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On This Date in Sports October 6, 1984: Steve Garvey's Big Day

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

With a two-run walk-off home run from Steve Garvey, the San Diego Padres beat the Chicago Cubs 7-5 in Game 4 of the NLCS, forcing a decisive fifth game. The Padres came home trailing the best-of-five 0-2 after the Cubs dominated at Wrigley Field. The Padres would take advantage of a Leon Durham error in Game 5, winning 6-3 to advance to their first World Series.

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The San Diego Padres struggled to find their way for most of their first 15 seasons. Born of expansion in 1969, they only had one winning season going into 1984 while never finished higher than fourth place. A pair of .500 seasons had shown promise in 1982 and1983 but had not helped the team find its identity. The Padres’ most significant move had been signing Steve Garvey before the 1983 season, outbidding the Los Angeles Dodgers, where Garvey had played his entire career. Managed by Dick Williams, the Padres finally broke through in 1984, posting a record of 92-70 to win the National League West as Tony Gwynn had a breakout season, winning the batting title for the first time in his career.

The Chicago Cubs managed by Jim Frey themselves were ending a long hibernation as they were in the postseason for the first time since the 1945 World Series. The Cubs had battled the New York Mets most of the season for the National League East. A big move came the Cubs acquired Rick Suttcliffe on June 15th. Suttcliffe posted a 16-1 record with the Cubs, winning the Cy Young, while Ryne Sandberg won the MP as the Cubs went 96-65 to win the division.

There was controversy surrounding Wrigley Field before the postseason began. MLB considered moving games to Comiskey Park or Busch Stadium, due to the lack of lights and the wishes of television executives who now wanted all Postseason Games to start at night for primetime audiences. A decision was made to allow the Cubs to stay home, but to pressure the Cubs into finally adding lights to Wrigley Field.

When the NLCS began, there were replacement umpires on the field, as the regular umpires went on strike and did not return until the final game. The Cubs had Rick Suttcliffe on the mound, while San Diego countered with Eric Show. The Cubs started fast as Bob Denier led off the bottom of the first with a home run. They added a second run when Gary Matthews went long. The Cubs added three more runs, in the third with Sutcliffe himself leading off the inning with a home run. Game 1 would be a Cubs, laugher as they blew the game open in the fifth, with Matthews hitting a three-run shot, while Ron Cey had Chicago’s fifth home run of the game in the seventh. The final score was 13-0, as fans had World Series dreams dancing in their heads. The Cubs would follow that up with a 4-2 win in Game 2, as Steve Trout had the Padres off-balance all game.

Down 0-2, the Padres had no margin for error as Jack Murphy Stadium hosted its first playoff game. Ed Whitson made the start for San Diego, while the Cubs looking for the sweep started Dennis Eckersley. Ron Cey singled home Keith Moreland with the game’s first run in the second. The Padres finally broke through in the fifth, as Garry Templeton drove home two with a double and later score on a single by Allan Wiggins. In the sixth, they would blow the game open as Craig Nettles singled home Tony Gwynn, while Kevin McReynolds hit a three-run homer. The Padres would win the game 7-1.

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With a new life, the Padres starter Tim Lollar and Scott Sanderson in Game 4. The Padres got two runs in the third inning, highlighted by a double from Steve Garvey. The lead would not last long as Jody Davis homered with a runner on to tie, and Leon Durham homered to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead. In the fifth, Garvey had an RBI single to tie the score 3-3. Garvey had another RBI in the seventh as San Diego took at 5-3; once again, the Cubs answered tying the game off Goose Gossage in the eighth. Craig Lefferts replaced Gossage in the ninth and got Cey to ground out with the bases loaded. Lee Smith came in and gave up a one-out single to Tony Gwynn when Steve Garvey stepped up again. Once again, Garvey came trough winning the game with a two-run home run. In the Padres 7-5 win, Garvey had four hits in five at-bats, driving in five of San Diego’s seven runs.

The 1984 NLCS would be the final year of the best-of-five format as it became best-of-seven in 1985. Each team had their Game 1 starters on the mound, with the Padres hoping Eric Show would not struggle again. The Cubs jumped on Show in the first with a two-run shot from Leon Durham. In the second Jody, Davis homered to make it 3-0. The Padres finally solved Sutcliffe in the seventh as Craig Nettles, and Terry Kennedy each had run-scoring sac flies. With the Cubs leading 3-2 in the seventh, the Padres got the break they were looking for as Tim Flannery hit the ball trough Durham at first to tie the game. Tony Gwynn followed with two-run RBI double Garvey singled home Gwynn to give the Padres a 6-3 lead. From there, it was Goose Gossage the rest of the way, as the Padres closer nailed the door shut to send San Diego to the World Series, where they would be beaten by the Detroit Tigers in five games.