For 41 years, Ted Leitner was an anchor play-by-play man on San Diego Padres radio broadcasts. Through all those seemingly endless seasons, he never was able to call a Padres pitcher tossing a no-hitter.
Not even now as local San Diego kid Joe Musgrove twirled the first one ever for a club that was born a National League expansion team in 1969 on Friday night, 3-0, over the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field.
Leitner, known around town as beloved Uncle Teddy, was removed from the broadcast booth by the club at the end of last season.
“I only broadcast 5,000-plus games,” Leitner responded to a text message. “NOW they do it.”
Such is life.
The no-hit drought actually lasted a record 8,205 games. For decades the Padres and New York Mets shared the same dubious distinction as the only teams in Major League Baseball history to go no-no less.
Johan Santana broke the New York streak of shame on June 1, 2012, leaving the Padres to stand alone. It took them nearly another nine years to do the same.
There was a time when the Padres hit the trifecta: no no-no, no cycle (single, double, triple and homer by the same hitter in the same game), no World Series titles.
Matt Kemp hit for the club’s first cycle in 2015, followed two years later by Wil Myers. Both were in Colorado.
Now that Musgrove served up the no-no on the road, only winning the World Series remains on the docket.
Leitner won’t be around to call that one, either. In fact, he only had one Padres World Series winning game to call in his long career: Game 2 of the 1984 World Series over the Detroit Tigers at now defunct Jack Murphy Stadium in Mission Valley.
They lost that series in five games and were swept by the New York Yankees in 1998, leaving them with a World Series record of 1-8.
Last year, the Padres made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and had their first winning record since 2010, 37-23, in the COVID-abbreviated 60-game season.
They beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the best-of-three mini first-round with no fans in the stands at Petco Park. That was special to a season when the playoffs expanded from 10 to 16 teams. But the Los Angeles Dodgers swept them in a National League Division Series.
The defending World Series champion Dodgers, who have won eight NL West titles in a row and have opened the current season 6-2, are again the Padres’ major impediment to postseason success.
So is the fact that the playoffs have contracted again back to 10 teams.
But hope springs eternal.
After signing record deals with Manny Machado in 2019 and Fernando Tatis Jr. this year, Padres general manager A.J. Preller turned to rebuilding the starting rotation, obtaining Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Musgrove through trades.
Musgrove came from the Pittsburgh Pirates in three-way deal this past Jan. 19 that sent pitcher Joey Lucchesi to the Mets. Musgrove was a 30-38 pitcher with a 4.28 ERA to show for his six seasons, including five losses last year in six decisions.
Who knew? But baseball history is littered with mediocre pitchers who stood out above all the rest for one fine day.
On Friday night, Musgrove was nearly perfect.
“Freaking efficient,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said.
Musgrove struck out 10, walked none, and faced 28 hitters instead of the regulation 27. He retired the first 11 men he faced and missed a perfect game by hitting Joey Gallo with a pitch in the leg with two out in the fourth. Gallo was the only Texas base runner as Musgrove retired the last 16 batters, throwing 112 pitches in all.
“It felt great to be in a Padres uniform when I did it,” Musgrove said in a postgame Zoom call. “That was the first no-hitter I’ve ever thrown in my life. Pretty neat that it came like this on a big stage.
“It feels even better and selfishly do it for my city and have everyone know the kid from Grossmont High threw the first no-hitter.”
Musgrove, 28, spent his formative years hanging out at the Padres old stadium and Petco. He was just 6 in 1998 the last time the Padres played in the World Series, and was 15 in 2007 when Jake Peavy won the NL Cy Young Award and the pitching Triple Crown that season with 19 wins, a 2.54 ERA and 240 strikeouts– the best season for a starter in club history.
Musgrove was so enthralled with Peavy he took his old No. 44 upon joining the Padres. Now he’s gone where Peavy, nor any other Padres pitcher has ever ventured.
And Uncle Teddy wasn’t in the booth to call it