As I was cleaning out my garage, getting ready for a garage sale, I found a duffel bag. I knew what was in the bag, but I still had to open it. A few dusty old ball gloves, one glove that was never quite broken in right, a bag of official Major League baseballs, and a couple of bats greeted me. The best way I know how to describe my love of baseball is in that bag. When I saw those baseballs and those gloves, a feeling took me over. I had no one to throw to. I had no reason to grab a ball and slide a glove onto my hand. But I did. Three quick tosses of the ball into the mitt and I was done. It was satisfying, but there is no reason for it to have been aside from the fact that baseball is ingrained in every fan. The feeling the sport conjures inside people comes from well over 100 years of tradition. The overwhelming desire for me to pick up one of those baseballs is a direct descendant of the history of the game flowing through me. I’m not sure any other sport or part of life in general can elicit such feelings. That’s why baseball’s history is so celebrated in most major league cities. In some cities, like San Diego, however, the history is not celebrated enough.
As the city of Boston celebrates 100 years of Fenway Park, stories and memories are being shared like bed time fables told by proud fathers to their newborn sons. The stories, so unlikely and so legendary, they have become fables in and of themselves. The memories that pour from the green walls out into the city of Boston are those of which baseball fans in most other cities can only dream. This of course leads into a discussion on Padres history. As Boston is celebrating, we can reflect on moments in San Diego baseball history that can make us proud. But it seems we must do so on our own, never quite reminded by the team or the city of these moments.
In two years, San Diego can celebrate the 30th anniversary of their team’s improbable run to their first world series. The 1984 Padres surprised most in the baseball world. They shocked the Cubs. The celebration in San Diego should be huge…but it probably won’t be. Next season, a similar celebration can be held. The 2013 season will mark the 15th anniversary of the 1998 team’s magical run to the World Series. The season holds so many wonderful memories for Padres fans, the city and the team could celebrate the season in very much a similar fashion as Boston is celebrating Fenway…but they probably won’t.
San Diego is a baseball town, but I won’t argue that here. San Diego is steeped in history, but I won’t dive into the proof. Instead, I will simply say baseball tradition, historic moments, and legendary teams need more recognition in San Diego. The team has been known as a loser for so much of its history, why not celebrate the good? Why not embrace the wonders of winning seasons and great players? There are so many moments, players, and milestones the San Diego Padres could celebrate, it’s a wonder why they don’t do so.
Ted Williams broke in with the Pacific Coast League Padres in 1936. 2006 marked the 70th anniversary of the momentous occasion. The Padres failed to celebrate it. Last season is the 75th anniversary of the year in which The Kid was born as a ballplayer. Yet, the Padres ignored it. Perhaps in another four years, the team can celebrate the 80th anniversary. Maybe around that time a statue of Ted Williams will have been built near the old Lane Field. Maybe the city will embrace its baseball history by then.
The Boston Red Sox have a tradition and history rivaled only by the Yankees. They have every reason to celebrate their ballpark’s 100th anniversary. But no matter the level of success they have, no matter how many big moments in history they can look back on, the team embraces its history. Ballplayers new and old stand shoulder to shoulder in ceremonies on the field every year. An anniversary of some milestone in the team’s iconic history never goes unnoticed. It’s the type of love and admiration that causes baseball to be so romanticized. It’s the type of embrace that makes me jealous as a Padres fan.
Is it too much to ask for a reunion of the 1984 Padres on field before a game? Is it too much to ask to fly the old colors and celebrate the team’s first World Series all season long? Is it wrong to wish that the 1998 team’s run could be celebrated and immortalized? Is it wrong to wish for the romanticized embrace of baseball tradition in San Diego? Because if it is, I’m not sure what being a fan really means.
Give me baseball. Give me the game itself, it’s sounds and sights, the hits, the strikeouts, the catches, and the stolen bases. But give me tradition and history. Give me a celebration. Show me that you understand why I watch the game and why I love the game. This is what the city of Boston does for its team and its fans. On a smaller scale, San Diego could follow suit.