle Saturday night. Roberts pinch-hit in the fourth inning and struck out. Although Roberts was the starting third baseman when he got hurt, McKeon hinted that the job might not be open when he returns. "If we keep going pretty good," McKeon said, "he's going to have a tough time starting." . . . Reliever Dave Leiper left after an appearance of two-thirds of an inning because of a rapid pulse. It was back to normal by the time he entered the clubhouse in the fifth, and he'll undergo further examinations today. Leiper suffered a mild heart attack during the winter. . . . Padre pitcher Eric Show, on the condition of his ailing back, which has him on the disabled list: "It still feels about the same. I hope to start going rehab next week. It's frustrating because there are times when you think it's starting to feel good, and then you do something, and it feels as bad as ever." . . . Padre catcher Benito Santiago threw out Milt Thompson from his knees in the fourth inning. Santiago has thrown out six of 10 base runners from his knees this season, and when given a chance to throw, has thrown out 17 of 43 potential base-stealers.
Cardinal starter Joe Magrane has allowed just one homer (to Rex Hudler of Montreal) in 131 2/3 innings since coming off the disabled list April 30. . . . Padre second baseman Roberto Alomar has a seven-game hitting streak, batting .333 (eight for 24) with six runs scored and four RBIs. He stole his 23rd base in the second inning, which is just one shy of his total all of last year. . . . Padre owner Joan Kroc will present to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum a letter written in 1960 by Senator John F. Kennedy to Jackie Robinson that discussed the state of civil rights in America. The presentation will be made at 9:45 Monday morning in Cooperstown, N.Y.
HARD TO LAUGH
Shawn Abner has a good sense of humor, but his .140 average isn't funny. Page 5.