The Legendary Ray Kroc Tirade That Almost Made the Padres Quit


On October 5, 1902, Ray Albert Kroc—who is set to be immortalized in December's The Founder, where he'll be portrayed by Michael Keaton—was born in Oak Park, Illinois, the village neighboring Chicago's West Side.

From the age of 7, Kroc was a Chicago Cubs super fan, and remained a fan of the team throughout his life. He was a Cubs fan when he lied about being 15 years old to get behind the wheel of Red Cross ambulances during World War I. He was still a fan when he worked as a milkshake machine salesman, and when he developed a business relationship with his clients, the McDonald brothers. He was a fan in 1955 when he founded McDonald’s System, Inc., and when he bought the brothers out six years later.

By 1972, the arthritis in Kroc's hip limited his day-to-day activities as the face of his own company. It was then that he decided the time "seemed ripe" to turn his lifelong appreciation of the Cubs into a business, and make an offer to buy the team.

As Kroc wrote in his memoir Grinding It Out: The Making Of McDonald's, Phil Wrigley, the owner of the Cubs, wouldn't even talk to him, despite the fact that Kroc had heard he was the "sort of person" to whom Wrigley might be willing to sell the team. "That made me madder than hell, because Wrigley is just sitting on that team," Kroc wrote. "He hasn't done a damn thing to improve them, but he won't give them up and let someone else do it. It's idiotic." Phil Wrigley passed away in 1977, the same year Grinding It Out was first published. His family sold the Cubs to the Tribune Company in 1981.

But back in 1973, Kroc was impatient. At the same time, after only five seasons as a major league franchise, the San Diego Padres were on the verge of being sold and relocated to Washington, D.C. The D.C. sale was so close that Topps began printing baseball cards for the 1974 season with Padres players labeled as members of "Washington, Nat’l Lea."

But as the sale was being finalized, the city of San Diego threatened to sue the team’s owner, C. Arnholt Smith, for breaking the lease on the stadium. Meanwhile, Smith’s U.S. National Bank was declared insolvent—the largest bank bankruptcy in U.S. history to that point. While the Washington negotiations were stalling, Kroc read about the impending sale and pounced, purchasing the franchise for around $12.5 million, and agreeing to keep the lowly team in San Diego. When Kroc told his wife, Joni, that he wanted to buy the San Diego Padres, she asked, "What on Earth is that, a monastery?"

After his new team began the season by losing three straight games to the Dodgers in Los Angeles by a combined score of 25-2, Kroc made it clear that he wasn't going to be a silent sports owner. "It was a lost weekend," he said of the opening series. "The season opens tomorrow night. These are professionals, and they're going to win for us."

Kroc's comments on April 8, 1974 are lost to memory because it was the same night that Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run to break Babe Ruth's all-time record. Aaron and the Braves won that night 7-4, giving the Dodgers their first loss of the season.

Aaron's culturally significant moment was still fresh on everybody's mind the next night, when the Padres hosted the Houston Astros in their home opener. Anything was possible—even a Padres win. The 39,083 fans in attendance that night at San Diego Stadium were about to witness baseball history for the second night in a row. Why? Because it was the San Diego Chicken's baseball debut.

The San Diego Chicken was the creation of KGB-FM radio and was known—during the Cold War, no less—as the KGB Chicken. One month removed from wearing the suit for the first time at the San Diego Zoo, Ted Giannoulas found himself portraying the iconic mascot at San Diego Stadium on that fateful April night.

Things started off fine during the 1974 home opener—Kroc even addressed the crowd on the field during the opening introductions. "With your help and God’s help, we’ll give ‘em hell tonight," he proclaimed. It seemingly fell on deaf ears, as the Astros started off with a 6-1 lead through just two innings of play. The Padres cut it to 6-2 and were threatening to make it closer when they had the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Instead, Bobby Tolan popped the ball up to the catcher, who then fired to second base to double off two-time All-Star Matty Alou to end the inning. The Astros added a run in the next half inning. In the top of the eighth, Houston tacked on two more runs to make it 9-2.

During the latter stages of the game, Kroc and Padres team president Buzzie Bavasi were sitting together when Bavasi received a phone call informing him that a leak in the clubhouse from a concession stand had been promoted to flood status. Bavasi left Kroc so that he could attend to the matter. Either before or after the phone call, Kroc sent an usher down to visit announcer John DeMott and ask when the best time would be for Kroc to address the crowd.

Soon after DeMott gave his answer, the usher and Kroc went into DeMott's booth; the PA announcer's wife and 5-year-old son were also there. Hearing that the new owner was going to speak, Padres radio broadcaster Jerry Coleman instructed his producer and engineer to pick it up on their field microphone.

After the end of the Astros' half of the eighth, DeMott introduced Kroc, who began by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, I suffer with you.” As he said this, a nude streaker climbed over the third base railing and ran across the infield, at first out of Kroc's eyesight. Kroc then spotted the streaker and realized the crowd wasn't reacting to his words, but to the nude man on the field. That's when the McDonald's founder raised his voice.

In 1990, the Los Angeles Times had Kroc blaring, "Get him out of here. Throw him in jail." The agitated Kroc then added something like, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the Dodgers drew 31,000 for their opener and we’ve drawn 39,000 for ours. The bad news is that this is the most stupid baseball playing I’ve ever seen.”

No matter what the exact lines, the San Diego Stadium crowd—except, presumably, the streaker—cheered. Coleman simply told his listeners, "Ladies and gentlemen, that was Padres owner Ray Kroc." He had no idea what else there was to say.

In 2014, DeMott maintained that the "older, conservative, and moral" Kroc grew angry because of the naked man running across the infield in front of DeMott's wife and young child. No matter the excuse, Bavasi was on an elevator and missed most of what Kroc said, and assumed he didn't say anything people would still be talking about over 40 years later. When writers ambushed him for a comment and informed him of what had just happened, Bavasi rushed down to yell at DeMott in his booth, demanding to know how he could have allowed Kroc do that. "Buzzie, it's his dime," DeMott replied.

The Padres scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth before losing 9-5. When Kroc returned to his hotel room, Joni called him to tell him she was ashamed of his behavior and asked if he was drunk. He was not. He was, as he wrote in his book, "just plain mad as hell."

His comments were not appreciated by most of his players. The Padres considered boycotting the next game before Kroc apologized to the team through its player representative, and future Hall of Famer, Willie "Big Mac" McCovey. After the game, McCovey was the one just plain mad as hell. "I’ve never heard anything like that in my 19 years in baseball. None of us likes being called stupid. We’re pros and we’re doing the best we can. His words will ring in the players’ ears for a long time.”

Denis Minke, the Astros' player rep, got McDonald's involved in his statement. "He isn't dealing with hamburger people; he's dealing with professional athletes."

Astros third baseman Doug Rader probably didn't go out to the Golden Arches for a celebratory burger either. "He thinks he's in a sales convention dealing with a bunch of short-order cooks," Rader said. "That's not the way to go about getting a winner. Somebody ought to sit him down and straighten him out."

With Rader's comments in mind, the first game of the next home series against the Astros was deemed Short-Order Cooks Night, as decreed by Bavasi. Rader played along, wearing a chef's hat and an apron, and carrying a skillet and spatula when he gave the lineup card to the home plate umpire, which he presented by slipping it off the skillet like a pancake.

Only 300 fans that night wore a chef's hat to get in for free, but overall attendance for the Padres for the 1974 season went up significantly from the previous year—611,826 witnessed the National League’s last-place Padres in person in 1973; 1,075,399 watched the last-place Padres at San Diego Stadium in Kroc's inaugural campaign.

Dave Campbell, who finished his career as an Astro in 1974 before a long career announcing games, starting doing Padres play-by-play on the radio. He remembered the incident in 1990, saying that, "The long-term interpretation of what Kroc said was that the people of San Diego realized they finally had an owner who cared."

The team got better. Eventually.

In 1979, Kroc was fined $100,000 by the commissioner of baseball after openly claiming he would go after Joe Morgan and Graig Nettles when they became free agents, which is a tampering violation in the majors. Soon after, Kroc said "baseball can go to hell" and turned day-to-day administrative duties over to his son-in-law. On January 14, 1984, Kroc passed away. That October, the San Diego Padres made their first-ever World Series appearance.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
15 Things You Might Not Know About The Sandlot
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

What, you haven’t seen The Sandlot? You’re killing me, Smalls.

OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Roger Ebert got it right: The Sandlot is like the summer version of A Christmas Story. They’re not penned by the same screenwriter and they don’t share a director or even actors, but both make you feel nostalgic for a childhood you probably didn’t even have.

No matter how many times you’ve watched Squints execute his plan to get to first base with Wendy Peffercorn, there’s bound to be something you don’t know about this modern classic. On the 25th anniversary of the movie's release, here are 15 of our favorite The Sandlot secrets.


Originally called The Boys of Summer, the film's name had to be changed because there was already a famous baseball book by the same title.


The movie was inspired in part by a childhood experience co-writer/director David Mickey Evans’s brother had. Some older boys wouldn’t let Evans play baseball with him. When they lost a ball over a brick wall, he thought he could get on their good side by retrieving it for them. When he hopped the wall, however, he found a giant dog named Hercules waiting for him—and he was bitten.


It was shot in just 42 days.


Casting directors originally wanted the kids to be 9 to 10 years old, but as they began casting, "it became obvious real fast the kids were much too young," Evans told Sports Illustrated. "So I said, 'We've got to make them 12 or 13.' We knew it was the right decision instantly, because the first kid that we interviewed was Mike Vitar [who played Benny Rodriguez]."


The cast of 'The Sandlot' (1993)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The production crew had been agonizing over how they were going to pull off a tree that size—"We were looking at having to buy an oak tree, and a specimen that big, if you can even find one, is hundreds of thousands of dollars," Evans told Sports Illustrated—when they happened to notice one being chopped down not far from the production offices. The 100-year-old oak was interfering with the foundation of the house it was planted next to. The man removing it agreed to give it to the crew, and Salt Lake City’s utility companies took down power and telephone lines on certain streets so the tree could be hauled safely to the empty lot where filming was taking place. It was cemented into the ground there and became an iconic part of the movie.


Marty York, the actor who played Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan, originally read for Bertram. Not only did York not get the Bertram role, he wasn’t the first choice for Yeah-Yeah, either. The kid cast for Yeah-Yeah got sick just as the movie was scheduled to start filming, and York replaced him.


The chewing tobacco from the carnival scene was really made out of licorice and bacon bits—and that, the actors later said, combined with riding the carnival rides for so many takes, made them as sick as their fictional counterparts got. (The vomit from that scene, by the way, was a mixture of split pea soup, baked beans, oatmeal, water, and gelatin.)


It was so hot during the daytime shoots—upwards of 110 degrees—that the actor who played Scotty Smalls, Tom Guiry, got weak from running around in the heat and fell into one of the cameramen.


On the other hand, the famous pool scene was actually freezing. The day was overcast and the water was just 56 degrees. Evans says you can actually see Squints’s teeth chattering while he’s staring longingly at Wendy Peffercorn from the pool.


Speaking of the Squints scam: Evans had to give actor Chauncey Leopardi a stern reminder before the scene was shot: “You keep your tongue in your mouth, you understand?”


Wendy was partly based on a girl Evans remembers from his childhood—a lifeguard in a red bathing suit named Bunny.


The kids were super impressed that Darth Vader was on set—James Earl Jones, of course, played junkyard owner Mr. Mertle. (They were almost as taken with Marley Shelton, who played Wendy.)


When the young cast wasn’t acting, they were getting into the kind of shenanigans that their Sandlot alter egos surely would have been proud of—they snuck in to see Basic Instinct.


The Beast—a.k.a. Hercules, an English Mastiff—was played, in part, by a puppet. It took two people to operate. If you don’t mind ruining the movie magic, you can see the behind-the-scenes photos on Evans’s blog.

Some scenes with the Beast called for a real dog (two, actually). When Smalls and Hercules make friends at the end, they got the dog to lick his face by smearing baby food on one half of Tom Guiry’s face. "That scene where I’m looking to the side, the other half of me is just slathered in this baby goo. That dog had a field day on my face," Guiry told Time. "I’m a dog-lover though, so it didn’t really bother me.”


The Sandlot was at the center of a lawsuit that eventually had a major impact on Hollywood. A man named Michael Polydoros sued 20th Century Fox, claiming that his former classmate, David Mickey Evans, had based the character of Michael “Squints” Palledorous on him, and that it caused him embarrassment and humiliation. A judge decided that there wasn’t enough similarity to justify the lawsuit, meaning that movie studios could continue using characters inspired in part by real-life people.

10 of the Most Valuable Baseball Cards in the World

If baseball is America’s national pastime, then collecting baseball cards is a close second. Closets, crawl spaces, and attics across the country are full of cards from every era—from the days of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams to Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols. But not all of them are going to pay off your student loans or put you in a new house.

Baseball card values depend on many factors, like age, condition, scarcity, and the collectible market trends at the time. With all that in mind, we're taking a look at 10 of the most valuable baseball cards in the world.

1. HONUS WAGNER, 1909-1911 ATC T206 // $3.12 MILLION

If you know anything about baseball cards, it won't come as a shock that this Honus Wagner card sold for a staggering $3.12 million in 2016, besting its previous high of $2.8 million from 2007. Widely considered to be the "Holy Grail" of baseball collectibles, the card's value is forever tied to its backstory. It was originally produced by the American Tobacco Company and was included in packs of the company's cigarettes. But, for reasons that still aren't completely clear, Wagner made the company pull the card from the market, resulting in anywhere from only 25 to 200 ever being released—and more than 100 years later, the scarcity has made it a landmark in sports collectibles.


Joining Wagner in the more-than-a-million-dollars card club is none other than Mickey Mantle. More specifically, it's his 1952 Topps Major League card that went for $1.13 million at auction in 2016. Its Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) grade, which scores a card's condition, is an astounding 8.5 out of 10, making it one of the most attractive Mantle cards out there. But even copies with lower scores have gone for significant amounts, with grades of 6 and 7 regularly going for more than $100,000. But in a few weeks this list might need updating—another 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is up for auction in April, this time with a PSA grade of 9. Its pre-auction estimate is a mighty $3.5 million-plus.

3. BABE RUTH, 1916 SPORTING NEWS // $717,000

Babe Ruth’s Sporting News card from 1916 (his pre-Yankee days) sold for $717,000 in a 2016 auction. It was far from the only auction that featured this card of a young Bambino, though. In 2017, the same card with the same PSA grade fetched around $550,000. It's just another example of how selling at the right time and finding the right buyer can make a six-figure difference.


So how did a card like this wind up taking $717,000 at auction? It's not nearly as old as a Ruth card, yet it went for just as much money. Well, for one, it features Pete Rose on it, and anything with "The Hit King" is going to get some interest. Another reason is that it was graded a perfect 10 by the PSA, which is exceedingly rare for any card of its age. It's the only copy of this particular card ever to get that rating, and for collectors, that's a big deal. This one won't fetch nearly as much in any other condition, though, as a 9 grade might get around $70,000 at auction.


"Shoeless" Joe Jackson was the most high-profile baseball name to be linked to the notorious Black Sox Scandal, but that hasn't hurt his worth on the collectible market. In 2016, a PSA grade 8 copy of what's considered to be Jackson's rookie card sold at auction for $667,149. In 2008, the same card with a lower grade went for $86,975, so it just goes to show that a card's condition can make all the difference.


Like the Rose rookie card, this Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman combo piece was rated a perfect 10 and was rewarded with $612,359 at auction, far higher than it would have been otherwise. In fact, of the 8000 Ryan/Koosman rookie cards that have been submitted, it's the only one to receive a perfect score. And that pristine condition is exactly why it commanded that price—when you put a 9 grade on the same card, for example, its value goes down to around $20,000 to $30,000.

7. BABE RUTH, 1914 BALTIMORE NEWS // $575,000

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Babe wound up on this list twice. This time, the Sultan of Swat is seen as a minor league pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, well before his home run prowess was realized. In 2012, Robert Edwards Auctions sold a PSA 2 graded copy of the card for an impressive $575,000. And if you want a rare card, this is it: It's generally agreed upon that there are only around 10 in existence.

8. WILLIE MAYS, 1952 TOPPS // $478,000

In 2016, Heritage Auctions held a Sports Collectibles Auction that over three days sold $11 million of memorabilia. The single most valuable item sold was a $478,000 Willie Mays card. While not his rookie card, it was the first Topps card to feature the legendary centerfielder.

9. ROBERTO CLEMENTE, 1955 TOPPS // $478,000

All-time great Roberto Clemente, a member of the 3000-hit club and the Baseball Hall of Fame, died tragically in a plane crash en route to Nicaragua to contribute to earthquake relief in 1972. In 2012, his 1955 rookie card—graded a rare 10 by PSA—sold for $432,690. But four years later (showing that timing can be more important than grade), a 1955 Roberto Clemente card that was graded a 9 sold for $478,000 (however, the same card with a PSA grade of 8 is worth around $30,000). An interesting note about the 2012 sale is that the card was owned by former big leaguer Dmitri Young, who auctioned a large portion of his impressive collection in 2012 for $2.4 million.

10. JOE DOYLE, N.Y. NAT'L, 1909-1911 ATC T206 // $414,750

“Slow Joe” Doyle might not be the most famous player on this list, but he has one of the most notorious cards on the market. First off, this particular card is over 100 years old, so there are reported to be less than a dozen in circulation. But most importantly, there was a printing error on the card, listing Doyle as playing for New York's National League team, rather than the correct American League team (he was a member of the New York Highlanders, which would eventually become the Yankees; it’s thought the confusion was due to Larry Doyle being on New York’s National League team). The error was quickly fixed, so a majority of them hit the market with the correct wording. The card has come to auction only a few times in recent years, bringing in anywhere from $64,099 to a staggering $414,750. Not bad for a pitcher with a career record of 22-21.


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