Interview: Steve Poltz, Part 4

In Part 3 of our chat with singer/songwriter/Padre fan Steve Poltz (, Steve discussed the connections between music and baseball, Jewel, and the Ramones.

In the latest installment, Steve talks about the Roseanne Barr incident, running up Bruce Bochy’s minibar tab at a hotel, and pelting his parents’ walls with marbles as part of a childhood baseball game he’d invented…


Ducksnorts: Getting back to baseball, what are some of your favorite memories from watching the Padres play — or really any baseball memories?

Steve Poltz: I’ll always remember being at the game watching Roseanne Barr sing the national anthem and laughing so hard, thinking it was awesome because she was so funny — not even thinking it was a big deal — and then hearing boos. I remember saying, “Well, what did you guys expect? You asked Roseanne Barr to sing the national anthem; she’s a comedian.” When she grabbed her crotch, she was imitating a baseball player — I knew it. [I was thinking] how punk rock she was. To this day I will defend her… What did you expect? You guys asked her to sing the f***in’ national anthem.

I remember the Crime Dog [Fred McGriff] getting in a fight. That was one of the best baseball brawls I’ve ever seen — his jersey got pulled off — that was a great brawl; I think it was versus Atlanta.

Another thing I remember is singing the national anthem when the Padres beat the Braves to go to the World Series [in 1998]. I sang the anthem at Qualcomm, and it felt like it took only 10 seconds. I remember shaking for the first three innings after I sang it. My hands would not quit shaking. I had to wear earplugs [while singing] and I did it live… all those people going nuts.

Another memory is singing the national anthem at the ballgame, and when they announced I was born in Canada, some Canadian haters booing me.

DS: C’mon, who hates Canada?

SP: It was at a time when some trade thing was going on or something like that. Another memory was being at games and Tim Flannery giving me the signs so I’d know when the hit-and-run was on. Then [I'd bet] friends, like, right away without them knowing: “Hit-and-run’s coming right now: Five bucks. Answer now; yes or no?”

Some season when the Padres were in last place — there were probably 7000 people at Qualcomm, and Flannery was coaching third — they were losing, like, 15-1 or something in the ninth inning. We started going, “Come on, we still have a chance!” and Flannery is looking at me from down there — he actually said [cups hands to mouth], “Go home!”

I remember going up to [Bruce] Bochy’s [hotel] room with my guitar on the road when I first started getting to know Flannery. I happened to be in Florida when they were playing the Marlins, so I called — somehow got his number from his wife — and I said, “Hey, my name is Steve Poltz,” and he goes, “I know who you are; I’ll leave you two tickets.” So he left me two tickets, and afterwards I remember drinking beers with him, smoking Cuban cigars — the Padres had won — and then, they were going to Milwaukee… me getting on a plane and just flying to Milwaukee because I had so much fun, and me [leaving him a message], saying, “Hey, I just happen to be in town.”

I remember a couple years later going up to Bochy’s room with my guitar and singing, and him going to do something and me breaking open his minibar. He had, like, a $582 minibar bill. The Padres traveling secretary would not allow me to stay in the same hotel as the Padres after that.

I have a memory in ’84, standing at The Pennant [bar in Mission Beach] — everybody just throwing their glasses up in the air, like off the roof — I think it was when Steve Garvey hit that home run [against Cubs' closer Lee Smith]. I remember mass mayhem all down Mission Blvd.

What was the year when they came back to beat the Dodgers? ’96? My dad wouldn’t even talk to me; it took him three days to calm down to where — I mean, that is just tantamount to being the biggest traitor in the world, what I did, rooting for the Padres.

The game when the Dodgers hit all the home runs against us last year… I was at Jose’s in La Jolla. I called a friend of mine in Pasadena and I said, when it was going to the ninth inning and we had the lead, “I don’t normally like to say things before a game ends, but I’ve just got to trash talk right now and say it feels so good to watch you people lose, and I have no qualms about saying it.” I hung up my phone and then proceeded to eat crow. I couldn’t believe it, and I really blamed myself for that, for upsetting the baseball gods — I’m very superstitious.

DS: You were not alone; it was a group effort.

SP: What I love about [baseball] is, it’s like this soap opera — every day you have these Shakespearean actors; we know who they are and [that] they’re going to be in the show, but we don’t know what’s going to happen. You follow the drama all year long — people who say the baseball season is too long can kiss my a**… so can the DH’ers. You know what? Pitchers are supposed to hit. That’s why I love Jake Peavy. He’s such a gamer. I think he and [Josh] Beckett should be teammates. They would be good together; they’re both cocky.

DS: I would not mind seeing Beckett play here.

SP: I love going on the road to see [the Padres]. I’m a really good fan when I’m on the road; I am not a jerk. I know how to act in someone else’s house. I might wear my hat and I might clap, but I do not get in anybody’s face.

DS: I hate it when people do that here. It’s lame.

SP: Me, too. I really believe in respecting the place you go to, and I believe in respecting the game. I love the game. It’s weird how it’s changed over the years, with specialists, which we didn’t have before, and pitch counts and everything.

I still love the game. I really believe, get rid of the DH. And I wish Montreal could have had fans come out to support their team.

I was a Dodger fan back when Kirk Gibson hit that home run [against the A's in the World Series]. What year was that?

DS: That was ’88.

SP: My love affair with baseball began around the time I picked up the classical guitar, when I was six. We didn’t have video games back then — this was 1966; my earliest memory is of John Kennedy’s funeral on TV… Then the thing that really scared me was the Juan Marichal incident [with Dodgers catcher John Roseboro]. I remember literally grabbing my dad and crying.

[Co-owner Tim Mays stops by; Steve compliments Tim on the pork chop. We talk about mutual acquaintances, trying to figure out whatever happened to the guys from Inch.]

SP: I was so into baseball, and my dad would sit there and explain it to me. I love my dad, by the way; I talk to him every day. It gets me choked up to talk about what baseball has done for my relationship with my father. I’m so close to him, and we talk baseball — during the season I call my dad every day and we talk — he loves the Padres now; he’ll follow them because he knows what a fan I am. We talk about everything that went on.

When I was a kid, all I knew was Vin Scully. To this day, he’s my hero. I’d invented this game in my room. I would take a pencil and a marble — it was almost like I was playing over-the-line without knowing it. The game only had two bases. If I hit it on the wall at a certain height, it’d be a single, double, or home run. I’d throw the marble up and hit it with a pencil.

I was so obsessed with this game. I didn’t want to play with other kids. I would be in my room and I’d be the voice of Vin Scully. I knew all the Dodger players — Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes…

DS: Dusty Baker.

SP: Remember Willie Davis in center field before that? I’d sit there and I’d play this game, but I’d always make the Dodgers win, and it’d always come down to the Dodgers and the Reds. I’d always make the Dodgers beat the Reds, and then play the Yankees.

Unbeknownst to me, when I was playing the game, the marble hitting the wall made hundreds and hundreds of dents on the wall. My first memory of telling a lie was — one day I came home from school and my parents said, “Steven, we’d like to talk to you.” When they said “Steven,” I knew I was in trouble, and they were, like, “Why are there 2000 dents in the wall?” I remember looking them right in the eye and saying, “I have no idea,” and them going, “okay.”

One of my favorite days ever was [when] I went to see the Padres play in Milwaukee. They let me go on the field and shag fly balls while Tony Gwynn was taking BP. I suck at baseball — I think I caught one ball. Afterwards, they gave me a press pass and I got to sit by Bob Uecker.

So many times [Gwynn] came up to bat, and I’d think, how can he do this again, with his knee hurting? He’d slowly limp up, and he would do it again. I remember saying to people, “Enjoy this while you have it because this won’t always be here,” which is exactly what I say about Hoffy [Trevor Hoffman]. I get goose bumps when I think about what these people mean to the community; I’m forever indebted to them.

DS: They represent the ballclub and the city with class. When I saw Gwynn inducted into the Hall of Fame, it was really hot and humid, and just packed with people, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

SP: I’m jealous.

DS: Everyone was there to see Cal Ripken because it’s a five-hour drive from Baltimore to Cooperstown. There was orange-and-black everywhere, but people saw me wearing Padres stuff and they asked me about Tony Gwynn, so I told them. Then they saw him up there talking, and they said, “Wow, that guy’s really something,” and I’m, like, “Yeah, we know; we’ve been saying that for 25 years.”

[We get into a convoluted discussion of Tom Werner's Fire Sale, the '94 strike, and the Padres resurrection under John Moores.]

SP: The weird thing about baseball is that people become like family to you. When Trevor Hoffman blew a save in the All-Star game, and then what happened with the Rockies [in the 163rd game] — I wasn’t mad. I felt like I was watching someone in my family have something bad happen to them. After everything he’s done, I couldn’t be mad at the guy.

I know him; he is the nicest, most genuine guy. I remember asking [Flannery] about him because he’s good friends with Hoffy, and he said, “He made me feel better.”

DS: I don’t know Hoffman, but I’ve seen him speak in person a couple of times, and he’s impressive. He did his spiel, and then afterwards — this is a guy who could do anything with his time — he sat there and talked to all the kids who came up to him for an autograph or to ask him a question. He just stayed there for, like, an hour.

There’s one other guy that I’ve ever seen do that. In 1993, I went out to Arizona for spring training. It was Robin Yount’s last year. He played his four or five innings and then, after he ran his laps in the outfield, instead of coming back to the dugout, he stayed down in the left-field corner. It seemed like the whole stadium just gravitated toward him, and he sat there and signed every last autograph. I thought, now there’s a guy who is representing himself, his community, and the sport of baseball in the proper manner. I was blown away. This was a no-doubt Hall of Famer; he didn’t have to do that, but there he was.

SP: That’s what Willie Nelson does, too. After every concert, people line up by his tour bus, and he will sign everything. [It's the] same with B.B. King.


In the finale, Steve talks about the ’98 Padres, what he would do if he were GM for a day, and his favorite baseball movies…

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175 Responses »

  1. Great string today guys! It’s been a “hot stove” on a cold & rainy day for me up here in Oregon :-)

    I love the Bradley signing (but I can’t believe he’ll be 100% healthy on Opening Day, right?) … and if we get Cameron or Fukodome signed, then the OF is all set (at least the post-game-25 OF if it’s Cameron we sign) …

    Both Geer and Ramos are long-shots to be valuable starting pitchers in MLB … there’s just not much precident for pitchers with their profile to succeed in MLB … so I think that “gut feel” is “wishful thinking” … and so I’m with TW in that the Padres would be better off finding a wishful-thinking-GM to trade them to … for somebody Heath-Bell-like :-)

  2. 149: Porcello, the minute after he signed, was worth a lot more than Schmidt plus the difference in their signing bonuses. Porcello by himself goes a long way to getting Cabrera/Santana/Bedard/Haren. Even a healthy Schmidt doesn’t come close, let alone the “workhorse” Schmidt who lasted a couple of weeks. Add any of those players to the Padres and we’re a prohibitive favorite for the NL crown.

    The difference in signing bonuses – not Porcello’s major league contract, which the other team would have to pay – is about half what we may pay Michael Barrett to be our backup catcher.

    I’m not too hung up on Porcello, even though a management team supposedly devoted to exploiting undervalued opportunities should be pouncing on players who fall because of their bonus demands. There is a definite limit to how good we can draft when we are so heavily biased toward college players and will not pay more than slot to anyone.

  3. 152 … I understand and (for the most part) agree with you on this TW … the one missing factor, imo, is the “politics” of paying-over-slot … Moores does seem to have decided to follow-the-rules … and I can’t say his reasons for that are all bad … to some extent I understand the business (and therefore political) side of this is the real/true bottom line … and I understand that your primary point is that it makes good/great business-sense to draft and sign (ie. pounce on) players who fall because of their bonus demands …

  4. 152: I just don’t see the point in belaboring the fact that the Padres are electing to “follow the rules” with regard to the draft.

  5. Kevin Goldstein on the Padres’ second round Rule 5 pick:
    Padres select UT-S Callix Crabbe from the Brewers. I like this pick quite a bit. At 5-foot-7, Crabbe has never endeared himself to scouts, and he’ll never be more than what he is now, but he can hit a little, draws walks, runs well, and can play second base, third base, and all three outfield positions. How can that not be useful?
    Chances To Stick: Good. There are many utility players in the big leagues right now with less versatility and less talent than Callix Crabbe. Plus, his name is awesome.