1969: Padres Finish As They Started, with a Win

October 2, 1969, San Francisco: Padres 3, Giants 2 (box score)

Prior to the Padres’ inaugural season, manager Preston Gomez and his coaching staff had hoped their club could win 60 games. Although they fell short of that mark, they fared much better than the last National League expansion team, the historically inept 1962 New York Mets. As for Gomez’ prediction that the Padres would outscore the Los Angeles Dodgers… well, let’s just say he was off a tad (where a tad equals 177 runs).

San Diego sent 20-game loser Clay Kirby to the mound in the season finale. The Giants countered with rookie right-hander Rich Robertson.

The Padres scored first. With one out in the second, Van Kelly singled to left. Cito Gaston drew a walk (!), and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Jim Williams then flied to center, bringing home Kelly to give San Diego a 1-0 lead.

After the Giants tied the game an inning later, the Padres reasserted themselves in the fifth. Kirby reached second on a fly ball that Jim Ray Hart couldn’t handle to lead off the frame. A wild pitch moved Kirby to third. One out later, Ed Spiezio knocked a sac fly to left that plated Kirby and put the Padres back on top, 2-1.

In the seventh, the Padres padded their lead on — would you believe — yet another sacrifice fly. This time Kirby led off with a double to right center. Tommy Dean bunted him to third, and Ron Slocum followed with a fly ball to right that made the score 3-1.

San Francisco came back again in the bottom half of the frame. With Willie McCovey at first and two out, Bob Burda singled to right. Kirby then walked the light-hitting (.205/.278/.250 in over 750 career PA) Don Mason, bringing rookie catcher John Harrell to the plate. Harrell, whose big-league career consisted of two games against the Padres (with a hit, walk, and RBI in both of them) delivered a single that scored McCovey. Burda, representing the tying run, was thrown out at the plate by Williams to preserve the Padres’ 3-2 lead.

After seven strong innings, Kirby yielded to Frank Reberger, who retired the side in order in the eighth and allowed only a one-out bunt single by McCovey (!) in the ninth. The final batter Reberger faced was Burda, who popped to second baseman Slocum to end the game and the Padres’ inaugural season in the National League in front of their smallest crowd of the year — a mere 1,995 people came to Candlestick to watch their 90-win Giants close out the season.

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This is our final installment of the 1969 Revisited series. I’ll be perfectly honest: there were days when I didn’t want to write these — all the losing got to me after a while. But I’m glad I did because this exercise has given me a greater appreciation of a) how dedicated the fans of this inaugural club must have been to continue their support despite the often miserable quality of play and b) how far the organization has come in a relatively short period of time. Yeah, 38 years seems like forever, but really, it isn’t. Heck, that’s how long it took the Cubs to get back to the playoffs after losing the ’45 World Series.

The point is, as a city, as a team, and as fans of that team, we’ve come a long way. It’s good to have a big-league club here in San Diego, but it’s even better to have a good big-league club here. We shouldn’t take that for granted. If we learn nothing else from history, we must at least understand that no-one is entitled to a winning baseball team. This doesn’t mean that we settle for anything less than a World Championship in any given year. At the same time, if it doesn’t happen (as it overwhelmingly doesn’t for most teams in most years), I hope we can find some enjoyment in following a club that has made tremendous progress in recent years and that appears to be well situated for the immediate future. If you ever forget that, just remember ’69 or, really, any pre-’80s version of the Padres.

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3 Responses »

  1. Thanks for doing this, Geoff. I can only imagine how hard it is to go through all that losing. Some days, I just read the headlines and skipped the writings. It was reliving the whole season. Sometimes, I just need to skip the losses since they brought back some of the long arduous bad years the Padres had pre-1995 and right before Petco.

    Other days, finding gems of a game by players of yesteryears were awesome. Well done, Geoff. Thanks for keeping writing about those games.

  2. Thanks a lot for doing this, Geoff. Brought back childhood memories. And emphaisized, despite everything, how much better things are today for Padres fans.

  3. Thanks, GY … you’ve created a nice archive!