February 26, 2018

By Chris Ello, February 26, 2018



In my many dealings with the Padres over the years, I met Kevin Towers many, many times. Though I couldn’t lie to you and say we were ever close friends, he always made me feel as if we were when I ran into him. Or when he took one of my phone calls. Or when he sat down for an interview.


Obviously, judging by the out-pouring of love and support for Towers at the Celebration of Life ceremony in his honor Sunday at Petco Park, there were many, many more who felt the same way I did.


Towers passed away at the far-too-soon age of 56 on Jan. 30 after battling a rare form of thyroid cancer for over a year. Representatives from several Major League ball clubs were on hand to pay tribute to the man. Brian Cashman from  the New York Yankees. Theo Epstein from  the Chicago Cubs. Walt Jocketty from the Cincinnati Reds.


And those weren’t even guys who ever managed for him. Bruce Bochy, now with the San Francisco Giants, and Bud Black, now with the Colorado Rockies, spoke about their former General Manager, as did the third manager to work under him, Kirk Gibson.


K.T., as he was called by nearly everyone in the baseball fraternity, was the subject of many phone calls I used to receive from listeners when I had a local radio talk show. As is often the case, fans would be critical of some his draft choices, or his trades, or just his decisions in general.


To all of those fans, I say, look at the record books.  Because when all of the winning and losing is added up, there is no question as to who was responsible for putting together the greatest Padres baseball teams of all time. No question at all.


Not only did K.T. build the 1998 National League champions, but he won three other NL West division titles with the Padres as well (tack on another NL West championship he won with Arizona). Every other man who ever was put in charge of the Padres won a grand total of only one. Scoreboard.


A close friend of mine, a long-time sportswriter, called me over to his lap-top computer in the Petco Park press box midway through last season and showed me the screen. He already had written the obituary for Kevin Towers months before K.T. actually died. The cancer was going to take Towers soon, he said. And he wanted to make sure that his written tribute to the greatest G.M. in Padres history was spot-on and ready.


Towers wasn’t yet ready, though. He battled on for another seven or eight months before passing.


In a lot of ways, he lives still.