Under the managing of Dick Williams, the Padres won their first and only National League title in 1984. He tells of his Padre years in his soon-to-be-released autobiography, “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” written with Times Staff Writer Bill Plaschke. The Padre chapter is called “McNightmare.”
Our rise from baseball’s rubble started at shortstop in the Topps Trading Card hospitality suite at the winter meetings in 1981, shortly after I’d signed my contract and eaten my Quarter Pounder. To be exact, it started with me and old friend Whitey Herzog, then the St. Louis Cardinal manager, sipping a couple of Scotch-and-waters.
“So how’s the new job?” Herzog asked.
“Well,” I told Whitey, “my job would be a lot better if I knew who our shortstop will be.”
“Funny you mentioned that,” Herzog said. “We’ve got to get rid of our shortstop, too.”
That would be Garry Templeton. Made great plays but made them look too easy. Only got his uniform dirty when he absolutely needed to. St. Louis was the opposite kind of town. The fans there don’t understand clean uniforms, even when that fact represents great skill.
Templeton also had another strike against him in St. Louis. Templeton is black, and St. Louis would never, ever accept a black shortstop who looked like he wasn’t hustling.
After hearing how much abuse he’d taken and how long he’d lasted until he snapped, I fell in love with Templeton. The trade wouldn’t be formally completed for another month, but it was Ozzie Smith--who wanted to make a million bucks, but the Krocs wouldn’t give it to him--for Templeton. Controversy be damned, I had a shortstop who would take us to the World Series.
Also joining our team during my debut 1982 season was this little fat guy from a local college. Name of Gwynn.
I’ve don’t think I’ve ever had a player who worked harder and cared more and was more deserving of his rewards. With that big butt and funny walk, nothing for him was ever easy. Even the public acclaim Tony rightly deserved didn’t come easy for him. His peers knew he just might be baseball’s best player, but the San Diego fans always seemed to cheer louder for a guy like infielder Tim Flannery.
This isn’t to say Flannery isn’t a great guy. He’s the best. But he was never a great player, as he knows himself. My only gripe with the otherwise wonderful San Diego fans is that they will never let Tony Gwynn forget that he doesn’t look like Tim Flannery.
My first year coincided with the first full year for another future 1984 hero: Alan Wiggins. This would also start some big league trouble that plagued my entire Padre stay.
After a night game in 1983, one of the clubhouse attendants came up to me with this bag of white powdery stuff. As I stood there speechless, he explained that the bag fell out when he was getting ready to throw Wiggins’ pants in the washing machine.
The front office was later informed, but guess what? They did nothing.
How could such a vehement anti-drug activist like Joan Kroc preside over a baseball team with a problem like this? Ultimately, my answer was that she didn’t know.
Jack McKeon went out following the 1982 season and signed a guy who, while he didn’t do much for us on the field, certainly helped them believe in themselves in the clubhouse. I’m talking about--hide the women and children--Steve Garvey.
I’m not going to talk about Garvey’s recent problems. They’re none of my business. Instead, I wish to use this space to debunk an even greater Garvey myth: that the guy led us to a championship.
It irked me to watch the rest of the team busting their humps while Garvey, who is so pretty-pretty with the media, received all the attention. What he actually accomplished on the field and what the public thinks he accomplished are two very different things.
But Garvey did help us. After he joined the team in 1983, our attitude grew brighter. He worked hard, influenced the kids and made it easier to get rid of more veterans who weren’t producing and not caring as much.
The 1983 season marked the debut of Kevin McReynolds, and our pennant-winning outfield was completed the following year when the trade with the Chicago Cubs brought in Carmelo Martinez. With veterans (Garvey and Templeton), hot kids (McReynolds and Martinez) and plain great players (Gwynn), our future was now.
The 1984 season was upon us, and suddenly we were contenders.
In the winter of 1983, McKeon had granted my most important request. I’d wanted him to acquire the one piece I felt could strengthen us in the clubhouse and make us damn tough on the field. I’m talking about a guy who may not lead chapel services, who may not hold daily press conferences, who may not shed tears when young guys get cut and old guys are forced into retirement. These guys may not be the nicest in baseball, but often they’re the toughest.
I asked Jack McKeon for just one, but he got me two: Goose Gossage and Graig Nettles.
Thus our glory season began.
Excerpted from “No More Mr. Nice Guy: A Life of Hardball,” by Dick Williams and Bill Plaschke. Copyright 1990 by Dick Williams and Bill Plaschke. To be published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.