It’s been a long time since the Padres last won a home playoff game in front of fans.
It’s been a long time since Oct. 10, 1998.
A lot of wasted Padres seasons ago.
That date was the last time, before Friday’s 2-1 victory against the rival Dodgers, that San Diego won a home playoff game in front of fans. Friday’s win left the Padres one step away from advancing to the NLCS.
And 24 years earlier, a 4-1 Padres victory over Atlanta left the team one win away from reaching the World Series.
Game 3 of the 1998 NLCS saw Atlanta take a 1–0 lead in the third off Sterling Hitchcock, who was coming into his own in the postseason. But the Braves failed to push across another run due to a phenomenal play at the plate when left fielder John Vander Wal threw the ball home and catcher Jim Leyritz hung on to tag out Walt Weiss.
The next time Leyritz came to the plate, Atlanta pitcher Greg Maddux plunked him. A little payback, eh?
“I knew it was on purpose. I screamed and yelled at him, I think Cammy was right behind in the dugout just screaming and yelling, and it fired everybody up,” Leyritz told me in an interview for my book on Ken Caminiti.
The Padres came alive in the fifth inning, when Hitchcock singled past a diving Weiss. With two outs, Steve Finley doubled home the pitcher.
Tony Gwynn was up next. No way Maddux was pitching to Gwynn, who batted .429 against him during his career … That meant it was Caminiti’s turn to hit. The third baseman sliced a single up the middle to score Finley, helping the Padres to fend off Maddux.
It took San Diego three tries – including a flight to Atlanta – to vanquish Atlanta.
The Padres were swept in the World Series that year by the Yankees, and they were winless at home in playoff appearances in 2005 and 2006. And in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, all playoff games were held without fans in attendance.
Meaning San Diego fans were deprived of a home playoff win for 8,770 days.
Padres fans are hoping they won’t have to wait so long for the next home playoff win. Because another one this year would mean so, so much.