On April 26, 1969 the Padres received their first feature in The Sporting News. The Padres had spent 33 years waiting in the minor leagues for their chance. They watched cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Arlington get expansion teams while their hopes of ever cracking the Majors kept getting dashed. Then, on April 8, 2011, the San Diego Padres made their debut.
“A paid crowd of 23,370 was in attendance, falling short of the predicted 35,000. It was an enthusiastic gathering. Fans, who had waited long and faithfully for this night, responded warmly to their new heroes.” And heroes they were. San Diego was now the proud owner of a Major League ball club. And they got a win to boot. Let’s take a closer look at that very first game.
The Padres, in true San Diego form, won their first game 2-1 behind four hits and an outstanding pitching performance from Dick Selma. According to Retrosheet, Selma threw a complete game. He struck out 12 while only giving up 5 hits and 2 walks. The Astros scored first when Jesus Alou singled to right, stole second, then came around on a Doug Rader single. It was a quick blow, one that may have had Padres fans expecting the worst. However, Selma settled in and only gave up three more hits the rest of the game.
The Padres waited until the fifth and the sixth to score their runs. In the fifth, Ed Spiezio homered and thus firmly planted himself in the record books as the first Padre to ever hit a home run for the new Major League club. In the sixth, Roberto Pena was hit by a pitch and later scored on a Bill Davis double. That was all it took thanks to Selma. The Padres won 2-1 and were officially winners at the Major League level.
Spiezio would go on to hit just 33 more home runs in his career, but he finished the 1969 season with 13. Roberto Pena finished the 1969 season with a .250/.286/.322 line and found himself in Oakland in 1970 after a trade for Ramon Webster. Dick Selma only started two more games before being shipped off to Chicago for Frankie Lebran, Joe Niekro, and Gary Ross.
The 1969 team only went on to win 51 more games, but they could always fall back on the season-opening success of their 2-1 victory at San Diego Stadium. San Diego Stadium of course was the fruit of Jack Murphy‘s work and later was named after him.
According to The Sporting News, The pre-game festivities included the National Anthem as sung by Broadway star Beatrice Kay and the first pitch being thrown out by the daughter of Padres co-owner C, Arnholt Smith. And indicative of the years that lie ahead of them, familiar to all Padres fans who have ever loved this team, was a banner in the seats that read “Wait Until Next Year.”
April 8, 1969 was a coming out party. It lead to a 1984 World Series appearance, a 1998 World Series appearance, 5 play-off appearances in total, and an eventuAl Hall of Famer in Tony Gwynn. April 8, 1969 lead to many stories about the Padres, but most notably, it lead to their first feature in The Sporting News.