During spring training, 16-game winner LaMarr Hoyt voluntarily entered a substance abuse program. In June the Padres decided to ban beer in the clubhouse, and Gossage exploded. "They have Budweiser signs in the park so they can make money," said the Goose, "but they don't want the players unwinding with a couple of beers after a game. How inconsistent and hypocritical is that?" Gossage also called Ballard "gutless" and then accused Joan of "poisoning the world with her hamburgers." That last remark was too much; Gossage was suspended, but 20 days later he paid a $25,000 fine (to charity) and made a public apology in which he said he and his family often enjoyed the fine fare at McDonald's.
In the meantime, Ballard and Linda's marriage was disintegrating, and that added to Joan's disillusionment. She decided to sell the club, and although Garvey headed a group that wanted to buy, she chose to sell to George Argyros, the Newport Beach, Calif., developer who owned the Seattle Mariners at the time. Having developed a reputation for mercurial incompetence in Seattle. Argyros was not about to be welcomed with open arms into the National League. Joan and Argyros dissolved the deal before the sale came to a vote, and Kroc took the club off the market.
McKeon, meanwhile, had seen his good work go down the drain. In what must have been a funk, he made what turned out to be a terrible trade with the New York Mets, giving away outfielder Kevin McReynolds. Larry Bowa, a former infielder of the diminutive fireplug variety, was hired to run the team on the field in '87, and he ran it ragged, throwing tantrums at the players, criticizing them in the press and setting an alltime major league record for clubhouse meetings in a season (17 in April and May alone). In the middle of the year, Ballard Smith resigned as president of the club. He was no longer very popular with the press, anyway, having once called them "flies." (After his statement, the Padres all had flyswatters in their lockers.)
Feeney agreed to take the position on a temporary basis and did a pretty good job of reorganizing the front office. Feeney has many good points, charm being one of them, but it became apparent last year that the game had passed him by. He caught considerable flak when he corralled outfielder John Kruk at a luncheon, thinking he was pitcher Lance McCullers, and said, "Way to go, Lance. You're finally starting to earn the money we're paying you." Says Feeney, "From behind, they do look very similar."
It was perhaps fitting that Feeney was miscast in the Padres' soap opera; he was, after all, a refugee from game shows. Chub had in fact been a two-time contestant on Jeopardy! (unsuccessful both times), and those who passed by his closed door in the Padres offices could often hear the voice of Pat Sajak on Wheel of Fortune. But criticism of his work habits may have been unfair. "I feel I worked very hard," Feeney says. "On the day of a game, I'd be there from 10 in the morning till 11 at night." At any rate, he still had a few more Padres episodes to complete.
On May 28, with the Pads off to a miserable 16-30 start, the team was in New York for a series with the Mets. Feeney flew in to fire Bowa, who learned the bad news from a reporter an hour before Chub called him to his room. Bowa refused to go and later said to reporters, "This would hurt if I got fired by somebody I respect."
Feeney asked general manager McKeon to take the manager's job, and McKeon liked the idea of returning to the field, 10 years after he was fired as the Oakland A's manager. Jack put it to a vote of his family: He and his sons Kelly and Kasey voted dugout; his wife, Carol, and daughters Kori and Kristi (Booker's wife) voted desk. "I settle all ties," says McKeon.
ONE LIFE TO LIVE
McKeon turned out to be just what the Padres needed. As manager, he told them to relax and have fun and keep their heads in the ball game. As general manager, he stole pitcher Dennis Rasmussen in a trade with the Reds. McKeon is reluctant to say it, but he still thinks he can wear both hats. "Whitey Herzog did it in St. Louis, and he stopped only because he liked to go fishing. I don't fish."
Feeney, though, told Jack he would have to choose between the two jobs, which created some friction. But as the team played better and moved up steadily in the standings—the Padres had the second-best record in the NL after McKeon took over—McKeon's power base grew and Feeney's shrank. On Sept. 14, the day McKeon was given a three-year, $1.3 million contract to stay on as manager. Feeney got into a shouting match with Kapstein in the Padres' offices over pitcher Andy Hawkins, whose contract was expiring. A door was slammed and a picture fell to the floor. That night, Feeney went on a pre-game show and made mention of the Hawkins disagreement. Kapstein got wind of what was said, and. furious, he called the press box and demanded a briefing. He showed up in the seventh inning and detailed Chub's flubs. His constant refrain during the briefing was, "Truth is stranger than fiction."