1969: Padres Mount Late Comeback to Defeat Reds

April 26, 1969, San Diego: Padres 5, Reds 2 (box score)

Dick Kelley and left-hander Jim Merritt locked horns in the second of four games between the Padres and Reds at San Diego Stadium. Merritt, who won 12 games with Minnesota the previous season, came to the Reds in a November 1968 deal that sent shortstop Leo Cardenas to the Twins.

On this day, Merritt dodged bullets through seven innings. The Padres put at least one runner on base in each of those frames, but couldn’t push any runs across. The Reds, meanwhile, had scored on a Johnny Bench home run to lead off the second inning and a Bench sacrifice fly in the fourth.

The Padres weren’t finished, though. Down 2-0 in the bottom of the eighth, Roberto Pena led off with a single to right. After another single by Ivan Murrell and a pop out by Al Ferrara, Nate Colbert drilled a three-run homer to left, giving the Padres a 3-2 lead. For Colbert, it was the third straight game in which he’d knocked a ball out of the park.

After a Cito Gaston groundout, Ed Spiezio singled to left, bringing up light-hitting Chris Cannizzaro. There’s an old adage that says opposing batters will let a pitcher know when he’s done. Cannizzaro let Merritt know by launching a two-run homer to left. After allowing just six hits through the first seven innings, Merrit allowed six more in the eighth.

Jack Baldschun, who had come on in relief of Kelley the previous inning, retired the Reds with ease in the ninth. The Padres, seemingly from out of nowhere, had come back to defeat the visitors and improve their record to 7-11 on the young season. Just 4,351 fans witnessed the Padres’ victory. This represented the lowest total in baseball that Saturday and the second lowest for the Padres in 10 home games.

Trivia: Baldschun attended Miami University (Ohio), the same school that future Padre pitcher Steve Fireovid later attended.

Elsewhere in the world: Morihei Ueshiba, founder of aikido, died; Jimi Hendrix played a concert at the L.A. Forum that spawned an out-of-print record.

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