Eric Show began his stroll from the Padre bullpen to the mound Sunday afternoon, heard his name announced over the public-address system and then listened as the boos poured down upon him.
Show just stood there, shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
"You know, I kind of like it when they boo me," Show said. "When they boo me now, I say, 'Watch this . . .
" 'Swallow that popcorn a little harder.' "
And that silence Sunday was the result of Show slamming shut the mouths of his critics, helping lead the Padres to a 5-4, 11-inning victory over Atlanta in front of a Beach Boys crowd of 28,593 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Show, the man who was supposed to be gone in a trade before the All-Star break, who demanded a trade a month ago and who has feuded with his pitching coach, Pat Dobson, for most of the season, is haunting those who dared say he was finished.
Show entered the game in the 10th inning after the Braves tied it in the ninth when Mark Lemke's RBI single got past shortstop Garry Templeton. No problem. Show pitched two perfect innings to run his consecutive scoreless streak to 15 1/3, then won his 99th game as a Padre when Brave first baseman Tommy Gregg couldn't make a play on Templeton's ground ball, and Phil Stephenson scored the winning run.
"I'd like to get 100 wins before I leave here," Show said, "but actually, I think I should have had a 100 a long time ago."
Certainly, the way he's pitching now, it's only a matter of time before he reaches that milestone. Not only is Show preventing the opposition from scoring, but opponents are having the hardest time even collecting hits off him. Show has allowed just two hits in his past eight innings, and over his scoreless streak, he has yielded a total of nine baserunners.
"I'd like to say it made me so mad that I took it out on the opposing hitters," he said. "That would be the macho, cliche thing that would probably please most of the people that have been involved in baseball for a long time.
"But hate is not a good motivator for me for a long period of time.
"And this was long haul.
"I had to go through a lot of mental gymnastics."
Show, 34, who has been with the Padre organization longer than any active player, still is disturbed at the way he has been treated this season by the management.
He was upset when he was bounced from the rotation in May after going 0-5 with a 7.88 ERA in his first six starts.
He was livid when he was brought back into the rotation in July, only to be knocked out a month later after going 2-2 with a 5.22 ERA.
And he was furious Aug. 12, when he demanded to be traded, accusing the organization of mistreatment and lying to him.
But here he was Sunday, surrounded by reporters in front of his locker, saying that he finally has learned to overcome every bit of adversity that has been thrown his way.
"I had to let it (bitterness) go," Show said, "it was eating me up. I was down on myself, everybody was down on me.
"I'm ashamed to say I lost my desire, but I did."
Who could blame him?
He was struggling miserably on the field, and the harder he tried, the more he failed. The fans, who were so supportive of him when he was winning, turned their backs. And he was being abused in the press, the scapegoat for all the team's problems.
Now, he sits and laughs, watching his critics dwindle in size and public opinion changing ever so slightly.
"I notice things are more polarized," said Show, whose 18-3 record against the Braves is the best by an pitcher in the National League. "A cult following of people want to worship me on one hand, and there's another that wants to kill me."
But no matter what Show accomplishes these last three weeks, there's little doubt in anyone's mind that this will be his last season with the Padres. They have no plans to pick up the option on a contract that allows him the right to submit an arbitration figure of between $1.1 million and $1.7 million, and if they can't trade him, they likely will release him.
It doesn't really matter to Show. Oh, he's certainly curious to find out where he'll be pitching a year from now. But for perhaps the first time this season, he's confident that no matter where he is, he'll be successful.
"Who knows, maybe I learned through all this that my future should be as a reliever," Show said. "Maybe I should have been a reliever all my career. Maybe this whole thing has been a learning experience.
"It's made me work hard mentally, and physically, just battling anger and bitterness. And there are days it still haunts me, lurking inside of me.
"You know, it's been something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, not with the way I've been treated."
This is why it was a bit ironic that on the day Show pronounced that he is pitching as good as he ever has, the Padres announce they were yanking Calvin Schiraldi out of the rotation and giving the starter's job to . . . Derek Lilliquist.
"We tried Calvin in the bullpen, and that didn't work out," Padre Manager Greg Riddoch said. "So we gave him eight starts in the rotation (1-5, 5.40 ERA), and that hasn't worked out too well either. So we decided to give Derek a shot at it."
"What can I say?" Show said, "I guess I already had my chance."
Within a few months, he'll find out who'll give him a shot at his future.
Padre second baseman Roberto Alomar had X-rays taken of his left elbow Sunday morning, and they showed no serious injury. Alomar is diagnosed with a strain of his left ulna collateral ligament. Although he's listed as day-to-day, Manager Greg Riddoch said that Alomar could be out for as long as five to 10 days. . . . OK, now where are those placecards? When Jack McKeon managed the Padres in the first-half of the season, he threatened to have placecards made up to help his players remember how many outs there were in an inning. Well, in the eighth inning Sunday, it happened again. Jim Presley struck out, and Padre catcher Benito Santiago rolled the ball back to the mound, running toward the dugout. Oops. There were only two outs in the inning. Expect Santiago to be paying up in the next Kangaroo Court. . . . Padre starter Andy Benes has pitched in eight day games this season and has yet to post a victory. . . . Padre pitcher Bruce Hurst whooped it up when he learned of BYU's victory Saturday over Miami, even shrugging off his teammates' ridicule of reminding him that he never attended BYU. The best part? Teammate Tony Gwynn, loser of the bet, was forced to don Hurst's BYU cap before the game. . . . The elevator broke at the stadium, causing panic among a few folks who were forced to wait in it for an hour and 10 minutes until help arrived.
The Padre rookie team in Spokane won its fourth consecutive Northwest League title with a 4-2 victory Friday night over Boise. . . . Who-would-have-thought-dept: Brave reliever Mark Grant proudly noted Sunday he is the only player on a major league roster who was traded away by the Padres this season. . . . The air-conditioner broke in the Padre clubhouse, making it a bit miserable the past five days, but don't expect the Braves to have any sympathy. There is no air-conditioning in the visiting clubhouse, the only clubhouse in the National League without any. "Have them do something about it, will you," said Brave outfielder Lonnie Smith, laughing, "it's killing us."
PADRE ATTENDANCE Sunday: 28,593
1990 (73 dates): 1,726,551
1989 (73 dates): 1,787,572
1990 Average: 23,651