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COMMENTARY: Football and baseball games to be missed at San Diego’s outgoing stadium

 

Before Jack Murphy Stadium was fully enclosed, you could see the eastern edge of Mission Valley. This photo was taken on Dec. 15, 1985 as the San Diego Chargers were hosting the Philadelphia Eagles. PHOTO BY LOREN KOPFF.

 

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Dec. 2, 2020

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series remembering the days of San Diego’s multipurpose stadium which is being torn down.

Read first article, click here.

 The first four springs and summers I spent in America’s Finest City, I saw over 60 soccer games in San Diego Stadium, later renamed Jack Murphy Stadium, as the San Diego Sockers of the once-proud North American Soccer League played there. But it’s safe to say my best memories of the multipurpose stadium since 1979 were spent watching the San Diego Padres, the annual Holiday Bowl, one of the premier NCAA bowl games held every December and other football games.

The stadium, which was also known as Qualcomm Stadium and finally San Diego County Credit Union Stadium, is in the beginning stages of being torn down. In its place will be the new 35,000-seat Aztec Stadium, the new home for San Diego State University. The parking lot on the west side of the stadium is already gone, replaced by dirt, and excavators have begun tearing out the aging seats. Some of the exterior concrete ramps have been torn down with more to come in the next few months.

Just like I did when my family and I had season tickets to the Sockers, I must have worn out the soles of many pairs of shoes by walking every inch of the stadium whenever I saw the Padres. Section 36, Row 22, Seat 1 on the Plaza Level was where I witnessed the Padres for the first time. It against the Cincinnati Reds on May 31, 1980. My new favorite team lost 5-3 and the tickets were quite reasonable at $4.50.

I can’t begin to put a number on how many times my brother and I would take the No. 20 express bus from Mira Mesa to Fashion Valley, then transferring to the No. 6 bus to the stadium, located at 9449 Friars Road, in the 1980s to see the Padres when our parents weren’t available to drive us.  There was one season where we vowed to see every National League opponent at least once, and we did. There were all the popular promotional giveaways that we stoked up on, especially the popular beach towels and beach bags which always drew the largest crowds.

There was Game 1 of the 1984 World Series where I sat in Section 9, Row 7, Seat 5 for a mere $25. That would be the last time I saw a World Series game in person and I’m waiting to see a World Series game at Petco Park in beautiful downtown San Diego sooner than later. Then there was the1992 season in which the Padres hosted the 63rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

The game would mark the end of the longest stretch of consecutive days (five) that my brother and I were at “The Murph”. We saw the weekend series with the Philadelphia Phillies, his favorite team, which included a Friday night All-Star Game T-shirt giveaway. Sunday’s game was televised nationally on ESPN, which was rare for the Padres around that time. On Monday, we had Loge Level seats to see the Gatorade All-Star Workout and the next day, we had seats in Section 3, Row 9 on the View Level for the big event.

Other notable baseball games that I would see there would be the great Tony Gwynn’s final game on Oct. 7, 2001 against the Colorado Rockies and the final game ever at Qualcomm Stadium on Sept. 28, 2003, also against the Rockies. I even saw The Monkees perform a postgame concert on Aug. 24, 1986.

Another highlight during my high school days, which was personal for me, was when I was chosen out of the other students in my journalism class to go to a Padres game against the St. Louis Cardinals and meet with Jerry Coleman, the former great radio play by play broadcaster for the Padres.

I’m sure I’m missing other great times attending “The Murph”, and “the Q” watching the Padres. But that’s what happens when you’ve been there as many times as I was.

When it wasn’t baseball or soccer, there were the dozens of football games I attended. It began on Nov. 9, 1980, sitting in the Picnic N’ Chicken-sponsored “Chicken Coop”, the bleacher seats under the original scoreboard. The San Diego Chargers fell to the Denver Broncos 20-13 on that day. I wouldn’t see another Chargers game until Dec. 15, 1985 when the Philadelphia Eagles flew into town and lost 20-14. The view was great from Section 20, Row 15, Seat 2 of the Upper Level, which was behind the west endzone. The next Chargers game I attended wouldn’t be until Oct. 28, 1991 when they blasted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 41-10, and where I sat, the upper level seats were going for $23.00.

There would be the Dec. 2, 1983 CIF-San Diego Section 3A Championship high school football game in which the Mira Mesa Marauders lost to the Sweetwater Red Devils 21-13 and the Sept. 20, 1986 San Diego State Aztecs college game against the UCLA Bruins, who won 45-14. It wouldn’t be until the later years of Qualcomm Stadium and during the time of SDCCU Stadium when I sat in the press box at a few SDSU games. I was there when former Norwalk High standout and current New York Giants fullback Elijhaa Penny played the Aztecs for his University of Idaho Vandals team. Not long after that, his brother and a current member of the Seattle Seahawks, Rashaad Penny, was breaking a few records for the Aztecs and I was in the press box for his final collegiate home game.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the annual late December college Holiday Bowl game that we had season tickets for through the late 90s. It got to the point that it was nicknamed the BYU Bowl as the Brigham Young University Cougars would play in the first seven Holiday Bowl contests.

My family and I sat on the north side of the stadium and would witness some of the best college bowl games ever. From the Hail Mary pass in the dense fog that would end the 1980 contest to seeing BYU win the National Championship in 1984 with a 24-17 victory over the University of Michigan Wolverines and witnessing Barry Sanders run wild in 1988, I truly enjoyed the Holiday Bowl.

From 1984-1991, those games would attract over 61,000 spectators and while I spent my freshman season at Kansas State University, I got the opportunity to see the Wildcats blast the Colorado State University Rams 54-21 in 1995.

For those wondering what the last sporting event was that I saw at SDCCU Stadium, which would be a great trivia question, it would be the San Diego Fleet versus the Atlanta Legends on Feb. 17, 2019. For less than a full season, the defunct Alliance of American Football fielded a team in San Diego, hoping to launch a spring season. Again, I was up in the cramped press box, which I will not miss.

So many years with so many memories of San Diego’s multipurpose stadium, one of the last in the country to field both a baseball and football team, will always remain as the decaying structure will soon be no more in the early months of 2021. But with the building of Aztec Stadium and its surrounding features, there will no doubt be new memories to be made. For now, goodbye San Diego Stadium, Jack Murphy Stadium, Qualcomm Stadium and SDCCU Stadium.

 

Where Mission Village Drive ends and intersects with both Friars Road and San Diego Mission Road lies the main entrance to San Diego County Credit Union Stadium. The stadium is in the beginning stages of being torn down and the new Aztec Stadium will be built in its place. PHOTO BY DONNA SMITH

 

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