My 1998 Padres began Spring Training with a different outlook than ever before~~they expected to win the World Series. The front office had aquired a legitimate #1 Ace, Kevin Brown, in the offseason which added to a very strong club across the board.
Here was the lineup for most of the year:
2B Quilvio Veras
CF Steve Finley
RF Tony Gwynn
3B Ken Caminiti
LF Greg Vaughn
1B Wally Joyner
C Carlos Hernandez
SS Chris Gomez
It was a fantastic group of guys who combined to win 98 games in the regular season.
Gwynn hit .321
Vaughn hit 50 HR’s & 119 RBI’s
Brown went 18-7 with a 2.38 ERA
Hoffman had 53 Saves..53!
As I wrote in the first post, I went to school and played baseball for a couple of years with Ken Caminiti while living in San Jose. I moved back to Utah early in my sophomore year of high school and never contacted him again, but I followed his career very closely. When he was traded to the Padres in 1995 is when my wife and I first fell in love with the city and county of San Diego.
We even purchased season tickets (a partial plan) for 1996, 1997, and 1998. We made several trips each year back then (we soon found out that you actually have to pay credit cards back). Our seats were on the loge level between home and 3rd base. It was a great place to watch the game from and gave us a great view into the Padres dugout.
Our usual routine for game days were to drive down to the beach and take a morning walk, have a light breakfast and lunch, arrive early at the Q and eat a heavy, delicious dinner at Randy Jones’ BBQ. Those were wonderful days and nights in Mission Valley.
We attended Game 3 of the NL Championship Series and Game 3 of the World Series and will never forget the incredible electricity within the stadium. I can’t even describe the feverish pitch the crowd created as the music blared just before the team took the field. Unreal.
The Padres faced the Houston Astros in the first round of the playoffs. Randy Johnson had been recently aquired by the Astros which already included the offense of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. Although the Friars had won an astounding 98 games, they only had the 3rd best record in the NL in 1998. Houston had won 102 games and the Atlanta Braves registered 106 victories while in the middle of their amazing run.
Game 1 was the biggest game of the series as Kevin Brown outpitched Randy Johnson as he struck out 16 Houston hitters in 8 innings and the Padres stunned the Astros 2-1. Brown’s 16 K’s were the 2nd most in playoff history to Bob Gibson’s 17 in the 1968 World Series.
Houston won Game 2 to even the series, but more than 65,000 fans welcomed the Swinging Friars home. Kevin Brown went 6.2 innings on just 3 days rest as the Padres won again by the score of 2-1. Trevor struck out the side to secure the win.
Sterling Hitchcock closed out the Astros in Game 4 as he whiffed 11 in 6 innings and Jim Leyritz hit his 3rd HR of the short series in the 6-1 clincher.
In the NLCS the Braves were the next victim.
Ken Caminiti hit a HR in the top of the 10th inning in Game 1 to lead the Padres to the 3-2 victory.
San Diego went on to win the next two games to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. Kevin Brown threw a complete game 3-0 shutout in Game 2. But the Braves won Games 4 & 5 in San Diego to scare the dickens out of us as they traveled back to Atlanta for Game 6.
My Padres finally finished off the series with a comfortable 5-0 win and a NL Championship celebration that I will never forget watching on TV. It was the most fun I have ever had as a sports fan.
The World Series was still a lot of fun even though we lost. It was an incredible experience to attend a World Series game and something I didn’t even dream I would do as I grew up in a small town in Utah.