Off his six years with the San Diego Padres as a coach and manager, it’s not surprising that one of Greg Riddoch’s favorite players is Tony Gwynn, who won three of his eight National League batting titles during those seasons.
Nor is it surprising that he has a favorite Tony Gwynn story, this one circa 1988:
“Tony’s hitting about .235 for two months,” Riddoch recalled, “and this kid in his life has never hit .235. He’s struggling like hell. I’m staying after sometimes, throwing him (batting practice) in the cage and trying to help him out of it, but it’s really getting to him.
“We’re playing one day at Candlestick Park in San Francisco and he hits a pop fly up into the wind. Tony takes off and goes about 10 feet down the line and then peels off and comes to the dugout.
“Well, the wind blows the ball back fair. Will Clark catches it in fair territory by a foot.”
Riddoch, upset less with the lack of effort than with Gwynn’s “giving in to the adversity,” tells a knot of coaches he’s going to speak to the frustrated star. Be careful, he’s told: He’ll have your uniform.
Taking a seat on the bench next to Gwynn, Riddoch said, “You know, T, I know the frustration you’re going through. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to use you as an example to every rookie who comes through here as a guy who made himself into what he is. And now that you’re facing a little bit of adversity, you’re giving into the ‘Waaah, poor me’ crap. I won’t accept it and you’d better not do it again.’ “
Riddoch’s fellow coaches couldn’t believe his impolitic choice.
“They laughed at me,” he said. “But that’s my responsibility. If I lose my job for doing what I think is right, I’ll be proud I did the right thing.”
After the game, Riddoch was shaving in the coaches’ dressing room when Gwynn walked in the door, laid three $100 bills on the sink and said, “Rid, you’re right. You’ll never see it again.”
“He fined himself,” Riddoch said. “And those two coaches were standing right there and had no clue what had just taken place.”
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