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Feeney knew he was already out the door on Fan Appreciation Night. 10 days later. Perhaps feeling liberated, he flipped the aforementioned bird at jeering, sign-waving fans. Those in the know noticed that a man standing nearby, watching the whole thing, mouth agape, was none other than Ballard Smith. As KFMB sportscaster Ted Leitner replayed the gesture on the air, he said, "Chub was just trying to indicate he thought the Padres were Number 1." Actually, Feeney was indicating how many more days he had left with the Padres, for he announced his resignation the next day.
Like all good soap operas, this one had a wedding scene. On Oct. 12, 1988, Kapstein and Linda Smith were married at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. In attendance were several of Kapstein's players—he is devoted to them and they to him—including Gossage, Hawkins, Booker, Nettles and infielder Darrell Evans. The Garv couldn't make it. McKeon, who has a good relationship with Kapstein, was there, and so, of course, was Joan Kroc. Although she privately admitted she happy
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With Joan again behind him, McKeon went to work over the winter. He got first baseman Jack Clark and pitcher Pat Clements from the Yankees for pitchers McCullers and Jimmy Jones and outfielder Stanley Jefferson. Then, during the winter meetings, he pressed interim president Dick Freeman and Joan Kroc until the club finally signed Bruce Hurst, giving the Padres the only pitching staff in baseball with five starters who threw more than 200 innings apiece last year. And for the capper, McKeon ended a frustrating contract stalemate between Feeney and Tony Gwynn, the Padres top hitter and No. 1 citizen, by offering Gwynn an extension—which he happily accepted.
This off-season, Kroc hired baseball consultant Tal Smith to find her a new president, passing over interim president Freeman, and clearly ignoring the public opinion polls that favored Garvey. Joan (the lifelong Democrat) and Steve (the staunch Republican) have not been on great terms since he tried to buy the club. Garvey even offered to take the job for nothing. "Well, maybe I'd have an incentive clause for finishing first," he says. But now that his love life is out in the open, you or I have a better chance than the Garv.
Joan also asked Tal Smith to help handle some of the club's paperwork. Asked if he felt like an office temp, Tal said, "I'm not sure I like the characterization, but it does fit." In mid-March, the Padres named Freeman president after all.
In the meantime, Joan found Boots, so named for the bandages the vet wrapped around her cut paws after Kroc rescued her. The San Diego papers got wind of the story after she placed an ad in the Union trying to find Boots's true owner. "Poor Boots was obviously in mourning, and I just wanted to find her master," she says. Kroc invited Samantha Khoury, an animal psychologist, to see if she could help Boots in her grief. "I know it sounds silly," says Kroc, "but you never know." As former Padres and new Giants catcher Terry Kennedy says, "When you're worth seven hundred million dollars, you can consult anybody you want to." Kroc does say that Boots is feeling more at home.
With Hurst and Clark feeling more and more at home, too, ticket sales are way up and excitement is high in San Diego. Kroc flew out to Yuma, Ariz., for the first spring training game. After she threw out the first ball to catcher Mark Parent, he gave it back to her and said, "We're gonna win this one for you." Says Kroc, "I think he meant the whole season, not just that game."
So what does the new season hold in store? Will Trader Jack get Joan to name Boots as the new general manager, and thus avoid another potential power struggle? Will the guy marketing the bumper stickers that say STEVE GARVEY IS NOT MY PADRE get rich? Will Goose get released by the Cubs and take up Joan's offer of a job in McDonald's public relations department? Will Chub replace Rolf Benirschke as daytime host of Wheel of Fortune? Will the Padres finally live up to their potential as a franchise? Tune in again tomorrow.