The San Diego Padres advanced to the 1984 World Series by defeating the Chicago Cubs, 6-3, on October 7 at San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium in front of a crowd of 58,359. After dropping the first two games of the best-of-five National League Championship Series in Chicago, the Padres came from behind in each of the next three games to claim the National League title. It was the first time a National League team won a postseason series after losing the first two games.
The stakes were high for both teams entering Game Five of the NLCS: The Padres had never won a postseason series in their 16-year existence and the Cubs had not appeared in postseason play since 1945. They had not won a postseason series since they took the 1908 World Series over the Detroit Tigers. This was the last year of the best-of-five NLCS format; the major leagues went to a best-of-seven format for the League Championship Series the next season.
Because the umpires went on strike after the close of the regular season, the first four games of the Series were officiated by replacement umpires. The walkout was settled in time for the regular umpiring crew of John Kibler, Paul Runge, John McSherry, and Doug Harvey to be back for Game Five.1
The Cubs won the first two games of the series at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, 13-0 and 4-2. After Game Two the Padres’ plane was delayed on the tarmac at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to allow the Cubs’ plane to depart first. Then, after arriving at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field, the players learned that the bus route back to Jack Murphy Stadium was being detoured.2
Then, as the Padres neared their Mission Valley home, the reason for the delay and detour became apparent. Friars Road was backed up by traffic. More than 15,000 fans were in the parking lot to greet the Padres. Because the team’s return had been delayed, the throng had started partying without them.4
“It was unbelievable, great chaos,” said Gwynn. “The fans were celebrating and we had lost two straight. It got to us. It got to all of us. It was crazy. We’re on the verge of getting swept out of the playoffs and the fans came out to welcome us. What I saw was a lot of hope and frustration of the (16-year) losing history boiling over. I didn’t know if we were going to win the series, but I knew we weren’t going to lose the next day.”5
As the series shifted to San Diego, the Padres came from behind to take Games Three and Four, the latter capped off by Steve Garvey’s walk-off two-run homer to give the Padres a 7-5 victory, setting the stage for Game Five.
On the mound for the Padres was Eric Show, the Game One starter. Rick Sutcliffe, the Cubs’ starter, had been picked up in a trade with the Cleveland Indians on June 13 coming with George Frazier and Ron Hassey for Joe Carter, Mel Hall, Don Schulze, and minor-leaguer Darryl Banks. Sutcliffe went 17-1 the rest of the season, including the 13-0 blowout in Game One. Including Game One of this series, Sutcliffe was 3-0 with a 0.37 ERA against the Padres this season.6
With two outs in the top of the first, Gary Mathews walked and stole second. Leon Durham homered to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead against Show. Cubs catcher Jody Davis led off the top of the second with a home run to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead. After Larry Bowa flied out to left, Sutcliffe singled to right, chasing Show. Reliever Andy Hawkins got Bobby Dernier to ground into a 4-6 fielder’s choice, then was caught stealing to end the inning. Hawkins pitched a scoreless third inning and gave way to pinch-hitter Mario Ramirez, who fouled out to the catcher. Alan Wiggins followed with a walk, but was stranded at first to end the inning
The score remained 3-0 going into the bottom of the sixth with Sutcliffe holding the Padres to two singles. Wiggins reached on a bunt single to open the inning. Tony Gwynn followed with a single to left, Wiggins stopping at second. Steve Garvey walked and the Cubs bullpen was warming up in a hurry. Graig Nettles’ fly ball to center scored Wiggins with Gwynn taking third. Terry Kennedy followed with a sacrifice fly to left, cutting the Cubs’ lead to 3-2. Bobby Brown grounded out to first baseman Leon Durham to retire the side.
The Cubs went down in order in the top of the seventh. Carmelo Martinez walked to open the Padres’ seventh. Garry Templeton sacrificed Martinez to second. Tim Flannery batted for Padres pitcher Craig Lefferts and his grounder went through Durham’s legs, scoring Martinez and knotting the score at 3-3. Wiggins singled to left, Flannery stopping at second. Gwynn’s potential inning-ending double-play ball took a hop past Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg and rolled into center field for a double, scoring Flannery and Wiggins with Gwynn taking third on the throw home. Steve Garvey drove in Gwynn with a single, chasing Sutcliffe. Cubs manager Jim Frey called on Steve Trout to relieve Sutcliffe and he retired Nettles on a grounder to first and struck out Kennedy, but the Padres now led, 6-3.
Of Flannery’s groundball to Durham, the Cubs first baseman said, “It was a routine ball and it stayed low. I was anticipating a hop.” The grounder to Sandberg took a hop when he thought it was going to stay low. “If either groundball is caught,” Frey said, “Sutcliffe gets out of the inning.”7
Rich “Goose” Gossage came in for the Padres in the top of the eighth. With one out, he hit Richie Hebner with a pitch. One out later Sandberg singled Hebner to third. After Sandberg stole second, Gary Matthews struck out swinging to end the inning.
The Cubs were ahead in every game of the Series and seemed about to put it away at any time, but the Padres and their fans were not about to give up. More than 58,000 spectators showed up for each of the San Diego games and were constantly loud nonstop. The PA system at Jack Murphy Stadium was playing “Cub-Busters,” a parody on the title song from the movie Ghostbusters, which came out earlier that year. A popular item during the series was Cub-Busters T-shirts. During the clubhouse celebration after Game Five, many of the Padres players took off through a tunnel to the parking lot and through a chain-link fence greeted the fans.8
“If it wasn’t for Wednesday night, when all those people were out at the stadium when we got off the bus, this might not have happened,” said Tim Flannery. “On the airplane back from Chicago, we were all looking through travel magazines trying to figure out where we are going on vacation.”9
Author Studs Terkel even found a silver lining in the loss. “I think they’re more endearing in defeat than in victory,” he said of Cubs fans. “I like their loser-like quality. At least this will force all the Johnny-come-suddenlys off the bandwagon. But they were a great team. Far better than the teams of the 1930s.”10
Steve Garvey, who batted .400 with 7 RBIs, was named the series’ Most Valuable Player.
The Padres went on to meet the Detroit Tigers in the 1984 World Series.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also accessed Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com for player and game information.
1 Associated Press, “Umpires End Their Strike,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 8, 1984. The article explained, “Substitute umpires had been working both the American and National League championship series since the strike began after the close of the regular season last Sunday.”
2 Bill Center, “NLCS Victory Over Cubs Capped Historic 1984 Season,” FriarWire, padres.mlblogs.com/nlcs-victory-over-cubs-capped-historic-1984-season-b2541c11a7d3.
accessed November 21, 2018.
6 David Bush, “Rally Stuns Cubs, Wins NL Pennant,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 8, 1984.
7 Bernie Lincicome, “The Fold of ’84 Came in Hurry,” Chicago Tribune, October 8, 1984.
8 Steve Wulf. “You’ve Got to Hand It to the Padres,” Sports Illustrated, si.com/vault/1984/10/15/627634/youve-got-to-hand-it-to-the-padres, accessed November 21, 2018.
9 Phil Hersh, “Suddenly, a Serious Love Affair,” Chicago Tribune, October 8, 1984.
10 Associated Press, “No Joy in Wrigleyville,” Peoria Journal Star, October 8, 1984.