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Rivalry Is Thing of the Past : These Days, Beating the Dodgers Just Doesn't Mean as Much to Padres

April 18, 1985|CHRIS COBBS | Times Staff Writer and Times Staff Writers Marc Appleman and Gordon Edes contributed to this story.

SAN DIEGO — There is a saying in the fashion world that women's hemlines rise when the economy is strong and fall when hard times set in.

The converse of this relationship seems to exist in the rivalry between the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres.

Consider the matter from a Padre perspective. When times are bad--which takes in most of the team's recorded history--beating the Dodgers is of cosmic importance. San Diego's spirits rise when the Dodgers fall.

But now that the Padres are flourishing--they knocked off the Chicago Cubs in the National League playoffs and made it to the World Series last year--beating the Dodgers is not quite the high it once was.

Don't misunderstand. Dodger Blue is still a symbol of much that is wrong with the world in the eyes of San Diego players and fans. Los Angeles in general and Manager Tom Lasorda in particular remain targets of scorn.

The difference is, the Padres' triumphs of 1984 have made people in San Diego somewhat more secure. There are other villains out there besides the Dodgers. Bob Horner is well again down in Atlanta, so the Braves loom as contenders. And, as every wearer of a Cubs-Buster T-shirt knows, Chicago is still home to Rick Sutcliffe, Ryne Sandberg and Mike Royko.

No doubt, there will be plenty of strong feelings in evidence when the Dodgers make their first appearance of the new season at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium today (1 p.m.) Ticket sales are strong, with a crowd of 35,000 to 40,000 expected. Crowds on that order are anticipated Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Lasorda and the Padres, however, are keeping matters in perspective.

"The rivalry is a good one," the Dodger manager said. "It's great for the fans, the cities and the league. By the same token, we have the same thing with Atlanta, San Francisco and you even see it in Houston.

"We want both cities to profit by something like this. If it brings fans into the ballpark, then it's a decent rivalry, as long as it's done with good taste."

Lasorda seemed to suggest that the line was crossed last year when San Diego fans were handed buttons that read, "Kick the Dodgers." But he didn't follow up with any threats or unkind sentiments that might raise the eyebrows of Peter Ueberroth.

Keeping things at the height of good taste was Steve Garvey, the ex-Dodger whose finest moment was as a Padre in the fourth game of last year's playoffs. He discussed some of the changes in the Los Angeles-San Diego rivalry.

"The series was relatively one-sided through the years," Garvey said. "It used to be more important for the Padres to beat the Dodgers in order to establish credibility.

"The Padres were always a thorn in the Dodgers' side when I was over there. But from the Dodger viewpoint they were just another National League team we needed to beat. There was not a rivalry atmosphere."

The Garv's memory was slightly astray in regard to the one-sidedness of the series. The Dodgers, actually, have dominated the series, 161-120. The Padres, after losing 16 of 18 games in 1974, rallied and did well at home in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The high point for San Diego was 1983, when the Padres won 12 of 18 from the Dodgers. Last season the Dodgers held a 10-8 edge.

Garvey regards this rivalry as one of the best in baseball, but beating Los Angeles is not a consuming passion for him. "Time has more or less put life in perspective," he said. "It may have had a sweeter taste my first year here (1983). Now they're another team we have to beat."

Garvey still has numerous friends among the Dodgers, including Jay Johnstone, Bob Welch and Mike Marshall.

Infielder Tim Flannery--who has been with the Padres longer than any other player on the roster--defined the rivalry in stronger terms than Garvey.

"Back in 1979, '80 and '81, beating the Dodgers was our season," Flannery said. "We always finished at the bottom of the pile. Our only excitement was beating the Dodgers.

"But it's not like that now. We have more of a rivalry with the Braves than the Dodgers. Beating the Braves is sweeter than beating the Dodgers."

San Diego's Kurt Bevacqua, one of the more colorful figures in the rivalry, has shifted gears.

After inciting Lasorda's ire three years ago with a line about the manager's girth and lineage, Bevacqua has backed off on the personality side of the rivalry.

"I always respected the Dodgers," Bevacqua said. "Tommy and I had jabs directed at each other, but they were not aimed at their players.

"There's more of a baseball rivalry now. It's weird . . . they respected us last year as they proved by winning the series from us. I think they had been taking us seriously for several years."

Bevacqua became more than a footnote in the history of the series when he spoke out in July 1982 in the wake of a beanball incident. Dodger pitcher Tom Niedenfuer was fined $500 for hitting the Padres' Joe Lefebvre, which prompted Bevacqua to say:

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