Old Timers Talk About Joan Kroc

Joan Kroc passed away October 12th of brain cancer. Kroc inherited the San Diego Padres from her husband, Ray, when the McDonald's hamburger czar passed away in 1984. Her passing coincides with the end of an era at Qualcomm Stadium as the team opens Petco Park in 2004. Those who knew her, remember Kroc fondly.

When McDonald's czar Ray Kroc bought the Padres in 1974 -- and kept the team in San Diego -- his wife, Joan, didn't know whom the Padres were.

But when her husband died a decade later, Joan Kroc inherited the Padres. And under her stewardship, the Padres won their first National League title in 1984.

"Joan didn't know who or what the Padres were when Ray bought them. She loved the team because Ray loved the team and baseball." -- Longtime Padres announcer Jerry Coleman on the passing of former owner Joan Kroc.

Kroc sold the Padres in 1990 but remained in San Diego and became perhaps the city's most generous benefactor. On Oct. 12, Mrs. Kroc died of brain cancer.

"For someone who wasn't really into baseball, she had a lot of enthusiasm and passion as an owner," said Padres manager Bruce Bochy, a player with the club in 1984.

Joan Kroc celebrated the club's triumph in 1984 as the city time and again honored the memory of her husband. But her interest in baseball waned. By 1988 she was intent on selling the team and finalized a deal in 1990 to television producer Tom Werner (now of the Boston Red Sox ownership group) and a group of San Diego business leaders.

"I think she just got tired of owning a baseball team," said Tony Gwynn.

"The negativity in the media bothered her," said veteran Padres broadcaster Jerry Coleman. "She didn't like the spotlight and the negative press, which is why I think she wanted out.

"She offered the club to the city at no charge because I think she thought that was the right thing to do. But it was Joan who kept the club going after Ray's death. Joan was a wonderful person."

Joan Kroc decided to sell the Padres after a series of drug problems on the team and a well-publicized run-in with closer Goose Gossage over Kroc's decision to ban beer from the clubhouse. But Gossage and Kroc were also close.

"She was as tough as she was nice ... and she was probably the nicest, kindest lady I ever knew," said Gossage, who was suspended by the club in 1986 after saying: "She's poisoning the world with her cheeseburgers and we can't have a beer in the clubhouse after a game."

Said Gwynn: "Joan did things her way, not for recognition or other considerations but because it was the right thing to do. It's a shame that most of us will only now find out the extent of what Joan did."

Kroc gave hundreds of millions of dollars to a number of San Diego charities, from homeless shelters to animal shelters to recreational facilities for disadvantaged youth.

"You just don't miss people like Joan on a personal level," said Gossage. "The city of San Diego should be in mourning ... when you talk about all the things she did and all the lives she touched."

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