Gaslamp Ball's Joe Lanek wrote an excellent review of Kirk Kenney’s 100 Things Padres Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, and kicked if off with a great line, “There are precious few books written about our beloved Padres...”, which is hammered home with simple Google search.
After living away from San Diego for over twenty years I’ve noticed that anyone wearing Padres’ gear has some type of relationship with the city; the most likely being that they were born in America's Finest City or grew up in the area. Except for the Chicago Cubs, teams that have never won a World Series in their nearly fifty-year history, finished last in the division in their first six years of existence and multiple times since then don’t lend themselves to hagiographic tomes or fair-weather fans.
Then again, even the Cubs won after a 108-year drought.
But Kirk Kenney, a sportswriter for the San Diego Union-Tribune, seeks to rectify this with his fun coffee table book that brings the team's past to life - warts and all - and reads like a Bill James Abstract with self-contained chapters that aren’t necessarily required to be consumed in order. It’s the perfect between innings break after you’ve seen one too many promos for the upcoming FoxSports show or already have an idea where you are going to buy your next car.
As someone who can remember visiting the Randy Jones car wash in Poway in the mid-1970’s - where my father pointed out that Randy was a big reason why the Padres did not finish last for the first time in their history (1969 was the club’s first year) - Kenney brings back a lot of memories other than the requisite Taco Bell style uniforms that at the time we didn’t like, but now want back. If you have a problem with the successive ownership groups beginning with Tom Werner not paying enough attention to the team’s history, then 100 Things is for you.
What struck me most about the book was remembering just how different major league baseball was, and the city, when the team began. Most of the games were not televised and nearly all the information was dispersed through the San Diego Union or the afternoon paper the San Diego Evening Tribune.
At that time the Padres existed in the netherworld of being more than a minor- league team, but not quite a major league one either. Sure, there were occasional stars in Jones or Dave Winfield, that were minor radar blips in the national media, but watching them get mauled by inter-division rivals the Big Red Machine or Tommy Lasorda’s Dodgers didn’t convince many of us that our guys were also playing in the big leagues.
Although many of the stories are somewhat familiar - the infamous 1984 brawl with the Atlanta Braves, or Steve Garvey’s home run which tied the series with the Cubs - Kenney’s book will bring some added detail to your memories.
Some things aren’t quite as familiar, Don Zimmer, the team’s second manager, getting in a bar brawl in Yuma, the team’s former Spring Training home. Or just how close San Diego came to losing baseball in 1973 - where the new Washington owner’s inability to pay all the existing lease on the then named San Diego Stadium enabled Ray Kroc to swoop in and buy the team from a bankrupt C. Arnoldt Smith; who later served eight months in a minimum-security prison for bank fraud.
100 Things contains about every Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman or Jerry Coleman story known to man along with many others from the early days of the organization. I was surprised there wasn’t more of Ted Leitner in the book, who going into his thirty-eighth year with the team is the type of link to the team’s history that Kenney celebrates.
If Padres’ General Manager A.J. Preller’s rebuild does work maybe Kenney will be compelled to write a sequel, 50 More Things Padres Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, which will feature some prominent chapters on Uncle Teddy and maybe Kurt Bevaqua’s feud with Lasorda.
Pick up 100 Things Padres Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. It’s going to be a long season and Kenney’s book is a reminder that sometimes sports can evolve into more than just a game, but represent shared memories of a different time and place with the hope that one year our team will eventually bring home its first World Series trophy.
Let’s just hope our wait is shorter than the Cubs; I’m not going to make it to 2077.