SAN DIEGO — Considering this is a franchise that brought you Roseanne Barr singing the national anthem, a club president flipping off the crowd, a manager quitting on the eve of spring training, and a variety of fabled stories that made them the laughingstock of baseball through the '80s, maybe the incident shouldn't have been all that surprising.
Hey, we all know that Padre catcher Benito Santiago and Manager Greg Riddoch aren't the best of buddies. It was only last month that Riddoch benched Santiago, and Santiago ripped Riddoch in return.
So should it be that crazy to find out in the sixth inning of the Padres' 4-1 defeat to the Dodgers at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium that Santiago knocked out Riddoch, leaving the manager helpless on the bench, spending the rest of the game in the trainers' room?
Well, this is the Padres, remember?
Yes, it did happen, only instead of using his fists, Santiago used his batting helmet, appearing to knock Riddoch cold, resulting in a mild concussion.
"I've seen it all now," Padre outfielder Shawn Abner said.
Santiago, who before the game appeared to be in a pleasant mood, grounded out to Eddie Murray at first base in the sixth, ending the inning. It didn't seem like a big deal. No one was on base, and it hardly was a critical part of the game.
Yet, Santiago walked toward the dugout, and enraged, fired his batting helmet into the dugout. The helmet bounced off the ground, caromed off the wall, glanced off pitching coach Mike Roarke's forehead, and into the temple of Riddoch.
Jim Snyder, Padre bench coach, said that Riddoch never was unconscious. Photographers who witnessed the incident, however, said that Riddoch was out momentarily, and had to be assisted to the clubhouse by the Padres' trainers.
Riddoch never returned, spending the rest of the game listening to it on the radio with a headache. Riddoch didn't make himself available after the game, and was in his office speaking with Joe McIlvaine, Padre general manager.
"I've seen fights start because of (thrown helmets)," McIlvaine said, "but I've never seen somebody knocked out--if he was knocked out."
Will there be disciplinary action?
"Our manager is woozy," McIlvaine said. "It was a freak thing, but you certainly can't stand here and condone people throwing helmets."
Santiago refused to discuss the incident, mumbling something about "my luck."
Roarke also was mum on the matter, saying: "I don't even want to talk about it."
And just like that, the Padres managed to divert the focus of their sixth defeat in the past seven games, falling to a season-high 8 1/2 games behind the Dodgers, to yet another spectacle.
"I've seen it before," Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn said, "but I've never heard of anything as drastic as this. It's unfortunate. How can it be stopped? Very simply. When you make an out, walk your helmet back and slam it into the rack like I do."
Said Snyder: "I turned around to write on the scorecard, who was going to be hitting next inning, and it came flying by.
"Benny is very disturbed about it. He feels terrible. If you've ever been through it as a player, you feel terrible when you hurt somebody on the bench."
It hardly was the best of nights for Santiago, who will be announced today as the National League's starting catcher in the All-Star game. The Dodgers stole four bases against him, and he had a throwing error, setting up another run. It was the most stolen bases yielded by Santiago in a game this season.
Actually, Dodger starter Ramon Martinez (11-3) made it a miserable night for everyone. He allowed only six hits in his seven-inning stint, and never appeared in danger.
The only Padre who seemed to have clue how to hit Martinez was Gwynn, who went two for four and snapped out of his skid.
Gwynn, despite leading the major leagues with a .357 batting average, was hitting only .233 with one extra-base hit since June 23--the day Riddoch ordered Gwynn to take a day off in St. Louis.
"I ain't going to let Greg forget it," Gwynn said, "I've stunk ever since. No more days off for me. They better not even think about it."
But after a 10-day lapse, Gwynn was back to his old self. He got the Padres' first hit with a single in the first inning, and in the sixth, accounted for the Padres' lone run with a double to left field.
After Gwynn opened the sixth with a double, McGriff grounded to second, moving Gwynn to third. And Gwynn scored when Jerald Clark hit his grounder to the same spot.
The only other time Martinez got in trouble was in the seventh when he made a wild pitch . . . to first base. After retiring Thomas Howard on a fly ball to center and Scott Coolbaugh on a grounder to second, Martinez watched pinch-hitter Tom Lampkin lay down a bunt. Martinez called everyone off, fielded it cleanly, and threw to first.