Thursday, August 6, 2009

I wish Padres chairman John Moores and CEO Jeff Moorad had been at Jack Murphy Stadium last night.

Yes, Jack Murphy Stadium. You can call it Qualcomm Stadium. Part of the place's charm for me is that it was named after a sportswriter. So I still call it the Murph.

Anyway, I walked onto the Murph's floor for Chargers practice and felt something strange -- the buzz of a crowd passionate about a San Diego team.

The Chargers were only warming up, but electricity flowed from the lower deck onto the field.

About 13,000 fans were there, many chanting for LaDainian Tomlinson, or screaming "Lights Out" at Shawne Merriman, or buzzing over warmup passes thrown by Philip Rivers. Every time Darren Sproles ran past a defender, cheers rolled across the stadium bowl.

I found the excitement striking, because I so seldom felt that kind of into-the-team buzz at Petco Park or Peoria Stadium this year or last year.

Or, believe it or not, even when the Padres were winning the National League West in 2005 and 2006 and challenging for first in late 2007.

Don't get me wrong. Petco is a gorgeous place, impeccably maintained, and many games there have entertained thousands of fans.

I just haven't felt as much electricity there as I expected that I would, or as I often felt at the Murph for Padres games.

Nostalgia may be shading my reactions somewhat. The Murph is a special place to me, especially the old Murph, before views of Mission Valley were blocked by the expanded seating. I used to run film for the San Diego Union in the mid-1980s, so I was at most Padres home games. Until the photographer handed me used rolls of film in the fifth or sixth inning, I watched baseball from a spectacular vantage: the field-level portholes behind home plate or the edge of a dugout.

Trust me, San Diego's passion for the Padres in 1984 has yet to be surpassed by any other sporting event here, including the Chargers' run to the Super Bowl in 1994-95. The fun in 1984 was a first-time love sort of thing, enhanced by how the Padres stunned the Cubs in the playoffs. The pregame buildup to Games 1 and 2 of the World Seres in 1984 was pure joy.

I also remembering how happy Moores was before Game 4 of the 1998 World Series at the Murph. In those days, Moores seldom missed a Padres game. He enjoyed talking baseball. So much so that beat reporters sometimes had to end the chat. In those days, Moores also seemed to genuinely like ballplayers, even the ones who could command big salaries.

Moores lives in Texas now, yet remains majority owner of the Padres. Reporting to him is Moorad, the Vice-Chairman and presumptive owner in waiting.

Strange, then, that Moorad told Darren Smith of the club's flagship radio station, 1090-AM, that he and Moores recently went more than three weeks without speaking to each other.

Doesn't seem like Moores is all that interested in his Padres.

Obviously if the Padres were to build a strong team, or even a more interesting one, Petco would become a livelier place. Maybe Moores and Moorad will get that done. Maybe Moorad's president, Tom Garfinkel, can work marketing magic similar to what we saw from Moores' former partner Larry Lucchino and his creative thinkers.

Some encouraging things are happening with the Padres.

While reporting on the Chargers last night, I didn't expect to think of both Moores and Moorad. But the crowd's energy sparked the notion that their being there would've been a helpful prod, something beyond affirmation that San Diego is a football town and sports teams go through cycles.

San Diegans can get excited about a local sports team, even if it's only for a routine practice under the lights.


  1. Petco Park has always been a place of manufactured enthusiasm. I blame in part the inflated ticket prices, terrace seating, everything that takes the real fans further from the game in exchange for putting corporate suites and seats close to the action.

    But, tell me you haven't seen this 100 times at Petco, if not's a key moment in the game, two strikes, two outs, two on...the crowd is silent. Then, the scoreboard puts up that big sign: "MAKE SOME NOISE! LOUDER!" Like good little lemmings the Padres fans rise and cheer, and get louder...and then the message comes off the scoreboard about 5 seconds before the pitch, and by the time that pitch is thrown? Silence once again.

    Chargers fans without question are more passionate and knowledgeable, more into the game, and a much bigger factor in their team's success.

  2. I still refer to Qualcomm as Jack Murphy as well.