A young man in Yuma, a pile of beer cans at his feet, booed lustily as San Diego Shortstop Garry Templeton stepped into the batter's box. No stranger to such a greeting, Templeton responded by tagging the second of his three hits that afternoon. Dick Williams, the new Padre manager, watched Templeton cavort around the infield and said, "He's the best shortstop I've ever seen." Templeton may have had his disputes with Whitey Herzog, his former manager with the Cardinals, but he won't argue with Williams on this subject. Templeton wears a diamond-studded pendant shaped like a "1," the number he wears on his uniform and in his heart. Unhappy in St. Louis, Templeton let St. Louis fans, unappreciative of his attitude and conduct on the field, know who was No. 1 by thrusting his middle finger at them.
So, in an exchange of disgruntled shortstops, the Padres sent Ozzie Smith to the Cardinals and acquired the 26-year-old Templeton, a .305 career hitter who may be the best player San Diego has ever had in its 13 seasons as a major league team. "I'm doing more things here than I did in St. Louis," Templeton says. "I'm utilizing all the talent I have and not just parts of it. Playing on grass you can have more fun. On AstroTurf [in St. Louis], I was always laid back, nonchalant. On dirt [in San Diego], you have to hustle a lot."
San Diego has two important rebuilding blocks: players who can hit for a good average, and team speed. Under Frank Howard last year, the Padres fell from first to eighth in stolen bases. Williams, who stresses fundamentals, promises to have his club running again, and with Templeton and outfielders Billy North and Gene Richards, he should make good on that promise.
What San Diego could use, though, is some power: In 55 home games in 1981, the Padres hit all of nine home runs. Their home run leader was Joe Lefebvre, who had eight. Unable to acquire someone with sock, the Padre brass did the next-best thing: They replaced the towering 17-foot outfield fence with one that was half as high. Of course, visiting teams will get a blast out of that too.
"Pitching and defense are what win games," Williams says. "We have a sound defense," he adds, leaving unsaid the unsound nature of a pitching staff that yielded a major league high 3.72 walks per game in 1981 and whose top starter is Juan Eichelberger (8-8). The club's saving grace—literally—should be lefty reliever Gary Lucas, who was 7-7 in 1981 with a 2.00 ERA and 13 saves in a league-leading 57 appearances.
"The Padres have been losing so long, it may be drilled into them," said John (The Count) Montefusco, the ex-Giant and Brave who joined the Padres this spring. "Once you're down, you're down for the count." Montefusco chuckled at his self-promotion. "I wish I could be like this all season," he said. Don't count on it.
How can the same man be a career .202 hitter in the first month of the season and a .347 hitter in the last? Leftfielder Gene Richards is. Since coming up in 1977, Richards has batted a lamb-like .140, .234, .235, .213 and .173 in April, but a lion-like .350, .378, .349, .333 and .333 from Sept. 1 through the end of the season. His overall career average is .294.