If the rumble of the Chicago El near Wrigley Field seemed unusually loud and throaty last Friday morning, blame all the throbbing vocal cords inside the trains. "Garvey's a bum!" chanted whole cars of riders. "The Padres——!"
This was the start of Cubs-Padres II, a lively three-game minisequel to last fall's masterpiece of a National League Championship Series. Nearly four hours before the first pitch of Game 1, Chicago fans were already rolling in. Their cries resounded like...well, almost like the crack of Steve Garvey's ninth-inning, series-tying homer for San Diego in Game 4 last October. Their clamor traveled up the El tracks like...well, just like that crucial fifth-game ground ball that skidded off the lip of the infield grass at Jack Murphy Stadium and rolled untouched through the legs of Chicago first baseman Leon (Bull) Durham. You remember that one. Cub fans can't forget it. It helped San Diego snatch away the NL title, three games to two. "This is as big as a series can be in May," said Chicago starter Rick Sutcliffe as fans poured into the bleachers, hooting and hollering. "This place is really going to heat up."
And heat up Wrigley did, stoked by 12 home runs, several comeback rallies, the lightning-rod presence of Garvey and the adventures of Thunderpup, as his Cub teammates call shortstop Shawon Dunston. Both teams came in with division leads and white-hot pitching staffs—Chicago had a team ERA of 2.21 while San Diego's was 3.01. The fans were in rare form, too. "I read the scripture of Daniel in the lions' den before coming to the ball park," noted Padre second baseman Tim Flannery after watching a barrage of pennies, beer, batteries, fruit and salt cartons fly from-the stands in Game 1. "I'll tell you, it's rough out there."
When in the end the series had no real winner—each team won one game, with the third suspended by darkness and the Cubs leading 4-2 after six—it seemed entirely fitting. "You can't get any more closely matched than we were last year," said Cub-turned-Padre reliever Tim Stoddard. "But I think we can be just as close. I'd love it." After all, nothing suits a rivalry more than a cliffhanger.
Chicago coasted into Friday's opener with a seven-game home winning streak and a new peck-and-scratch playing style. "The sticks haven't been working," as Durham put it, and a look at the team's .228 collective batting average fully explained the need to rely on speed and pitching. Last year's league MVP, second baseman Ryne Sandberg, was mired at .195 with just three RBIs, while left-fielder and team catalyst Gary Matthews, whose achy knees kept him on the bench for the entire Padre series, was one of six Cub starters hitting .242 or lower. Luckily for the Cubs, one of his replacements, Davey Lopes, 39 on Friday, was hitting .308. "Maybe guys are trying too hard," said Chicago manager Jim Frey. "What's encouraging is that even without our hitting we still have a better record [13-6 before Friday] than anyone."
The Padres, too, had been thriving despite a paucity of runs, and had shrugged off the loss of speedy second baseman Alan Wiggins with surprising ease. Wiggins, who scored 106 runs and stole 70 bases for San Diego in 1984, secretly checked into a drug-treatment center two weeks ago and has not been seen publicly since. On Saturday night Padre president Ballard Smith announced that Wiggins would be suspended for the remainder of the '85 season. "With Alan we got a lot of runs without getting hits," said right-fielder Tony Gwynn. "Now we've got to swing the bat better."
While Cub fans chanted obscenities at Garvey and the Padres during batting practice Friday, San Diego manager Dick Williams got in some licks at his rivals for all the attention they had received in the off-season. "We're the National League champs," he snapped. "I'm sick of everybody saying Chicago this and Chicago that. That's a bunch of baloney, and we're going to dispel it." Dis spelled trouble for the Cubs. To fire up his troops, Williams stormed out after home plate umpire Gerry Davis in the first. Flannery led off the game with a line single off Sutcliffe, and Gwynn followed with a slow chopper toward first.
Durham fielded the ball and threw to second, hoping for the force. Enter Dunston, the confident 22-year-old rookie phenom. A truly impressive talent, Dunston has had a mercurial first month on the job, part dazzle and part fizzle. Here he came across the bag, far too soon for Durham's toss. "I was hollering as I was sliding," said Flannery later. "Infielders do cheat, but this wasn't even a close cheat." Dunston hurried a throw to first, but had no chance of nailing the swift Gwynn. Suddenly there were two on and no one out.
Garvey, the MVP of last year's championship series, stepped to the plate. "Garvey——!" roared the crowd, over and over. The noise was deafening. "I've been booed by sections before, but never a whole stadium," said Garvey later, with a grin. "I knew I had a rapport here." When he drilled a triple to the wall in right center, the fans quieted. A few batters later, a near hush fell as catcher Terry Kennedy singled Garvey home. Sutcliffe, last year's Cy Young winner, cursed himself afterward. "My slider stinks," he said.
A late-inning exchange of homers—Durham and catcher Jody Davis for the Cubs, and Graig Nettles and Gary Templeton for San Diego—only magnified Dunston's early misplay. Goose Gossage locked up the Padres' 6-5 victory with his seventh save as starter Andy Hawkins improved his record to 5-0. Gossage has saved four of those wins. "Not a bad guy to saddle up with," said Hawkins, who turned in some strong relief work himself in last fall's playoffs and World Series.