Tag Archives: San Diego Padres

Bruce Bochy is an all-time Padres walk-off legend

I have a few things in common with retiring San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

We both have large craniums, though Bochy’s is almost certainly bigger than mine.

We both like to walk. Bochy has even written a book about walking. I read it and enjoyed it.

And we both like walk-offs.

Regarding the latter, I have a statistic that will probably surprise you, though given that you’re reading this blog, it will make sense.

Bruce Bochy is tied for the all-time lead in walk-off home runs for the San Diego Padres.

Bochy’s 3 match the walk-off home run totals of Bip Roberts (also unlikely), Scott Hairston, and B.J. Upton. In other words, they all had more than Dave Winfield, Nate Colbert, Adrian Gonzalez, Ken Caminiti and made other notable Padres.

Bochy totaled 20 home runs in 448 at-bats from 1983 to 1987 with the Padres, a good at bat-to -home run ratio. The three walk-off home runs were clumped together in the 1985 and 1986 seasons, when Bochy saw his most playing time with the team. I think I like the story of his first walk-off home run best.

It came on July 1, 1985 in a game against the Astros. The visiting Houston squad was up 4-0 after an inning-and-a-half thanks in part to Denny Walling’s home run off LaMarr Hoyt. From there, both starting pitchers settled in. The Astros extended the lead to 5-3 in the seventh inning on a run –scoring double by Craig Reynolds.

But the Padres would rally. In the eighth inning, a double by Tim Flannery and ground outs by Gwynn and Steve Garvey scored a run to cut the deficit to 5-4. Then in the ninth, a walk to Graig Nettles got things going. Carmelo Martinez followed with a double and Garry Templeton was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Fan favorite Kurt Bevacqua then brought home the tying run with a sacrifice fly. The Padres didn’t score any more in the ninth. Future Hall-of-Famer Rich Gossage came on in relief and set the Astros down in the bottom of the 10th.

There must have been some stubbornness involved here, because the Astros starting pitcher stayed in the game, despite having allowed five runs and pitched nine innings. It looked like a good call when Garvey grounded out and Bobby Brown struck out.

That set the stage for Bruce Bochy to hit the only walk-off home run that baseball legend Nolan Ryan ever allowed.

For more, including comments from Bochy, read Andrew Baggarly’s piece from the 30th anniversary of Bochy’s home run here.

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The time Tony Gwynn got himself out of a slump with a walk-off

I worked very briefly with Tony Gwynn at ESPN back in the days when my job was to send Xeroxes of newspaper articles and player bios to the broadcasters (circa 2002 and 2003). Tony’s most distinguishing characteristic as a TV person was that he was both very nice and VERY nervous. This was amusing given how nervous he must have made pitchers every time they had to try to get him out in a big spot.

Gwynn had eight career walk-off RBIs, including three against the Mets. It’s a testament to how good of a hitter he was to point out that six of those came against left-handed pitchers. Lefties, righties, ambidextrous, whatever, you don’t get Tony Gwynn out easily.

A devoted Padres fan might be able to point out a better one, but my favorite among his walk-offs came on June 5, 1996 against the Cardinals.

This was a scoreless game through five innings, a pitcher’s duel between Donovan Osborne of the Cardinals and Andy Ashby of the Padres. The Cardinals scored two runs in the sixth inning to go ahead, with Willie McGee driving in one and a wild pitch bringing in another. The Padres countered in the seventh with a sacrifice fly by Brian Johnson and a two-out single by Andujar Cedeno.

The Cardinals went ahead in the eighth inning on John Mabry’s hit. The Padres tried to counter in their half, as Rickey Henderson singled and Steve Finley doubled Henderson to third. But Gwynn, battling a bad heel, failed to come through against lefty reliever Rick Honeycutt, grounding out to the pitcher. Cory Bailey escaped the jam to keep the lead intact. The Cardinals then added a run in the ninth on an error by Cedeno to lead 4-2 going to the home ninth inning

Tony LaRussa let Bailey start the ninth for St. Louis and that didn’t work out. Jody Reed singled and Cedeno doubled Reed to third, at which point LaRussa brought in Tony Fossas. Here’s where things get a little odd. Tony’s brother, Chris Gwynn, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the top of the ninth inning, hit a ground ball to shortstop for what should have been the first out. But a throwing error by Hall-of-Famer Ozzie Smith made Gwynn safe at first and brought in Reed to make it 4-3

With two on and nobody out, Padres manager Bruce Bochy asked Rickey Henderson to bunt. But Fossas fielded Henderson’s bunt and threw to third for a force out. Steve Finley then erased Henderson by grounding into a 3-6 force.

So now the Padres trailed 4-3 with first and third, two outs in the ninth inning, and Tony Gwynn coming up against Fossas, who had held Gwynn hitless in five previous at-bats. Gwynn was in a 7-for-37 slump. The drama made for a cool moment.

And even cooler was what happened. Tony Gwynn hit a walk-off three-run home run on a hanging curveball, scoring his brother in front of him. It was Gwynn’s first home run of the season and he struggled to make it around the bases on his bad heel. He credited the failure in the previous at bat with getting him righted for this one.

“Even though Tony is hurting, we couldn’t have had a better guy up there,” Bochy said.

The 1996 season was an injury-plagued one for Gwynn. But he still hit. He batted .353 and won his third of four straight batting titles.

When I was prepping Tony Gwynn for his first game broadcast, I thought it was important that the rest of the broadcast crew knew as much about Tony as possible. So I stuffed as much bio information about Gwynn into each of the envelopes for the members of the broadcast crew. And then I stuck one in Gwynn’s envelope too.

So I was rather amused when I was reading a newspaper a few days later and saw (paraphrasing) this comment from Gwynn:

‘They sent me a packet with a lot of information about me. I know about me. I want to know about everyone else!’

For the record, I checked – there was no malicious intent on Tony’s part. And I think it’s cool to say I got called out by a Hall of Famer. 🙂