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Mudville: April 18, 2024 11:26 pm PDT

Sweater Weather

BY KEVIN KERNAN

Good owners are hard to come by in Major League Baseball. That’s why I feel for Padres fans today.

They had an owner they could trust, an owner who was in the game with the fans – and that is a rare treat. Peter Seidler passed away at the age of 63 on Tuesday and he will be missed. At his core he was a fan. He came from a baseball family, being the grandson of Walter O’Malley and the nephew of Peter O’Malley.

Seidler’s investment group purchased the Padres from John Moores in 2012 and in 2020 Seidler took full control of the club and loosened the purse strings. He loved the experience.

Seidler spent the money, walked the walk and talked the talk, all in an unassuming way. He was not an ivory tower owner. Unfortunately, AJ Preller could not deliver any consistency as Padres baseball boss, despite the huge payroll he was given by Seidler; and he could not even deliver a team to the watered down playoffs in 2023 as the Padres became one of the most disappointing teams in MLB this past season, considering they had the third highest payroll in the game.

Seidler was beloved by Padres fans and there have been some terrific remembrances of him over the past 24 hours – but let me tell you about one from my friend Dave Marcus, longtime radio producer/engineer for Padres games, now working for Audacy, and one of the nicest people you could ever meet in the game. Considering, on occasion, Dave had to put up with AMBS and former Charger Hank Bauer during our KFMB radio days in San Diego, he never raised his voice; and that tells you something about Dave.

Hank and I could be a handful. Especially Hank. Love you, brother!

Dave related this story about Seidler (and remember Dave has been around for the March of Padres Owners for 30 years, so he may be the foremost expert on having “a feel’’ for this ball club). He is at every game and hears all the stories; and just so people understand what being the producer/engineer is all about, it is not that glamorous of a job. Yes, you go to every game, home and away, but you have to set up the equipment in all the different radio booths throughout baseball, and make sure everything remains working throughout the broadcast.

If something goes wrong, it’s on you, not the “talent.’’

Dave is the one who’s in the back of the booth with a good sense of humor, keeping the show on air while keeping calm; and that’s not an easy thing to do. He has the patience of a saint and a dry sense of humor like all the good ones.

(Photo via Kevin Kernan)

“Very sad to hear of the passing of Padres owner Peter Seidler,’’ Marcus began. “In many ways he was unlike any pro sports owner I’ve been around. One time he came to the radio booth to give the guys sweaters from a store that he really liked. He apologized for not having one for me and asked what size I was and said he’d bring me one in a few days.’’

Radio engineers hear that kind of stuff all the time when gifts arrive in the booth and usually wind up with zilch, while “the talent’’ gets gifted aplenty.

“Honestly I never expected him to remember,’’ Marcus said, “and (Seidler) had a lot more important things to deal with than getting the radio guy a sweater, but a few days later he was in the booth to personally deliver it to me. Needless to say I was very surprised; but maybe I shouldn’t have been, as this is just one small example of the type of person he was and of the many reasons he went above and beyond, not just as the owner of the Padres but as one of the best community assets San Diego has ever known. This is a great loss.’’

The best tributes offer simple, human experiences, and Dave Marcus’ tribute is a grand slam for a team known on occasion as the Slam Diego Padres.

Clearly, Seidler cared about his team, about the people around his team, and Padres fans. He was beloved by fans for his willingness to spend money, but also because in a way he was one of them, a really good San Diego dude.

Now a word about sweaters in San Diego.

[Seidler] was beloved by fans for his willingness to spend money, but also because in a way he was one of them, a really good San Diego dude.

Yes, we all know the weather is perfect at Petco Park and so is the park (it remains my favorite major league ballpark); but living there I became a bit of a weather wimp and at night it cools down a bit.

When I was first interviewed for Padres beat writer with the San Diego Union back in 1988 and working for the great sports editor Bob Wright, who cut his teeth in the newspaper battles in Philadelphia, his assistant took me to lunch and described the weather this way to a New Jersey guy.

“Living in San Diego is like living in air conditioning,’’ the assistant sports editor said as we sat on a sunny patio of a restaurant in Old Town, the oldest settled area in San Diego.

At that warm moment, I didn’t quite understand but after one summer covering games at Jack Murphy Stadium, named for legendary San Diego sports editor and columnist Jack Murphy, brother to Mets announcer Bob Murphy, I knew exactly what he was talking about – and I would always bring a sweater to the game. Even day games, because by the time you were done writing in the open air press box, the weather would cool down.

Perfect sweater weather.

So bringing a sweater to the radio “talent’’ and then not forgetting to bring one back for the producer/engineer was indeed the perfect little gift by Peter Seidler, a thoughtful gift.

As we all know, the Padres have never won a World Series. They have been around since 1969 and have only appeared in two World Series and seven postseasons. GM Jack McKeon wisely spent Ray Kroc’s money in 1984 to go along with the young talent the Padres collected, but the 1984 Padres were beaten in five games by the juggernaut Tigers.

On October, 21, 1994 GM Randy Smith hired Bruce Bochy. After the 1995 season Kevin Towers became GM. In 1996 the Padres won the NL West with 91 wins but were swept by the Cardinals in the NLDS.

1996: Tony Gwynn front and center flanked by Kevin Kernan and Hank Bauer on the right and Ken Caminiti on the left. (Photo courtesy Kevin Kernan)

Fast forward to 1998 and the next time the Padres made it back to the World Series. The Padres ran into another American League juggernaut in the Yankees and were swept away in four games, and AMBS was there as Tony Gwynn finally made it back to the World Series at the age of 38.

In his two World Series, the Hall of Famer batted .371 over 39 plate appearances with two strikeouts.

After 1998, payroll was drastically cut (again) and it was quiet time again in San Diego until 2005 when Bochy’s Padres lost the NLDS to the Cardinals in three games. The Padres won the NL West with only 82 wins. They hit .302 in those three playoff games so there should have been a better outcome. But the Padres pitched to a 6.84 ERA and that just didn’t cut it.

Towers, who passed away in 2018 in San Diego, and Bochy, were both beloved; and brought the Padres back to the NLDS in 2006, but lost in four games to the Cardinals, who went on to win the World Series. The only game the Padres won, Chris Young was the winning pitcher. Now Chris Young is building World Championship teams for the Rangers, who had never won a World Series until Chris Young and Bruce Bochy arrived.

The Padres pitched well against the Cardinals but only hit .225, more proof batting average matters. In the three losses to St. Louis, the Padres scored a total of three runs.

No doubt the Padres have the best weather in baseball and they have Petco Park too, but they didn’t make it back to the postseason until 2020, pretty much a fake season, and were swept away in three games by the Dodgers, who went on to win it all that short season. In 2022, the Padres seemed to have it all and finally won when Preller’s money magic was actually magic. The Padres stunned the Mets in the Wild Card series and slayed the Mighty Dodgers only to lose to Bryce Harper and the Phillies in five games in the NLCS.

Peter Seidler president of the San Diego Padres speaks before a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants July 7, 2022 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

The Padres thought they would be back in the postseason in 2023; this was supposed to be something special as the Padre ticket became the hottest ticket in baseball. Remember, this is a fan base scarred deeply by carpetbagger Dean Spanos and the Chargers; they wanted a baseball hero and Padres owner Peter Seidler was the opposite of Spanos, who took the Chargers to LA.

Seidler enjoyed every step of the process.

Dave Marcus told BallNine another wonderful remembrance of the Padres owner and it reveals how Peter Seidler loved his Padres team, and loved baseball, and made the entire experience a family happening.

“I would notice on the road that when one of his kids and his wife were there with him, they would all sit cross legged on the grass between the Padres dugout and the cage, watching batting practice,’’ Marcus told me. “It always struck me how he took in the whole experience of being at the ballpark.’’

Isn’t that the way it should be?

This was an owner and his family just loving the game and the moment. That speaks volumes. You don’t see that many other owners out there doing that.

That’s is just one small story and showed why people loved Peter Seidler and the way he conducted himself as Padres owner. He not only spent the money and cared about his team, but loved being at the ballpark and clearly loved batting practice.

To me, batting practice is a sacred time around the ballpark. It’s a time to soak it all in and enjoy the sights, sounds, and rhythm of the game. The small talk around the cage is worth the price of admission and in a way, with batting practice now turned into an iPad session, often in an inside batting cage away from the fans, baseball has lost a little bit of its soul in how it now conducts that activity.

Baseball continues to lose the little joys of the game, which hurts in a big way.

My advice to all young managers, including the Mets’ new hire Carlos Mendoza, who seems to show himself as being someone who cares deeply about the game, is get your team out there for batting practice whenever you can. Get them having little competitive games in batting practice that begin to bond a team together and create that magic known as team culture. Tommy Pham was right. Get them engaged in the extra work it takes to succeed.

Through all the years being around Bruce Bochy, I could always find him leaning on the railing at the back of the cage, watching BP. Nothing gets past Bochy and he used this time to evaluate and get a feel for his team and also for the team to get used to him being there.

They learn to lean on Bochy like he leans on the batting cage.

Do that as a manager and you are taking a step toward success. Don’t blow off batting practice. I’ve told the story of how I first became concerned with the direction the Yankees were heading in the front office when their Chief Nerd was representing the front office on a West Coast trip, and whenever batting practice began, Chief Nerd would sit on the bench, pop open his lap top and not watch one second of BP.

My advice to you Nerds is learn to enjoy the little baseball moments, just as Peter Seidler and his family enjoyed that precious baseball time of day. As an aside, all teams should open the gates for fans in time to see batting practice for both the home and visiting team.

It’s a bonding moment for everyone.

Dave Marcus, a baseball radio lifer, will never forget that small act of kindness by Peter Seidler. And what about the sweater?

“It’s hanging prominently in my closet,’’ Marcus told me.

Whenever he sees or wears that sweater Dave Marcus will have fond memories of Padres owner Peter Seidler. In the end, small acts of kindness, especially for baseball owners, mean so much.

And, remember, at night at Petco Park, it’s sweater weather.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

Comments
  • Jack Miles

    Quite a bio there Kevin; you have done very well, proud to be able to say, I know you. Ramapo graduated some great talent!

    November 16, 2023
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