I have many great moments watching the San Diego Padres play. Having been a fan since 1978, the moments that usually stick in my mind above all are the actual games that I went to see in person. I went to many Padres home games at “the Murph” in the late 70’s, 80’s and into the 90’s.
Out of all these times there happened to be two occasions when I ran on to the field. Yes, twice I literally jumped the box seat rail and hopped on to the field. No, it was not during the actual game. I have too much respect for the game to do this. But, nevertheless, both times I was not authorized to do so. The first time was on April 19th, 1983. I’ll get to why and how I jumped on to the field on this day in just a moment. The second time was when the Padres won the pennant in 1984. This was of course one of my most exhilarating moments as a sports fan. I ran into center field and back to second base, where I grabbed a handful of dirt to save. The crowd had started a “get off the field” chant in unison as only fans on the West Coast would do and I knew it was time to run back into the stands.
On April 19th, 1983 (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SDN/SDN198304190.shtml) in San Diego it was the kind of overcast day that you might see in the spring in San Diego. On that evening some high school friends and I decided to catch a baseball game and piled into the car for the 35 minute jaunt from Encinitas to Mission Valley.
I don’t remember much of the details of the game itself but I do remember that there was a lot of excitement in the air as it was the first year of Steve Garvey’s time as a Padres. Another thing that I recall was that the Braves smoked the Padres and that that little bearded elf Glenn Hubbard had stroked a couple of extra base hits to sink them. But the most memorable aspect of the game came with a rain delay in the middle of the contest. Often times when it rains in San Diego people will look to the heavens with that kind of “are you kidding”? look before they scramble for cover. As I recall, that’s exactly what my friends and I did as it began to pour quite hard around the middle innings.
After we got over our surprise that it was actually raining quite hard in San Diego we traversed up the concrete stairs for cover. After completing the climb from the field level to the concourse we had noticed that the ground crew was literally falling all over themselves in a grand display of incompetency to apply the tarp. As I recall, the tarp was torn and raggedy and the crew rolling it out seemingly had no clue on how to apply it.
After a moment or two in which we all laughed at their incompetency, we ambled back down to the field level bottom rail to get a closer view. A few moments of shared humor at the ground crews failings turned to sheer pity. Suddenly, my friend Dale turned to me and said “should we help”? Without waiting for an answer from any of us, he jumped onto the field and ran the thirty or so yards to meet the crew around the second base area.
What’s amazing to me is that the crew itself, after an initial brief look of surprise seemed to welcome Dale’s presence. Further astonishing to me was the fact that Dale began to bark out orders to them as to how to get the tarp properly applied. Without going into too much detail, as soon as my friend arrived on the field he was running the show. He had no experience in this area but simply faked that he did and it worked to bring the efficiency needed to begin the process.
Perhaps there is a lesson in this somewhere which I will leave to your interpretation. He then motioned to us in the stands (3 or us) to come on to the field and assist the crew. Without hesitating we all jumped on to the field and heeded Dale’s every instruction with success finally coming after twenty minutes or so of hard labor. I suppose Dale had shown what true leadership was all about. A moment of crisis and some people rise to the task. After the episode, the grounds crew hugged us all and thanked us for our volunteerism. We walked off the field as heroes! After the hour rain delay or so, the ground crew didn’t seem to need our assistance in rolling off the battered tarp and the game continued.
Our action was something that would more than likely not be allowed today and reflects a long past time of innocence. It also obviously shows how things have progressed in terms of stadium maintenance efficiency. Perhaps it also shows in a sense how our society as a whole as changed in terms of the ‘hey, no matter what my role is in an official capacity, Mr. John Q. Public is more than happy to come to our aid if he can make a difference”. This is one of many personal Padres moments and certainly one of the more bizarre ones!