Unlike their fellow National League teams in California, the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Padres are a team in their original city, with no connection to New York. They've never even played the Mets in the Playoffs -- but they have played the Yankees in the World Series. (The Chargers, no longer in San Diego, have played the Jets in the Playoffs. San Diego has no NHL team, and has only had an NBA team briefly and not currently.)
Before You Go. Unlike the Seattle and San Francisco Bay Areas, but like the Los Angeles area, the San Diego area has very consistent weather. It's a nice place to visit, and there's little threat of earthquakes, mudslides and smog -- but there have been wildfires, including one that led to a Chargers home game being moved to Phoenix a few years ago.
The website of the San Diego Union-Tribune (yet another paper that, not that long ago, used to be two separate papers), is predicting mid-60s by day, mid-50s by night, and, as you might expect for San Diego, no precipitation for the entire weekend. A short-sleeve shirt should be enough, no jacket necessary. Just in case, you may want to bring sunscreen.
San Diego is in the Pacific Time Zone, 3 hours behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.
If you're planning on making a side trip to Tijuana, Mexico, 25 miles south of downtown San Diego, be sure to bring your passport. If you don't have a passport, it's too late to get one for this trip, so if you're going to San Diego, do not attempt to cross the Border. Also, the crossing cannot be done by public transportation: You'll need a car. The exchange rate heavily favors America: $1.00 currently = 18.53 pesos, while 1 peso is a shade over a nickel.
Tickets. The Padres averaged 26,401 fans per home game last season, at a park with a seating capacity of 42,524. That's about 66 percent of capacity. Getting tickets shouldn't be a problem.
Field View seating is $94, Terrace Infield (2nd level) is $50, Field Boxes are $45, Left Field and Right Field Lower Boxes are $42, Terrace Pavilion are $35, Field Pavilion (outfield corners) are $40, Terrace Reserved is $40, Left Field Bleachers are $30, and Upper Infield, Upper Pavilion and Right Field Reserved are $19.
Getting There. It's 2,803 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown San Diego, including Petco Park. In other words, if you're going, you're flying. After all, even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days' worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don't get pulled over for speeding, you'll still need over 2 full days. Each way.
But, if you really, really want to, well, in order to get there in time for this series, you're too late to see the whole thing. So, for future reference... You'll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. Take it to Exit 14, to Interstate 78. Follow I-78 west all the way through New Jersey, to Phillipsburg, and across the Delaware River into Easton, Pennsylvania. Continue west on I-78 until reaching Harrisburg. There, you will merge onto I-81. Take Exit 52 to U.S. Route 11, which will soon take you onto I-76. This is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation's 1st superhighway, opening in 1940.
The Turnpike will eventually be a joint run between I-76 and Interstate 70. Once that happens, you'll stay on I-70, all the way past Pittsburgh, across the little northern panhandle of West Virginia, and then across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, into Missouri.
At St. Louis, take Exit 40C onto Interstate 44 West, which will take you southwest across Missouri into Oklahoma. Upon reaching Oklahoma City, take Interstate 40 West, through the rest of the State, across the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico, into Arizona. At Flagstaff, take Interstate 17 South, which will take you into Phoenix. Take Interstate 10 West to Exit 112 for Arizona Route 85 South, to Gila Bend, right on Arizona route 238 West, which will flow into Interstate 8 West. This will take you across Arizona and California to San Diego.
If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and 15 minutes in New Jersey, 5 hours and 30 minutes in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in West Virginia, 3 hours and 45 minutes in Ohio, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Indiana, another 2 hours and 45 minutes in Illinois, 5 hours in Missouri, 6 hours in Oklahoma, 3 hours in Texas, 6 hours and 15 minutes in New Mexico, 6 hours in Arizona, and 3 hours in California. That's about 45 hours and 30 minutes. Counting rest stops, you're probably talking about 57 hours.
That's still faster than the bus or the train. Greyhound takes about 70 hours, changing buses anywhere from 2 to 4 times, $618 round-trip, although it can drop to $444 with advanced purchase. The station is at 1313 National Avenue at Commercial Street -- 3 blocks from the ballpark!)
Amtrak takes nearly 72 hours, and you'd have to take 3 separate trains -- each way. The Lake Shore Limited leaves Penn Station at 3:40 PM Eastern Time on Tuesday and arrives at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Wednesday. The Southwest Chief leaves Chicago at 3:00 PM on Wednesday, and arrives at Union Station in Los Angeles at 8:15 AM Pacific Time on Friday. Finally, switch to the Pacific Surfliner, leaving Los Angeles at 9:55 AM and arriving in San Diego's Santa Fe Depot at 12:54 PM. The round-trip fare is $536. The Santa Fe Depot is at 1050 Kettner Blvd. at Broadway.
Given Amtrak's and Greyhound's usual New York-to-San Diego price, you could, conceivably, get a non-stop flight from Newark to San Diego International Airport, also known as Lindbergh Field, for less. Not this weekend, though: It'll be a little over $1,000. The airport is only 5 miles northwest of downtown, and the Green Line trolley can get you downtown in less than half an hour.
Once In the City. San Diego was founded by Spain as a mission, San Diego of Alcalá (Saint Didacus in Latin), in 1769. Well into the 19th Century, it was larger than San Francisco, and even at the dawn of the 20th Century, was larger than Los Angeles. Being (just about literally) tucked away in a corner of the country, it was pretty much bypassed, but World War II led to a U.S. Navy base being built there, and its population took off again, to where it was major-league capable by the 1960s.
Today, over 1.4 million people live within the city limits, making it the 8th-largest city in the country. About and 3.3 million live in the metro area. Front Street is the delineator between streets with East and West as prefixes, while Broadway is that for those running North and South.
Sales tax is a minimum 7.5 percent in the State of California, and 8 percent in San Diego County, which includes, but is not contiguous with, the City of San Diego. ZIP Codes in the San Diego area start with the digits 919, 920 and 921, and the Area Codes are 619, 760 and 858.
Going In. Petco Park (sometimes listed incorrectly in ALL CAPS), named for the San Diego-headquartered chain of pet and pet supplies stores, opened in 2004. It has an official address, with the name and uniform number of the greatest Padre of them all (so far), of 19 Tony Gwynn Drive. It is bounded by 7th Avenue/Gwynn Drive on the 3rd base and home plate sides, Park Blvd. on the 1st base side, 10th Avenue on the right field side, and K Street on the center field side. It points north, with a good view of the downtown skyscrapers.
Petco Park, with the Convention Center in the background
The Gaslamp Gate and the Downtown Gate are in left field. The Balboa Park Gate, the East Village Gate (not to be confused with Lower Manhattan's East Village or the Broadway's Village Gate Theater) and the Park Blvd. Gate are in right field. And the Home Plate Gate is, well, you can probably guess.
Being in the California sunshine, the field has nearly always looked good. The left-field corner has the former Western Metal Supply Company warehouse, built into the stadium complex, as was the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad warehouse into Camden Yards in Baltimore. Unlike Baltimore, however, seating sections were built into this warehouse.
As with most of the "retro ballparks" built in the 1990s and 2000s, the field is not symmetrical. The left field pole is 334 feet from home plate, straightaway left is 367, left-center is 390, center is 396, right-center is 391, straightaway right is 382, and the right-field pole is a deceptive 322. The field is natural grass, and points north.
This is a pitcher's park, although a placement hitter like Gwynn or Dave Winfield would have been fine with it. The longest home run at the park is 471 feet, by Adrian Gonzalez, then with the Padres, in 2009. The longest home run at San Diego/Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium was 499, by Mark McGwire in 1998.
Food. Being just 15 miles from the Mexican border, you might expect Petco Park to feature Mexican and Southwestern-style food. Your expectations would be fulfilled: Behind home plate, on the Field Level, there is Bull Taco and La Cantina Bar; in the Upper Level, another La Cantina Bar is in left field and the Padres Mexican Cafe is in right field.
Team-themed stands abound: Friar Franks are all over, a health-food Friar Fit stand is at Field Level behind home plate, and the PCL Club (named for the city's old-time home, the Pacific Coast League) is at Field Level behind 1st base. On Terrace Level, behind 1st base, are Club 19 (for Gwynn) and Randy Jones BBQ (a variation of the Baltimore Boog Powell and Philadelphia Greg Luzinski theme). And the Hall of Fame Bar & Grill is on Terrace Level in left field.
There are also stands with local flavor: Anthony's Fish Grotto, home of the Padres' famed fish tacos, is behind home plate on both the Field and Terrace Levels. According to a recent Thrillist article on the best food at each MLB stadium, the best food at Petco Park is Ahi poke tacos (basically, sushi tacos) at The Patio, at Section 228. The Brickhouse Deli is on Field Level in left field, inside the warehouse. The Harbor Grill is on Terrace Level behind home plate, the Trolley Station Grill is on Terrace Level behind 1st base, and the Bayview Grill is on Upper Level behind home plate.
Team History Displays. The Padres have 5 retired numbers, displayed in center field, atop the batter's eye wall. They are: 6, Steve Garvey, 1st base 1983-87; 19, Tony Gwynn, right field 1982-2001; 31, Dave Winfield, right field 1973-80; 35, Randy Jones, pitcher 1973-80; and 51, Trevor Hoffman, pitcher 1993-2008. Also mounted on top of the wall is Jackie Robinson's universally-retired Number 42.
The team has also honored, with notations painted in gold on the front of the press box, former owner Ray Kroc (1974-84) with his initials RAK, and broadcaster Jerry Coleman, the former Yankee 2nd baseman and broadcaster who called games for the team from 1972 to 2013 -- except for 1980, when he served as manager, with unsatisfying results, and returned to the booth in 1981.
Instead of retiring a number for him, or mounting an "SD" for San Diego or his initials JC (or GFC for Gerald Francis Coleman), they've hung a star, for his catchphrase for a home run or a great defensive play: "Oh, doctor! You can hang a star on that baby!"
The Padres have a team Hall of Fame, placed on a "Ring of Honor" on the press box, which has been named for Coleman. It has 14 members, including all the retired number honorees except Garvey.
* From the early days, it includes Kroc, Coleman, Jones, Winfield, Emil "Buzzie" Bavasi, the team's 1st president, 1969-77, previously general manager of the Dodgers; and 1st baseman Nate Colbert, 1969-74. It does not, however, include these Hall-of-Famers who played for the Padres in this period: 1st baseman Willie McCovey, 1974-76; pitcher Rollie Fingers, 1977-80; pitcher Gaylord Perry, 1978-79; and shortstop Ozzie Smith, 1978-81.
* From the 1984 Pennant, it includes Kroc (who died that year), Coleman, Gwynn; manager Dick Williams, 1982-85, and in the Hall of Fame; general manager Jack McKeon, 1980-90 (the native of South Amboy, New Jersey also served as manager, 1988-90); and shortstop Garry Templeton, 1982-91, famously traded by "Trader Jack" McKeon in both position and uniform number, 1, for Ozzie Smith. By the end of the 1984 season, that was seen as a fairly even trade, though Ozzie's continued success changed that perception. The Hall/Ring does not, however, include Hall of Fame pitcher Rich "Goose" Gossage, 1984-87.
* From between the 1984 Pennant and the 1996 Division title, it includes Coleman, Gwynn, McKeon, and catcher Benito Santiago, 1986-92. It does not, however, include Hall of Fame 2nd baseman Roberto Alomar, 1988-90.
* From the 1996 Division title and the 1998 Pennant, it includes Coleman, Gwynn, Hoffman, and 3rd baseman Ken Caminiti, 1995-98. It does not, however, include Hall of Fame left fielder Rickey Henderson, who played for the Padres in the 1996 and '97 seasons, and returned in 2001.
* From the 2005 and 2006 Division titles: Hoffman is, as yet, the only honoree. Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, best known as a Met, was a Padre in 2006. Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux played for the Padres after this, in 2007 and '08. Neither has been honored by the Padres, however.
* Due to his contributions to San Diego baseball history, Ted Williams (no relation to Dick) has also been elected to the team's Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor.
Garvey, Gwynn, Winfield and Jones,
at Petco Park's opening, 2004
Gwynn, Winfield, Fingers and Smith (and Ted Williams) were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1998. Gwynn was also chosen by Padres fans as their team's representative in the 2006 DHL Hometown Heroes poll. A statue of him stands outside the ballpark. Fortunately, he lived long enough to see all of these honors.
The Padres have won National League Pennants in 1984 and 1998, and NL Western Division titles in those years, plus 1996, 2005 and 2006. They have never reached the Playoffs by way of the Wild Card, although they lost a play-in game for the Wild Card to the Colorado Rockies in 2007. These titles are noted on the video board.
The original Padres, Ted Williams' 1st pro team, won Pacific Coast League Pennants in 1937 (with Williams), 1954, 1962, 1964 and 1967. There is no notation for them at Petco Park. But, considering that the PCL had a level of quality so high up until the arrival of the Dodgers and Giants in California, its fans called the American League and the National League not "the major leagues" but "the eastern leagues," it can be argued that the 1937 and '54 PCL Pennants meant just as much as the 1984 and '98 NL Pennants, giving San Diego 4 legitimate major league flags, not 2.
Of note is the fact that, assuming you count Johan Santana's highly asteriskable performance in 2012 as a "Met No-Hitter," the Padres are now the only team among MLB's 30 current that have never pitched a no-hitter. This is their 50th season of play.
Stuff. The Padres have a number of team stores, including their main one at the Gaslamp Gate in left field. The good news is, they sell all kinds of Padres merchandise. The bad news is, they sell all kinds of Padres merchandise, including the various uniforms the Padres have worn, ranging from the mustard-yellow and brown uniforms of the 1970s to the "camouflage" jerseys they wear on home Sundays in honor of San Diego's tradition as a military city.
As far as I know, Padres merchandise does not include monks' (friars') robes with team logos, or a fake "monk wig" simulating a ring of hair around a bald head.
Although the Padres have been around for over 40 years now, and have some history, there aren't very many good books about the team. Baseball in San Diego: From the Plaza to the Padres by Bill Swank, in cooperation with the San Diego Historical Society, is probably the best one, covering the history of professional baseball in the city from the 1899 San Diego Fullers of the Southern California League to the 2004 opening of Petco Park.
Since the Padres have not yet won a World Series, there is no DVD collection of World Series highlight films; you'd have to, separately, get the 1984 (won by the Detroit Tigers) and 1998 (by the Yankees) films.
As of yet, the only team-history video available is Nineteen Summers: Padres 1969-1988 (which would actually be 20 summers), and if you want that, it's only available on Amazon.com on VHS, not DVD. There's also a VHS tape titled Tony Gwynn: Mr. Padre that covers his entire playing career. As yet, there is no Essential Games of the San Diego Padres DVD.
Next year will be the Padres' 50th Anniversary, so expect new books and videos about them.
During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans" ranks Padres fans 26th -- in other words, the 5th most tolerable. Despite San Diego's background as a military city (Navy base, Marine Corps base not far away in Oceanside), these are not particularly aggressive people. Having good weather 350 days out of the year will keep you calmer than typical Northeastern, Midwestern or Northwestern weather will.
The Padres' greatest rivals, as you might guess, are the closest NL team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The AL's Angels are 30 miles closer, but even with Interleague play, Padres fansand Angels fans don't seem to care about each other or their teams -- or maybe they just band together and consider the Dodgers a common enemy.
But due to Fernando Valenzuela having made his name as a Dodger before his brief stopover with the Padres, when Mexican fans come over the border for Padres-Dodgers games, the cheering is about even when the Bums come to San Diego. The Padres also have a budding rivalry with the next-closest team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. But the locals do fit the reputation of the laid-back Southern Californian. No one is going to fight you.
The Friday game will be Out at the Park night, with the Padres giving caps with a rainbow-striped SD logo. That oughta go over well with the city's dyed-in-the-wool conservatives! But the Saturday game will be Faith and Family Night, with a postgame concert by Jordan Feliz. It will also be Padres Hoodie Night.
The Sunday game will be Military Salute Day, as the USS San Diego returns to its homeport; and a Kids Run the Bases day. And, in a nod to San Diego's tradition as a military town (naval base there, the Marines' Camp Pendleton up the coast in Oceanside), they wear camouflage jerseys on Sundays.
Whoever designed these things needs to drop and give me 20.
Ted Giannoulas, known in costume as The Famous Chicken, began as the KGB Chicken. No, he wasn't a Russian spy: He was a student at San Diego State University, working for a San Diego radio station, KGB-FM. (He can be seen in his original costume on NFL Films' production of the 1978 Charger-Raider "Holy Roller" game, passing out at the successful result of the Raiders' blatant cheating.)
Following a contract dispute with the station, he got a new costume (one not copyrighted by the station) and was reborn, or rather hatched out of a giant egg, on the field at San Diego Stadium in June 1979 as "the San Diego Chicken."
Starting in 1981, he was part of the cast of NBC's Saturday pregame show The Baseball Bunch, starring Johnny Bench, where he was referred to as simply "The Chicken." He became so much in demand that he could no longer belong only to his hometown, and now goes everywhere.
He and the Phillie Phanatic have done more to elevate the baseball mascot to icon status than anyone -- even if they weren't the first guys in silly costumes to entertain at baseball games. (Mr. Met was the 1st official such mascot, but even he was unofficially preceded by the Brooklyn Dodger Sym-Phony Band.)
He takes a mucking, and keeps on clucking.
Since 1996, the Padres have made their Swinging Friar logo a live-action mascot, and he (sans bat) is the official mascot. As I said earlier, like many cities in California, San Diego was founded by Spanish missionaries -- hence "Padres," Spanish for "Fathers," or priests, monks, friars.
The Friar, trying very, very hard to remember
that priests are supposed to be celibate.
The Padres hold auditions for National Anthem singers, as opposed to having a regular. It will not be Roseanne Barr, who infamously, and purposely, butchered the Anthem at Jack Murphy Stadium in 1990. They also had a controversy in 2016, when a recording of a woman singing the Anthem was played over the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus singing it live on the team's sponsored Pride Night. They made it up to the SDGMC by bringing them back earlier this year, and they sang it without a hitch.
The Padres don't have a special song to play along with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th Inning Stretch. This could be due to the relative lack of songs about the city, or famous singers or bands from the city. However, with the city's nautical tradition, a foghorn sounds after every Padre home run -- not common, as Petco is one of the best pitcher's parks in the majors.
And, in a bit of a cliche, their postgame victory song is "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang -- one of our local groups, from Jersey City.
After the Game. San Diego's Gaslamp District has plenty of nightspots, so finding a good place for a postgame meal or drink shouldn't be too hard. And although the city has a reputation for gang violence -- as Met fans, you may have heard San Diegan Kevin Mitchell tell horror stories about it -- downtown is very safe.
If you're looking for New Yorker-friendly establishments, Henry's Pub, at 618 5th Avenue between G & Market Streets, is the home of the local New York Jets fan club. It is 6 blocks from the ballpark.
I have heard of 2 separate bars as being home of local Giants fan clubs. The Knotty Barrel is at 844 Market Street at 9th Avenue, 5 blocks from PETCO. And the U-31 Cocktail Lounge is at 3112 University Avenue at 31st Street, but that is 6 miles northeast of the ballpark. Even if the Knotty Barrel is not a Big Blue hangout, you'd be advised to choose that over the U-31.
If you visit San Diego during the European soccer season, which starts up again next month, the main "football pub" in town is Shakespare Pub & Grill. 3701 India Street and Winder Street, in the Five Points area, about 3 miles northwest of downtown. Green Line to Washington Street.
Sidelights. San Diego has produced more native sons (and daughters) who were great athletes than its teams have. As a result, there isn't a lot of glory associated with these teams.
Some have suggested that there's a curse on the city, with the most common being "The Curse of Bambi," based on the 1971 selling of the city's 1st great major league star, Chargers receiver Lance Alworth, to the Dallas Cowboys. Alworth, a.k.a. Bambi, won Super Bowl VI with the Cowboys the very next season.
No San Diego major league team has gone as far as the rules allowed them to do since Alworth and the 1963 Chargers, AFL Champions, who did not get to play that year's NFL Champions, the Chicago Bears, in a Super Bowl.
* Lane Field. Home to the PCL Padres from 1936 to 1957, including the 1937 PCL Pennant that featured a 19-year-old San Diego kid named Ted Williams. By the time the Padres won another Pennant in 1954, the 8,000-seat pitcher's park, on the waterfront, with a Spanish-style entrance and faraway fences except at the right field pole, was termite-ridden and had to be abandoned.
Broadway, Harbor Drive and Pacific Highway. The Santa Fe Depot and the USS Midway Museum (a retired WWII aircraft carrier) are adjacent to the site. Number 7 bus. The Maritime Museum of San Diego is 3 blocks to the north.
* Westgate Park. The PCL Padres' next home was in Mission Valley, at (appropriately enough) Friars Road and the Cabrillo Freeway. This park seated only a few more than Lane Field, but it had the advantage of a roof covering the entire seating area, to protect fans from the hot, nearly-Mexican sun.
Supposedly, it was expandable to 40,000, in the event that San Diego could do what Los Angeles and San Francisco had done, and bring in a major league team, through a move or expansion. But the Chargers wanted a modern stadium, too, so one stadium was built for both teams. The Padres won Pennants at Westgate in 1962, 1964 and 1967, their last season there. The Fashion Valley Mall is now on the site. Fashion Valley Transit Center station on the Green Line.
* San Diego/Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium. From 1967 until 2016, this was the home of the Chargers, and remains the home of the San Diego State University football team, the Aztecs. It was built to the east of Westgate.
Met fans, take note: It was beloved broadcaster Bob Murphy's brother, Jack Murphy, sports editor of the old San Diego Union newspaper, who advocated for the city as a major league sports site, and when he died in 1980, the stadium was named for him -- at least, until the city sold off the naming rights. Statues of Jack and his dog Abe remain outside the stadium.
Before the 1990s expansion
It's hosted the Holiday Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl, and has hosted 3 Super Bowls: XXII (won by the Washington Redskins), XXXII (Denver Broncos) and XXXVII (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). The Chargers only reached the Super Bowl once, in the 1994-95 season, although they were usually in the Playoff hunt. The NFL has now gone out of its way to say that the city won't host another Super Bowl until it builds a new stadium. With the Chargers gone, that's out the window.
From 1978 to 1997, the Holiday Bowl featured the Champions of the Western Athletic Conference. Brigham Young University won the WAC many times, including 1984, when they beat the University of Michigan 24-17 (not particularly impressively) in the Holiday Bowl, to clinch a
13-0 season. As the only undefeated team in what was then called Division I-A, they were awarded the National Championship. But their non-conference schedule wasn't exactly imposing, so this was one of the more dubious National Championships.
The PCL Padres played their last season here, 1968, and then in 1969 the NL Padres came in. Holding 47,000 for baseball for most of its history, it was expanded to 65,000 by 1996, and during the 1998 World Series between the Padres and Yankees, the noise was remarkable for an open-air facility -- not that it helped the Padres.
After the expansion
The San Diego Sockers of the original North American Soccer League played there from 1978 to 1984. The stadium, as a neutral site, hosted Soccer Bowl '82, with the New York Cosmos defeating the Seattle Sounders 1-0 on a 31st minute goal by Giorgio Chinaglia.
The U.S. national soccer team has played there 8 times, but not well, winning just 1 game, drawing 5 and losing 2. The most recent match was a turgid 0-0 draw in a friendly with Serbia this past January 29. (The word "turgid" may have been coined to describe a soccer game where little seems to happen and the game ends in a scoreless tie.)
The Padres moved out after the 2003 season, and now the Chargers have gotten out as well, moving back up the Coast to Los Angeles, from whence they came. But San Diego State still plays there. On September 19, 2017, it was renamed SDCCU Stadium, as the San Diego County Credit Union bought the naming rights through 2018.
9449 Friars Road, at Mission Village Drive, just off Interstate 15, 5 Green Line stops away from Westgate/Fashion Valley, at what's now Qualcomm Stadium station.
* Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, and Museums. After starting in the AFL at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960, the Chargers moved to San Diego for 1961. Barron Hilton, son of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton -- and the 1st brother-in-law of Elizabeth Taylor, and the grandfather of Paris and Nicky Hilton -- ran the Carte Blanche credit card company, and named the team after the card, sort of: The Chargers, although a horse (also a "charger") and a lightning bolt (which gives off a "charge") has always been the team's logo.
He's still alive, now 90 years old, and although he no longer has anything to do with the team, he is the last surviving member of "The Foolish Club," the 8 original AFL owners, following the recent deaths of Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills and Bud Adams of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.
The existing Balboa Stadium, built in 1914 in Balboa Park (named for the Spanish explorer), was expanded to 34,000 seats for the Chargers. While it had a lot of atmosphere, including a columned front gate, and was home to the Chargers' 1963 AFL Championship team, it was too small for the proposed AFL-NFL merger, so what's now Qualcomm Stadium was built.
In 1965, at Balboa Stadium, Jim Ryun became the 1st American high schooler to break the 4-minute mile. On August 28, 1965, the Beatles played there. In 1968, the San Diego Toros played the Atlanta Chiefs in the North American Soccer League Final, a 2-legged series whose 1st leg was played at Balboa Stadium, a 0-0 draw. Atlanta won 3-0 at what became Fulton County Stadium to take the title.
The old Balboa Stadium was demolished and replaced in 1978, and now hosts high school football and track. Like Soldier Field in Chicago, its columned gate was retained. Russ Blvd. & 16th Street.
Balboa Park is also home to the famed San Diego Zoo. My mother says her favorite day in her life was the day she spent at the Zoo. Park Road & Zoo Place.
Adjacent is the Federal Building, which hosts the San Diego Hall of Champions, honoring area natives such as Ted Williams, Bill Walton, Bob Skinner, Alan Trammell, Dave Roberts, Tony Clark, and Yankee stars Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss and David Wells, as well as stars from area teams. Padres honored are Nettles, Jones, Winfield, Fingers, Gwynn, Bavasi, Templeton, Gossage and Hoffman.
Of additional interest to Yankee Fans might be Don Larsen (who, like Wells, went to Point Loma High School), and the father-and-son combo of Ray and Bob Boone -- grandfather and father, respectively, of Aaron (and Bret). 2131 Pan American Plaza.
The Park is also home to the San Diego Museum of Art, the Timken Museum of Art, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Automotive Museum, the Museum of Photographic Arts, and the San Diego Museum of Man. The Number 7 bus takes you to the Park and places you within a short walk of all its sites.
* San Diego Sports Arena. Built in 1966, this was the home of the NBA's San Diego Rockets from 1967 to 1971, until they moved to Houston; the NBA's San Diego Clippers from 1978 to 1984, until they moved to Los Angeles; and the World Hockey Association's San Diego Mariners from 1974 to 1977. It's also hosted some minor-league hockey teams, including the current version of the San Diego Gulls.
It hosted the 1975 NCAA Final Four, which included John Wooden's last 2 games as head coach at UCLA, winning his 10th and final National Championship, beating Kentucky. The Sockers became the Major Indoor Soccer League's most successful franchise while playing here from 1980 to 1996. (They played both an NASL and an MISL season from 1980 to 1984.) Elvis Presley sang here on November 15, 1970; April 26, 1973; and April 24, 1976.
The Arena was recently renamed the Valley View Casino Center, although it is not a casino. 3500 Sports Arena Blvd. at Kemper Street. Blue Line light rail to Old Town, then transfer to the Number 9 bus, which drops off outside.
Elvis had previously sung in San Diego on April 4 and 5, and June 6, 1956, at the San Diego Arena, a.k.a. the Glacier Gardens, home of the San Diego Skyhawks, 1949 Pacific Coast Hockey League Champions. Built in 1939, the Sports Arena made it obsolete, and it was torn down in 1966. 8th Street and Harbor Drive, adjacent to the site of the Convention Center, and across Harbor Drive and the railroad from where Petco Park went up.
San Diego seems not to have forgiven the Clippers for leaving, and after 30 years of the Lakers nearly always the better team, they are easily the most popular NBA team in town. According to a May 12, 2014 article in the New York Times, the Lakers take about 40 percent of the San Diego area's NBA fandom. The Los Angeles teams, playing in the Staples Center, remain the closest NBA teams, 123 miles from downtown San Diego, while the Anaheim Ducks are the closest NHL team, 93 miles away, and are more popular in the San Diego area than the Los Angeles Kings (also in the Staples Center).
The Clippers missed the Playoffs by 2 games in their 1st season, 1978-79, but didn't come close again until well after moving to L.A. The main reason was that native son Bill Walton was continually injured. He is the only San Diego Clipper who made the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players, and he and fellow UCLA alumnus Gail Goodrich (better known as a Laker) were the only ones who made the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Mariners, formerly the Madison Square Garden-based New York Raiders, the New York Golden Blades and the Cherry Hill-based Jersey Knights, made the Playoffs all 3 seasons they were in San Diego, and got to the WHA Semifinals in 1975 before losing to the Howe family and the rest of the Houston Aeros. But they never made any money, and folded in 1977. Their Andre Larcoix was named to the WHA's All-Time Team.
* Torero Stadium. This 6,000-seat stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego will be the home of the city's new team in the new version of the North American Soccer League, starting next Spring. They will play there until they can build a stadium that they're planning for the "North County," in the northern suburbs. The team was just announced this past June 26, only 3 weeks ago, and does not yet have a name other than "San Diego NASL."
When the Women's United Soccer Association played from 2001 to 2003, it had a team there, the San Diego Spirit. NFL teams have used it as a practice facility for games away to the Chargers. 5998 Alcala Park. Just to the north of the stadium is USD's basketball arena, the Jenny Craig Pavilion, built with contributions from weight-loss mogul Craig and her late husband Sid, leading to it having one of the best sports venue nicknames, the Slim Gym. Green Line to Morena/Linda Vista station.
San Diego has tried to get a team in Major League Soccer. Unless and until they do, they'll have to settle for the new NASL, the 2nd division in the American "soccer pyramid." Until the NASL team starts next Spring, the highest-ranking soccer team in town is the new version of the San Diego Sockers, playing in an indoor league at the Valley View Casino Center.
Despite its size, San Diego has already lost teams in 3 of the "Big Four" sports, leaving the Padres as the only team in town, so don't expect them to get an NBA team (they'd rank 20th in the league's markets by population) or an NHL team (19th). They still might get an MLS team, especially if that North County stadium is built (they'd rank 19th).
* Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. You usually don't think of horse racing when you think of sports in San Diego. And, to be fair, this 44,000-seat track, opening in 1937, isn't exactly close to downtown. But it is nearby, and hosted the 2017 Breeders' Cup. 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., 21 miles north of downtown. Coaster rail line to Solana Beach, then Bus 408.
Tony Gwynn is buried at Dearborn Memorial Park, 14361 Tierra Bonita Road in Poway, 24 miles northeast of downtown. Difficult to reach by public transit.
San Diego was the hometown former WBC Heavyweight Champion Ken Norton, who became only the 2nd man to beat Muhammad Ali, at the San Diego Sports Arena on March 31, 1973. But neither man held the title at the time. The city has hosted only 1 fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the World, and that was all the way back on March 28, 1906. Tommy Burns successfully defended the title against Jim O'Brien at the National Athletic Club. I can find no record of where in the city it was.
San Diego hasn't had a lot of history, good or bad, happen within its limits. No President has come from the area, so there's no Presidential Birthplace or Library nearby. The closest you can come is Richard Nixon's La Casa Pacifica, a.k.a. the Western White House, 57 miles up the coast in San Clemente. It's still a private residence, and not open to tours, so if you're interested, just take a glance (and/or a picture), and leave them alone.
There are 3 Presidential connections to the city, and they all came in 1996. Sort of: Pete Wilson, Governor of California, former Senator, and the city's former Mayor (credited with launching the slogan "America's Finest City"), launched his campaign in 1995, but his theme of bashing the poor and immigrants, so successful at getting him re-elected Governor in the Republican backlash year of 1994, didn't play well outside California (and has, essentially, poisoned the State for Republicans who weren't action-movie stars ever since), and so he dropped out after the Iowa Caucuses.
The 1996 Republican Convention nominated Senator Bob Dole for President, and former pro quarterback (including for the hometown Chargers), former Congressman from Buffalo, and former Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Jack Kemp for Vice President. That Convention was at the San Diego Convention Center, at 111 W. Harbor Drive, across the railroad and Harbor Drive from the ballpark. And Dole had his 2nd and last debate with President Bill Clinton at the Shiley Theatre on the campus of the University of San Diego, about a 15-minute walk west of Torero Stadium and the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
San Diego isn't known for its skyscrapers, not for their height (as is L.A.) nor for their style (as is San Francisco). The tallest building in town, and then just barely (2 others are within 3 feet of it) is One America Plaza, 500 feet even, at 600 West Broadway at Keltner Blvd. downtown.
There haven't been a lot of TV shows set in San Diego, but in 2016, Fox made the city, and indeed Petco Park itself, the setting and shooting location for what is (almost be default) the best TV show ever produced about baseball: Pitch, starring Kylie Bunbury as screwballing pitcher Ginny Baker, the (fictional) 1st woman ever to play in Major League Baseball. Alas, it was canceled after 1 season, and on a cliffhanger (Ginny hurting her arm late in what would have been a no-hitter, and leaving us not knowing if she would need career-shortening surgery).
Before Pitch, the most notable show set in San Diego was probably Veronica Mars, unless you're a big Simon & Simon fan. The Marines' Camp Pendleton is in Oceanside, 40 miles north of San Diego, making San Diego the closest major city to Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and Major Dad (which, like Simon & Simon, had Gerald McRaney, but its setting was transferred to U.S. Marine Corps headquarters in Quantico, Virginia after just 1 season).
Fox tried to copy the success of their Wisconsin-based That '70s Show by setting That '80s Show in San Diego in 1984, the year the Padres first won the Pennant, but it bombed, worse than the Padres did in the World Series.
San Diego has been much more successful as a location for movie settings, especially military-themed ones: Sands of Iwo Jima (John Wayne's troops train at Pendleton), Hellcats of the Navy (the one and only film that Ronald Reagan and his wife, still billed as "Nancy Davis," ever made together), Top Gun and its parody Hot Shots!, Flight of the Intruder and Antwone Fisher. But the movie most associated with the city is Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, with Will Ferrell's signoff: "Stay classy, San Diego!"
If the Zoo wasn't enough for you, San Diego, like Orlando and San Antonio, has a Sea World. 500 Sea World Drive at Mission Bay Drive. Green Line to Old Town Transit Center, then transfer to the Number 9 bus.
So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Met fans in going coast-to-coast, enjoy the matchup with the Padres, and enjoy the sights and sounds of what Pete Wilson, while he was Mayor, called "America's Finest City." Even if the games aren't good, the weather will be.