I don’t have an earliest baseball memory. Maybe it’s because I’m older than the average (or median) Gaslamp Baller. Maybe it’s because I played backyard baseball so much as a kid, they all blend together. I’m not sure. But my dad was (and is) always a huge baseball fan, and a Padres fan for as long as I can remember.
My mom grew up in Chula Vista, and my dad came to San Diego as a very young man, joining the Marines to avoid being drafted for the Korean War, and later going to what was then San Diego State Teacher’s College, later to become SDSU. My sisters grew up in the North County. So this whole San Diego thing was in my blood.
My first baseball game was in 1974. We lived in the San Fernando Valley and our neighbor was a firefighter and character TV actor, usually playing a heavy on ‘70s TV cop shows. He offered to take me and my brother to a Dodgers game. Sorry folks, yes my first MLB game was a Dodgers game, and I became a fan of that team. Don’t change that channel! It was only temporary.
I moved to San Diego from northeastern Washington in 1983 to attend UCSD. That lasted one year, when the money ran out. Two transfers later (via Grossmont College), and I was at my dad’s alma mater, SDSU. The next summer, 1984, was…well, you all know what that summer was. By this time I was well aware of the San Diego disdain for Los Angeles and was starting to absorb it by osmosis. Or peer pressure. Or something.
I jumped on the bandwagon. I tossed all of my Dodger hats, shirts, everything. All tossed into the trash. It helped that my childhood hero was now the first baseman of the team. I went to the World Series, both games, and still have the tickets. They are framed and featured prominently in what I refer to as The SamCave. I waited in line at midnight to get those tickets and remember paying some guy $50 to hold my place in line while I had to run back to my graveyard shift job for some reason.
So I got to witness, firsthand, the Padres’ only World Series win in the team’s history. I was in cheap seats in the outfield, and it was one of the funnest experiences of my life, with total strangers becoming sudden hugbuddies.
I don’t think of that year as the year I truly became a fan, however. It’s easy to become a "fan" when a team does well. I consider my true fandom proven when a couple of years later the team started the season 12-42 and I remained steadfast in my love for the team. Now, 33 years later, I remain a Padres fan.