I owe the entire Padres fan base a huge apology. I may be partially responsible for an extended period of baseball futility which has caused unspeakable suffering upon countless innocent fans. Today, I stand before you all to ask for your forgiveness. Please accept the ceremony that I have performed to banish the evil spirits that have lingered around our favorite sports franchise for far too long as an offering to you all and to the Baseball Gods. Today brings an end of an era and a clean slate for a new beginning for Padres baseball.
The Cursed Garment
Behold the Ryan Ludwick Padres jersey. I acquired this jersey in a charity auction for the San Diego Brain Tumor Foundation. My brother-in-law was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and through his treatment (he’s now a 10+ year survivor with no signs of remission) he became involved with this organization. Mark Merila was once a Padres minor leaguer whose career was cut short by a brain tumor. The organization retained him as a bullpen catcher and now a scout, which is a wonderful story in and of itself. He has remained connected with the San Diego Brain Tumor Foundation, and he regularly donates Padres memorabilia to help them raise money that they use to help patients undergoing treatment. They’re a wonderful organization that helps patients and families going through unfathomably difficult times. I highly recommend looking them up. If you’re interested in coming out for a great day of golf followed by a top-class dinner with some amazing people whose stories will leave you wringing tears from your napkin, please let me know. It’s a highlight of my year. I’d love to have you join us.
I first played in their annual golf tournament in 2011, and I scored this beautiful jersey at the silent auction on that fateful day. It’s the on-field jersey, in Ryan Ludwick’s size, and for all I know it could even be game-worn. It has an autograph and a sticker of authenticity and it’s the biggest, baddest, coolest piece of sports memorabilia I’ve had. Little did I know of the power that it held.
The Curse of Ryan Ludwick
I knew of Ryan Ludwick for helping carry my fantasy baseball team a couple of years prior, and I was stoked that the slugger was with the team. I had no idea who Corey Kluber was at the time, and I was oblivious to the fact that the Padres’ epic collapse in 2010 may have had a correlation with the mid-season trade that brought him to the team. You see, he was acquired at the trade deadline, when the Padres were having a miraculous season thanks to a surprisingly excellent pitching staff backed by some really good defense. He was the bat that was going to put their offense over the top and help the team roll deep in to the postseason. Instead, he hit .211/.301/.330 for the remainder of the season. The Padres collapsed, at one point losing ten games in a row. 2010 was the team’s last winning season, and they haven’t sniffed the playoffs since. Could it have had something to do with a overperforming team regressing to the mean? Maybe. Could it have been a curse? Quite possibly.
Ryan Ludwick was traded again not long after I acquired this jersey. He was sent to the Pirates at the trade deadline in 2011, one year to the day after joining the Padres, when they were experiencing a similarly mercurial season. You can probably guess what happened next. The Pirates lost ten games in a row, fell out of first place, and their season was over. This is much more than a coincidence. This is a cursed man, and I have been in possession of a cursed garment bearing his mark. I’ve worn this jersey to Padres’ MLB and AAA games, and the team has lost every game I have attended while adorned with it.
Preparation for a Cleansing
I don’t weigh the same as a duck, and therefore am not a witch. I’m not a particularly religious person, although I am an ordained minister under the Universal Life Church. What I am is a believer in the powers of the baseball gods. I’m also a person who can google things like how to prepare a ceremony without messing up and accidentally opening a gateway into another dimension or getting myself possessed by a messenger of the Egyptian god Horus or any such awfulness. To properly dispose of this garment and the evil spirits that it had manifested, I needed to perform a ritual burning. To accomplish this, I needed some simple supplies: some chalk, some candles, and a place to hold a fire. I have a fire pit on my patio. We have sidewalk chalk in the garage. I needed to make some candles.
The venerated Tony Gwynn worked with Alesmith to develop a particularly tasty brew called .394 San Diego Pale Ale. The bottles are screen printed in a most delightful fashion, and I deemed these containers appropriate for my means. After enjoying a half-dozen of these delicious beverages (not all at one sitting), I carefully cut the tops of them off, sanded them flat, melted some wax, and made some pretty cool candles all Pinterest-style. With my specially crafted candles prepared, I had all of the items I needed to perform this most sacred of rituals.
I welcome you all to this most holy of places. Please cast your fears and reservations aside as we enter a place of compassion, of plate discipline, and of clearing the machine. Once the circle of protection is completed, the baseball gods will watch over and protect all that it contains. All bad juju will be drawn in to a holy flame of purification, to undergo combustion and transformation by the elements, and only pure goodness will remain. We come here today to remove a curse that has been placed on our people for many seasons. We are here to remove the curse of Ryan Ludwick.
A holy flame of purification has been lit. This flame burns as one with the fire in the bellies of every kid who plays the game of base ball with a passion in his or her heart. This flame burns with the purity of spring’s first blossom. This flame will illuminate five candles to complete a circle of protection. Each candle represents a unique athletic gift belonging to a sacred baseball god.
Around the holy flame is a five-pointed star, a pentagram. This shape represents significant topics in mathematics and science, and is recognized in great religions spanning geography and time. The points of this star represent five equal baseball skills, the balance of which forms the ultimate player and the ultimate team. At each point of this star, a candle will be lit from the holy flame to summon the blessing of the spirits associated with each skill. The points of this pentagram define the boundary of the circle of purification. Between the points of this pentagram are inscribed the uniform numbers of those players retired by the Padres, invoking the greatness of Padres past. This circle will be completed when all five candles are lit. This circle shall be impenetrable, containing all that is good in the game of baseball, and repelling all evil slumps, errors, and misfortune.
One candle represents hitting for average. We call upon the spirits of Rogers Hornsby, Tris Speaker, Theodore Samuel Williams, and Anthony Keith Gwynn to bless this flame.
One candle represents hitting for power. We call upon the spirits of Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, David Mark Winfield, and Kenneth Gene Caminiti to bless this flame.
One candle represents speed of foot. We call upon the spirits of Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, and Eugene Richards to bless this flame.
One candle represents strength of throwing arm. We call upon the spirits of Nolan Ryan, Walter Johnson, Randall Leo Jones, and Trevor William Hoffman to bless this flame.
One candle represents excellence of defense. We call upon the spirits of Brooks Robinson, Osborne Earl Smith, Steven Patrick Garvey, and Benito Santiago Rivera to bless this flame.
With the lighting of the candles, we welcome the spirits of baseball past, present, and future to aid us in our most sacred of endeavors. Join us in this circle of purification. Let us remove our caps and pray.
Our Padre who art in Iowa, hallowed be thy name.
Thy championship come. Thy will be done, in Petco as it is in Iowa.
Give us this day our daily peanuts and cracker jacks.
And forgive us our boos, as we also have forgiven the errors of our players.
Lead us not to the time of slump, but rescue us from last place.
For thine is the championship, and the parade, and the ring, forever.
We are gathered here today to banish a curse that has befallen our beloved franchise. With this jersey comes the funk of slumping hitters, of balky pitchers, and of faulty fielders. This jersey contains memories of strife and frustration. These memories and this funk shall be consumed by the holy flame, to be returned to the æther where they will join the peanut gallery, far away from this mortal plane. Baseball gods, please accept this offering, and with it our struggles. Please remove these evil influences from our stadium, from our players, from our game.
We call upon you to protect the legs, the arms, and the hearts of those who don the Padre cloth, in that you shall see them on to future greatness. Protect the fans who have cheered their team through the darkest days, in that they shall see their beloved Padres rise to greatness. We thank you for your protection, and promise to forever remain faithful fans of our beloved Padres.
Please present the Ryan Ludwick Jersey. This jersey represents the misfortune that has befallen the Padres organization for many seasons. Years of hitting slumps, off-field incidents, PED suspensions, burnt-out prospects, washed-up veterans, torn quads, hamstrings, and ulnar collateral ligaments, and countless other plagues that have afflicted the Padres organization shall follow this jersey into the holy flame of purification. On behalf of all citizens of Padres nation, I RELEASE YOU.
Deliver the jersey into the flame
The ill fortunes of the Padres organization have now evaporated into the æther, far away from ballparks major and minor. Let us now walk on with heads held high, as we move ahead free of the burdens of our forebears. Join me in a closing prayer.
Padre, thank you that you have revealed Your love for the game to us today.
We invite You to send us out from here in the power of the spirit of baseball.
Fan into flame the gifts that you have given us,
Come reveal Your sportsmanship and honor to us each day.
For Yours is the championship, and the parade, and the ring,
Forever and ever.
Prologue: the ashes from tonight’s flame shall be ceremoniously buried in a vegetable garden, where their nutrients shall feed bountiful harvests for generations to come. So is the cycle of life. Play ball.