I was a small kid in that long ago decade that brought us bell bottom jeans, polyester suits, The Village People, and Erik Estrada. My dad had just been laid off by a small junior college in a town south of Wichita, Kansas and trekked the family back to Southern California; this time, the San Fernando Valley. My dad grew up in Detroit, but became a man in San Diego and had ditched his A.L. fandom when the Padres became a team in 1969.
However, I was not from San Diego, and one of our neighbors was a firefighter who was also a bit part Hollywood actor, mostly playing a bad guy in bad TV cop shows. His son was my age and did TV adverts and print advertising. One day in 1974, my twin brother and I were invited with them to go to …a Dodger game. My first experience with Major League Baseball was at Chavez Ravine. My dad introduced me to the game. The Dodgers introduced me to the love of the game. I was hooked. And yes…I was a Dodger fan. I had hats and shirts and baseball cards signed by my heroes. (I know this is supposed to be about the Padres, but stick with me here a bit.) I sent cards to my heroes and had them sign them and send them back. Garvey, Cey, Russell, Smith, Sutton, et al.
Two years later my folks grew weary of the awfulness that is Los Angeles and moved us north. Way north, to the upper northeast corner of Washington state. My dad maintained his Padre fandom, I maintained my Dodger loyalty. I found football and the Seahawks the following year, but that’s another story for another blog.
When it came time to become a man myself, my compass pointed back southward. My dad was an SDSU grad. Actually, it wasn’t even SDSU then. It was just a teachers college. I first went to UCSD. Then I ran out of money and sat out a quarter. Next up, Grossmont College. At the time, the $5 per credit was too good to pass up. That took another five years because I was working full time and starting a family. Then came SDSU. But let’s backup…..to 1984.
When 1984 started I was still a Dodger fan. But as my time in San Diego grew, and I made a trip to L.A., I realized how much I detested the city. The Padres were in a pennant race and the city was electric with the energy. Steve Garvey, my childhood hero, was now a Padre. I got caught up in it. I called my younger brother, also a Dodger fan, back home and told him I was beginning to doubt my loyalty. Then it happened. I was working the graveyard shift at the Town & Country Hotel and left my post in the hands of a friend so that I could stand in line to get us World Series tickets. I got my prized tickets, after paying someone to let me cut in line. My brother had told me I could switch alliances, but that it was a permanent switch. No coming back. No more bandwagon hopping. So I tossed all of my Dodger merchandise – all of it – into the trash and said goodbye. (That brother followed me to San Diego three years later and also became a Padres fan, I’m happy to say. He has season tickets now.)
Smash cut to three years later. The Padres were embroiled in what was at the time one of the worst starts, if not the worst start, in Major League history: 12-42. At the time I didn’t see the significance in a .222 start. It was just another terrible season. But over the years I realized that while I jumped on a bandwagon in 1984, I earned my Padres’ fandom in 1987. My loyalty didn’t waiver in the slightest amount. I got to attend both 1984 home World Series games, one of which being the only World Series win in team history. The high fives and hugs with total strangers in the CF bleachers at the Murph are permanently burned into my psyche. I was a fan. I was hooked. I still am.