Sharing tales of boys of summer
Two of San Diego’s foremost experts on baseball will appear in La Jolla to discuss a major league club that has seen its share of ups and downs.
“The Padres are not known as one of the powerhouses, shall we say,” said Bill Swank, baseball historian and co-author of “Tales from the San Diego Padres.”
“But they have gone to the World Series twice, and there’s a lot of teams that can’t say that.”
Swank will appear with former Padres broadcaster and co-author Bob Chandler to discuss the new book at D.G. Wills Books on Friday, March 24. The book combines a history of the team’s performance on the field with behind-the-scenes vignettes and includes interviews with several former Padres players, managers and staffers.
“Bob is very close to all the old players, he has all kinds of stories,” Swank said.
“But he also interviewed Dave Winfield, Tim Flannery, Randy Jones, Bruce Bochy. There’s an old equipment manager named Doc Mattie who was a great storyteller. People should enjoy the inside stories. There’s a lot of humor in baseball.”
One of Swank’s favorite stories from the book involves former Padres owner Ray Kroc, who took the field one day in the early 1970s to thank Padres fans after a rare season in which the team outdrew the Los Angeles Dodgers. Just before Kroc took the microphone, a Padres player lost track of how many outs had been recorded, allowing the opposing team to record a double play on a foul ball.
“Kroc was going to thank the fans, and just as he was about to talk, he was shocked by what he saw,” Swank said. “So he got on the microphone and said, ‘That is the stupidest baseball I have ever seen.’ The fans connected with him immediately. There’s a story that Kroc later met (Chicago Bears Coach) George Halas at a party in Chicago, and Halas said, ‘What you did on the P.A., I’ve always wanted to do something like that.’ ”
Kroc gets his own chapter in the book, as does legendary Padres hitter Tony Gwynn. There are chapters devoted to the team’s division championship seasons in 1984, 1996, 1998 and 2005. There is a section devoted to spring training and one for road trips.
“A lot of funny things happen on road trips, of course,” Swank said.
The section on Gwynn includes a story on clubhouse frictions between him and teammate Jack Clark that has not been fully told, Swank said.
“What was going on between Jack Clark and Tony Gwynn in the early ‘90s, it was touched on in the paper at the time, but the book goes further in explaining how big of an effect it had on Tony,” Swank said. “Tony was taught to play team ball and Clark was more of a big bopper. Tony called him selfish and Clark said Tony wasn’t interesting. It really stuck in Tony’s mind and affected the way he batted. Even when he was winning batting titles, he was going for more power. It was Clark and something Ted Williams told Tony. He said, ‘History is made on the inside pitch.’ ”
Swank said Gwynn’s career, which was spent entirely in a Padres uniform, gave credibility to the franchise.
“He’s just a wonderful player and a wonderful man,” Swank said. “He chose to stay in San Diego. He didn’t have to stay, he chose to.”
Hall of Fame Padres broadcaster Jerry Coleman, who was known for the occasional amusing slip of the tongue, is also a subject of some of Chandler and Swank’s tales.
“There are some good Jerry Coleman stories,” Swank said. “He was announcing a game against the Phillies, and they had a third baseman named Mike Schmidt. The way the story is told, Jerry said ‘Schmidt’ but left out the ‘m’ and the ‘d’. One of the things Jerry always said was you should never correct yourself if you make a mistake on the air. He thought the people at home would just say, ‘Did he just say that? No, he couldn’t have said that.’ ”
Swank, a Clairemont resident, has authored or co-authored six books, including “Echoes from Lane Field,” the story of the original 1936 Pacific Coast League Padres. Chandler, who lives in Tierrasanta, came to San Diego in 1963 and has served as announcer for the Padres, Chargers and San Diego State University. Swank said some of the local baseball community wishes Chandler were still calling Padres games.
“I would love to see Bob Chandler back on the air again,” he said. “So would a lot of other fans in San Diego. People are always saying, ‘Why isn’t he still on?’ ”
D.G. Wills Books is at 7461 Girard Ave. Call (858) 456-1800.