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This day in 1998...

Turns out not much stuff happens in early January

Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

1998 was a pretty good year to be alive. Rancid put out the Life Won’t Wait album, I didn’t have many cares or responsibilities, and the Padres kept playing baseball all the way through the fourth game of the World Series. It’s that last one that I’ll be reliving all year long here at Gaslamp Ball. Of course, it will be a lot easier to look back 20 years to the day once late February rolls around and there are Spring Training stories to revisit. The Padres did acquire a starting pitcher on January 7, but you’ll just have to wait until Sunday for that.

For now, the only thing even remotely Padres-related that happened on this particular day 20 years ago involved an old friend who eventually ended up in the team hall of fame. I doubt he has it noted on his calendar, but today is the anniversary of Benito Santiago totaling his Ferrari.

I stumbled across the dubious anniversary while scrolling through L.A. Times archives. The story is from January 5 but, you know, newspapers. It does mention that the incident happened on Sunday, so I checked a 1998 calendar to make sure and, yep, that was January 4.

At any rate, Santiago, who was by then with the Blue Jays after spending the past five years with the Marlins and Reds, was driving “at a pretty high rate of speed,” lost control, and hit a tree. lost control, and hit a tree. At the time it seemed that his injuries weren’t very serious — those are the exact words the hospital spokesman used — it sidelined him almost the entire season and nearly even permanently cost him his ability to walk.

From a 2005 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story:

Santiago’s greatest setback came Jan. 4, 1998, when he crashed his 355 Spider into a tree in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He had a fractured pelvis and a damaged ligament in his right knee and needed multiple surgeries in the next five months.

Beside the point, but when I was reading the original L.A. Times article I wondered if the Ferrari in question was the same one on the front of his 1997 Fleer baseball card, and this confirms that for me.

Well, that’s it for January 4, 1998. See you back here on January 7 of this year to talk about the pitcher they got back then.