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New book highlights Padres’ history

Well, it's May and the San Diego Padres are into their 37th season as a National League team. The Team's adventures, mishaps and triumphs are chronicled in a new book. It's by former Padres broadcaster Bob Chandler and baseball historian Bill Swank, and it's called Bob Chandler's Tales of the San Diego Padres. Pat Finn sat down with them both at Petco Park to hear some of their stories, starting with a change in team ownership in 1972.

Bob Chandler, Former Padres Broadcaster: "He presided over, at that time, the largest bank failure in the history of the United States, so the Padres were up for sale. And in 1973, Jerry Coleman and I were broadcasting a double header. The Padres were awful. The Phillies were awful. And the Phillies beat the Padres both games of that double-header. But what was more significant, somebody came in and said, 'When you wrap up the show, come on down there's a meeting downstairs.' So we wrapped up the post-game show and went down to this meeting where we were informed that the Padres had been sold to a Washington DC grocer named Joseph Danzansky and would move to Washington DC at the end of the season, or maybe even during the season."

Pat Finn: "Oh my goodness, did you suspect that was going to happen?"

Chandler: "No. This caught us all off guard. This was May 27. We're just barely two months into the season. The city attorney at the time, John Witt, filed a lawsuit. All attorneys of cities file lawsuits to prevent their teams from leaving. And the judge, to boil it down, said you can't stop the team from moving, but yes, you do have grounds for damages for the 15 years remaining on this lease. Well now, what might that be worth? Major league baseball wanted Joseph Danzansky to be liable for whatever a jury decided that was worth, and he said I can't do that. It might be a billion dollars. I don't know. So the Padres were in limbo."

Chandler: "And in 1974 the Padres were going to be operated by the National League until our friend Ray Kroc was sailing off the coast of Florida with his wife Joan and reading in the newspaper about this team that was for sale in San Diego, the Padres. And he told Joan, you know Joan, I think maybe I'll buy the Padres. And she said, well Ray, why would you want a monastery? And he said no, no, no, they're a baseball team. Ray Kroc has essentially assured that major league baseball will remain in San Diego. And so there was a huge crowd at the Town and Country because he was going to make a public appearance, really his first public appearance in San Diego. And I'll never forget, I was standing there during the cocktail hour having a drink when Ray Kroc walked in and just spontaneously, people recognized him and they started applauding and they stood up, and it was one of the most amazing things, Pat, I've ever seen. And I was pretty close to Ray and I looked at him and his eyes glistened and I'm sure he must have gotten applause at McDonald's shareholders meetings, but nothing like this. I mean this was love. It was something to see. And so his beautiful mood didn't last so long. The next day, they had the home opener with Houston. And what happened? So the opening home game against the Houston Astros -- Padres had lost three in a row to Los Angeles, but this was the home opener, so the Padres are losing in the 7th inning, big. But they had the bases loaded. And Ray Kroc walks into the PA booth, he's going to make an announcement to the crowd. And what he was going to do was thank them for the attendance. The Padres had the bases loaded with one out and Nate Colbert, the big slugger, pops up to the Houston first baseman for the second out. Ray said nuts. But we still had one more out. Except our runner at first base forgot how many outs there were and got doubled off first on this foul pop-up. That had just happened."

Finn: "It was an Alou, right?"

Chandler: "Yes, Mattie Alou. So Ray takes the public address microphone and says, Fans, I suffer with you. And they reacted. And he said I have good news and I have bad news: and the good news is that we drew more people for our home opener than the Dodgers did for theirs. And it was true. They had 37,000 people for the home opener. Everybody cheered. And he said, and the bad news is, this is the stupidest ball-playing I have ever seen. And the crowd went nuts and the players kind of blanched. And Pat, you can't make this stuff up. Just then, a streaker jumps out of the stands and comes running across the field. Now Ray's a law and order guy and he's got that microphone and he's yelling arrest that man, get him off the field. And this was booming out over Mission Valley. And that was the home opener. Well with Ray, money was very little object. People criticize George Steinbrenner and the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox now. But you know what, in the early days of the Ray Kroc regime, he was just like them. Free agency came into baseball at the time and he went after the top guys and he got his share. But the Padres were so awful to begin with that it took more than just a couple of guys to rejuvenate the team."

Finn: "And then when Joan Kroc took it over, she also did a bit of acquisition."

Chandler: "Joan was a classy lady and knew that she was not a baseball expert, so she let the baseball people do their thing."

Finn: "After Joan Kroc decided she didn't want to handle the team anymore, she did sell it to Tom Werner, a television producer in LA and a group of "

Bill Swank, Baseball Historian: "And even before that, she offered to give the team to the city of San Diego, which major league baseball did not want that to happen because then they'd have to open up the books, but pretty magnanimous gift that she was willing to do. She was beloved by the fans in the end as much as her husband was."

Chandler: "And when she sold the team to Tom Werner and his gang of 15, many of which were from San Diego, she thought this would assure that the team would stay in San Diego. I mean these were San Diego people, now, who were in partnership with Tom Werner. And Werner was a really a nice guy and at the time had a couple of hit shows, "The Cosby Show" and "Rosanne." But a couple of things happened that changed the monetary landscape of baseball -- the owners were found guilty of collusion, which they were. No question they were guilty."

Finn: "All the owners in all baseball?"

Chandler: "All major league baseball. They had to pay millions to the baseball players, plus, it opened up free agency again and salaries skyrocketed. Well, this is what Werner and the gang of San Diegans fell into. And their budgets went all askew. But the guys from San Diego were all terrific businessmen and all wealthy. But Pat, not baseball wealthy. You've got to be really wealthy and be willing to lose money to operate a baseball team. And frankly, in 1994, I was afraid that major league baseball was dead in San Diego. They had traded or sold off all the best players, attendance had dropped to the bottom, television ratings were very low. Baseball was on strike. It just looked like there was no hope here. And that's when John Moores came onto the scene. And he bought the team. He used to joke, how brilliant am I? I just bought a baseball team and baseball was on strike. But he brought in Larry Luchino to run the operation and Luchino was a brilliant operator; he could be tough to deal with sometimes, but a brilliant operator. And in my view, they absolutely resurrected major league baseball in San Diego with what they did. They bought the team in 1994, and in 1996, they won the division again, and in 1998, they went to the World Series."

Finn: "Let's talk about the 1984 championship series with the cubs, losing two in Chicago and coming home."

Chandler: "So on the plane coming back to San Diego, after losing the first two games -- Tony Gwynn and I were talking about his the other day -- I mean guys were going through travel brochures, they're talking about where they're going and how quick they're going. This was a beaten team. We land in San Diego, this was a charter flight, get on the buses at the airport, and head for the stadium because that's where the cars are parked. And there was still a very down group on the buses. And all of a sudden, you pull into the lot and you see thousands of people there waiting for the team -- and they had had a couple of hours to wait and they were well lubricated, lets put it that way, so the buses let the players are around back and they came up through the tunnel into a fenced in area, and the fans were just outside and they were cheering and high-fiving. And I remember Dick Williams jumped on a scooter and he was riding around. And it was just a joyous festival, really, and it lasted 45 minutes to an hour, and it was just a love-in and lifted the spirits of the players. It changed the whole atmosphere. And the next day, the first games against the Cubs in San Diego they introduced the starting line-up, and Garry Templeton, a good short stop, good player, but kind of a quiet guy. And it got to him in the starting line up and he took off his hat and he waved it to the crowd like this. And the crowd of 50-plus thousand was so noisy, they just went nuts. And I remember talking to Larry Bowa, who later managed the Padres, but then was a veteran shortstop on that Cubs team, and Larry told me he says you know, when I saw the players' reaction and the fans reaction, that's when I started getting concerned. And then Templeton hit a double and McReynolds hit a home run, Padres won the game, and the Padres three-game sweep over the cubs was underway."

Finn: "And then after the four-game loss to the New York Yankees something similar happened."

Chandler: "In New York they were calling this Yankee team probably the greatest of all Yankee teams. And that takes in a lot, you know. We're going back to Ruth and Gehrig when that happens. But the Padres were competitive in three of the four games. And probably game three was the key. If we could have won that game -- and that was in San Diego -- we would have been much more competitive. But the Yankees were a much better team. And the fans, I think sensed all this. So after losing that fourth game, a four-game sweep by the Yankees, they stayed and cheered in the stands and called the players out on the field again. Meanwhile the Yankees are celebrating another World Series triumph. And there was a column written by a female reporter for the New York Daily News or the New York Post that called what an amazing thing this was this love-in in San Diego, and that's what I wrote about in the book. You know, Pat, I've been broadcasting in San Diego longer than anybody else, and there are a lot of these stories that go back into the 60s and 70s and nobody else knows about them. And what finally convinced me to join Bill on this project was thinking, you know if I don't put this down in print, these stories are just going to be lost forever and so I just wanted to make sure they were down there. And now they are. They're in this book and they're out there. And somebody maybe years from now will read this book and say wow! Look at that. Look at what happened in the 70s. I think it's a great book."

Finn: "And the name of it is..."

Swank: "Bob Chandler's Tales From the San Diego Padres."

Finn: "Well I want to thank you both. It's been very enjoyable. Thanks again."

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