Barbara Hendrix, 58
San Diego Padres
"You ask me how I'm coping? I'm not. I did not see this coming. I'd been a survivor all these years in baseball, since I was hired as a switchboard operator on April 6, 1971—Opening Day. Now I'm caught seven years from retirement, my husband is retired, and I'm really in a bind. I have a marvelous résumé. If I were 25, I'd like to think I could walk into a job with a lot of clubs. But I'm realistic enough to know that at 58, I won't be able to.
"I feel like it's a divorce from the Padres after all these years. I feel like they've told me they don't love me anymore. And as far as baseball goes, well, I feel like there has been a death. The death of baseball.
"I have been such a baseball fan all my life. I was with the Padres through everything. I know all the trivia. I always ask people, "Who played first base for the Padres in 1969?' Most people say Nate Colbert. But it was Bill Davis. Then Colbert took over. The old Wally Pipp story.
"When I started working at the stadium, it was part time, for tickets to the games. With five kids the tickets really came in handy. I was always the sports fan in my family. I always read the sports pages first. Now, I'm determined not to.
"I'll be honest with you. [Pause.] I came home and packed away 24 years of baseball memories. [Pause.] I put it all in boxes. Pictures, baseballs—I can't bear to look at it all. I keep one baseball out, autographed by Pete Rose. He signed it personally. I look at it like he's on the outside, and now so am I.
"I worked 13 years as a switchboard operator for Buzzy Bavasi [the Padres' first president] before I became an office manager. They said Jerry Coleman was the voice of the Padres, but I liked to joke that I was the real voice of the Padres. [Pause.] I'm supposedly on a list to come back, but I know that layoffs are a way of getting rid of people that you don't want. I know my chances of going back are slim at best.
"My son Chuck was drafted by the Oakland A's in, oh, I forget the year—1973? He was a righthanded pitcher. He ended up in the Cleveland organization. Now all of my children are thinking of burning their baseball memorabilia. I said myself that I wasn't going to watch baseball again. Then I was watching some old program, and they started playing Take Me Out to the Ball Game. And I just came unglued. I said I wasn't going to watch that Ken Burns documentary, but by the time they reached the 1940s, I had to watch. Those were the years when I really started to follow baseball. It felt good to see Chub Feeney and Buzzy and Jerry Coleman. I even met Satchel Paige. Before I went to work for the Padres, I would read all of these names in the sports pages. And then all of a sudden I knew these people.
"They were exciting times. When you knew Buzzy, you knew everybody. Danny Kaye used to call, Walter Matthau, everybody. Ask [ex-Padre] Randy Jones, he would tell you all about me. But ask [current Padre] Andy Benes, and he'd say, 'Who's that?' I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that, but... but players are different today.
"Please, I don't want to sound like I'm burning bridges. I have to watch what I say. I have loved baseball so much, I would love to go back. But I've been watching the strike news on TV and wondering, Where are all the people like me? All the talk is about owners and players. What about the other people who have worked in baseball and followed baseball all of their lives?