Trip to Philadelphia Brings Padres to Tears : Baseball: Phillies beat Padres for ninth time this season, 9-3, but Padre outfielder Kevin Ward has an emotional homecoming.
Padre left fielder Kevin Ward stood in the outfield Wednesday evening at Veterans Stadium, glanced into the stands where his mother, father and 30 relatives were sitting and choked off the tears.
“I just wanted to soak in the moment,” said Ward, whose parents for the first time watched him play in a major league game. “It’s still hard for me to believe. Ever since I was a kid growing up here, I dreamed about playing here. Now it happened.
“You can’t help but get misty-eyed.”
It was a few hours later when Padre Manager Greg Riddoch felt like crying himself, watching his team being bombarded, 9-3, by the Philadelphia Phillies, and two of his coaches being ejected.
The Phillies scored as many runs in their two victories over the Padres as they did in the seven-game losing streak they brought into the series.
“Everybody’s got their nemesis,” Riddoch said, “and the Phillies have got to be ours.”
If it weren’t for the Phillies, the Padres (48-53) actually would have a winning record this season. But as it is, the Padres wound up losing nine of 12 games to the Phillies--their worst record against them since 1979.
It was one of the most famous names in Philadelphia sports history who single-handedly created the havoc Wednesday. The name is Chamberlain. Only this guy’s first name is Wes, not Wilt.
Chamberlain, 25, who came into the game with only two homers and 12 RBIs, left looking like the second coming of Mike Schmidt.
Chamberlain hit two home runs, drove in six runs, went four for four and left Pittsburgh Pirate General Manager Larry Doughty cringing even more.
It was Doughty who made a clerical mistake a year ago by placing Chamberlain and Julio Peguero through irrevocable waivers. Oops. When the names popped over the waiver wire, virtually everyone made claims, and because the Phillies were in last place as usual, they had first grabs.
“I’m not sure I’d get the chance to play in Pittsburgh with their outfield,” Chamberlain said, “so this couldn’t have worked out better. This was a great, great night for me, and I’m sure my parents are going to be celebrating for a long time. But I have to remember this was one night, not a season.”
Padre starter Greg Harris, who served up the two homers to Chamberlain, was the man who made it all possible. In the fourth inning, with the Phillies trailing 1-0, Chamberlain hit a curveball 385 feet into the left-field seats for a three-run homer.
In the sixth, with the Phillies clinging to a 3-2 lead, there were runners at second and third with none out. Perhaps the Padres might intentionally walk Chamberlain?
“We didn’t even discuss that,” Harris said.
Instead, Harris’ head was yanked sharply as he watched Chamberlain hit his slider 430 feet into the seats for another three-run homer. The six RBIs tied a stadium record, last set in 1986 by Juan Samuel, now with the Dodgers.
“I thought the first pitch I made to him was a pretty good one,” Harris (2-3) said. “The second one was horrible.”
The game continued to become more ugly in the seventh when pinch-hitter Jerald Clark was out on a called-third strike. Hitting coach Merv Rettenmund and bench coach Jim Snyder apparently voiced their opinions to home plate umpire Eric Gregg. Each were quickly ejected, leading to a heated argument from Riddoch.
“They didn’t even curse,” Riddoch said. “All they said was, ‘The ball was down and away.’ And he (Gregg) yelled back, “I’m tired of listening to your (stuff). You’re out of here.’ ”
Said Rettenmund: “Hey, we’ve had enough trouble swinging at bad pitches without anyone’s help.”
And if the Padres weren’t embarrassed enough by their performance, the Phillies actually allowed reliever Roger McDowell to pitch an inning before trading him to the Dodgers for reliever Mike Hartley and minor-league outfielder Braulio Castillo.
“The way we’ve been hitting the ball,” one Padre said, “I guess the Dodgers felt it couldn’t hurt for him to get a little work in.”
While the Phillies are dead and buried in the National League East, and the Padres are finished in the West, McDowell suddenly finds himself on a first-place club.
“I called my wife,” McDowell said, “and the first thing she wanted to do was go shopping for playoff clothes.”
The only one more excited was Ward. Sure, he struck out twice. His lone hit was a ninth-inning single. He made only one putout in the field.
But he waited 29 years of his life for a moment to play near his hometown, spending nine years in the minors and a winter in Mexico.
“You know something,” Ward said, “I hadn’t even seen my father in three years. I hadn’t seen a lot of my relatives. But to play in front of them, where I was raised, it’s something I’ll never forget.
“It’s like I’m finally able to give something back to my parents. They’ve done so much for me, and now they can be proud of their son.”
Ward grew up 45 minutes away in Chalfont, Pa. He and his buddies would take the train every weekend to Philadelphia, catch the Broad Street subway and pay 50 cents for a general admission ticket in the rafters.
“It was like I was in heaven watching the Phillies,” Ward said. “I dreamed of playing here. This was my team.”
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