Some think the Curse of Preston Gomes only applies to the fact the Pads are the only team in major league baseball to never throw a no-hitter. Sure, that’s part of it. The Gomez Curse, however, along with the perpetually upset Great Padre in the Sky, goes deeper than that.
The savior of the franchise, burger magnate Ray Kroc, at the home opener on the first day of his ownership in 1974 grabbed the stadium microphone and called his team’s play that night “the worst baseball I have ever seen played”, causing the fans to roar with laughter (I was there for that one too) and the players to want to hide in the locker room. The thing is, he was right, they were pitiful that night and on many other nights like it.
The team stumbled through the 70s like a punch drunk boxer in a dive bar in TJ, puffy cheeks, bloody nose, swollen eyes with only a few patrons in attendance to witness the pummeling. They finally had a winning season in ’78 only to quickly return to their losing ways.
Even the great moments of their history are shrouded with a touch of embarrassment. They’ve won a single World Series game in their history, Game 2 of the 1984 Series v. the Tigers. The big blow came on fan favorite Kurt Bevacqua’s home run to give us a lead we wouldn’t relinquish. Bevacqua ran the bases like a dancing bear. Who can forget him spinning around first base like a ballerina cutting her steps for the first time on the big stage? Even when we shine the brightest we cast a pall.
The curse is often out of our control. Think back to Game 1 of the 1998 World Series against the Yankees. The Great Tony Gwynn had peppered the right field upper deck for a 3 run home run earlier in the game and we held a slim lead in the bottom of the 7th. Two outs, bases loaded, Mark Langston on the mound, Tino Martinez at the plate. Langston was once a great pitcher but now was at the end of the line. He basically had nothing left. Martinez was a marginally above average hitter who controlled the strike zone the way all the Yankees did back then…that is to say, with a wink and a nod to the ump.
The count went to 2 and 2. Langston threw a fastball right down the heart of the plate, belt buckle high. The ump, manipulated by mysterious forces emanating from the commissioner’s office, called ball three. With nowhere to throw a pitch the next one was even juicier. Grand slam, game over. Essentially the series too.
I could go on and on but time and space limits me. Some of it’s not just embarrassing or emanating from dark outside forces, it’s pure, unadulterated tragedy. The pitcher with the most wins in the history of the San Diego Padres, Eric Show, was a brilliant, brooding eccentric if there ever was one. He’s well known outside San Diego as the pitcher who sat on the mound after giving up Pete Rose’s single making him the all time hits king.
Always larger than the game of baseball, Show never possessed electric stuff but knew how to pitch and won 100 games for the Friars. In March of 1994 he was found dead in a drug and rehab center, believed to have been a suicide. The Padres’ best overall pitcher in their history in the end took his own life. I won’t even mention Ken Caminiti, the most inspiring Padre of them all.
Need it be added that Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn himself, died far, far too early of a disease he got – essentially – from playing baseball? The Great Padre in the Sky weeps for us – Preston Gomez turns over in his grave as we speak – but we are the ones who have to live with this, we are the ones who have to get back on the Taco Train every day. But there’s plenty of reasons to think the tide is turning…or at least it might be. More on that next time. Until then, I see we are in danger of being no hit again, this time by Steven Matz and the Mets. The circle would be complete. Clay Kirby, God rest his soul, would just like an inning of that action, preferably the 9th. I bet he figures he’d have the luck to see it through.