Team owner Ray Kroc died of heart disease on January 14. Ownership of the team passed to his wife, Joan B. Kroc. The team would wear Ray's initials, "RAK" on their jersey's left sleeve during the entire season.
The Padres started the season 18–11 before losing seven in a row. They finished the season with a 92–70 record, winning the NL the National League West division by 12 games despite having no players with 100-RBI and only two batters with 20-HR. They were managed by Dick Williams and had an offense that featured veterans Steve Garvey, Garry Templeton, Graig Nettles, Alan Wiggins as well as future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn, who captured his first his eight National League batting championships that year. The Padres pitching staff in 1984 featured Eric Show (15–9), Ed Whitson (14–8), Mark Thurmond (14–8), Tim Lollar (11–13), and Goose Gossage as their closer (10–6, 2.90 ERA and 25 saves).
Though he was not even in the line-up for the day's game against the Atlanta Braves, Kurt Bevacqua became the centerpiece of an August 12 brawl. Braves pitcher Pascual Pérez hit Alan Wiggins with the very first pitch of the game. Padres pitcher Ed Whitson responded by pitching inside to Pérez when he came to bat in the second inning. Home plateumpire Steve Rippley warned Whitson, but Whitson threw at him again in the fourth, regardless, causing both benches to clear and Whitson and Padres manager Dick Williams to get ejected. Eventually, Pérez was hit by a pitch from Craig Lefferts, causing benches to again clear. The final brawl of the evening occurred in the ninth, when Graig Nettles, who had homered in his previous at-bat, was hit by Donnie Moore leading off the inning. In total, both managers, both replacement managers, four pitchers and five position players were ejected from the game. After the ninth inning melee, a fan at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium threw a beer at Bevacqua, causing Bevacqua to go into the stands after the fan. He was restrained by security guards.
As if to tease their fatalistic fans, the Cubs started out well in the final and deciding game of the series. Durham hit a two-run homer in the first and Davis added a solo homer in the second to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead. With National LeagueCy Young Award winner and Game 1 victor Rick Sutcliffe pitching brilliantly, the Cubs maintained their lead until the bottom of the sixth. Then disaster struck in a way that left many Cubs fans muttering about curses and other storied collapses in the franchise's history.
Chicago's downfall began innocently enough, with San Diego getting two sacrifice flies in the sixth to cut the Cubs' lead to 3-2. But the Padres' seventh proved catastrophic for Chicago. Carmelo Martínez led off the inning with a walk, was sacrificed to second by Garry Templeton, and scored when Tim Flannery's grounder trickled through Durham's legs for a crucial error. Alan Wiggins singled Flannery to second, and Gwynn doubled both runners home to give the Padres a 5-3 lead. Garvey followed with an RBI single to stretch the lead to 6-3. Steve Trout then replaced Sutcliffe on the mound and got out of the inning unscathed. The Cubs got three baserunners over the final two innings against Gossage but could not score, and San Diego took home its first National League pennant.
In the 1984 World Series, the Padres faced the powerful Detroit Tigers, who steamrolled through the regular season with 104 victories (and had started out with a 35-5 record, the best ever through the first 40 games). The Tigers were managed by Sparky Anderson and featured shortstop and native San Diegan Alan Trammell and outfielder Kirk Gibson, along with Lance Parrish and DH Darrell Evans. The pitching staff was bolstered by ace Jack Morris (19-11, 3.60 ERA), Dan Petry (18-8), Milt Wilcox (17-8), and closer Willie Hernandez (9-3, 1.92 ERA with 32 saves). Jack Morris would win games 1 and 4 and the Tigers would go on to win the Series 4-games-to-1.
Reporter Barry Bloom of MLB.com wrote in 2011 that "the postseason in ’84 is still the most exciting week of Major League Baseball ever played in San Diego."
^ abJohnson, Jay; Hughes, Joe (October 5, 1984). "Full house beats 9 Cubs". Evening Tribune. p. A-1. "The scene was joyous pandemonium after the game, as long-suffering fans danced in the aisles, hugged total strangers, whooped and sang along as "Cub-Busters" played on the stadium's loudspeakers."
^Sauer, Mark (October 6, 1984). "With a toast from the host ... Padres' faithful primed for game 4 -- and maybe game 5". The San Diego Union. p. A-1. "'The Cub Busters T-shirts have been the hottest item, but stuff we hadn't sold in years suddenly started moving,' said Croasdale."
^Laurence, Robert P. (October 2, 1984). "'Busters' promoter Cub at heart". The San Diego Union. p. B-1. "Logan came up with the design after hearing the 'Ghostbusters' theme song at a Padres-Mets game in August, and his creation is without a doubt the hottest selling item in the Padres' inventory as excitement builds going into today's first game of the National League playoffs."