SAN DIEGO – Plenty of fans will be in the seats Thursday when the Padres open up their 18th season at Petco Park. But for the more than three decades before the downtown stadium was built, the team began its seasons in Mission Valley.
Standing just outside the site where the former Jack Murphy Stadium stood, Ramon Cerda still can’t believe the venue where he saw 20 opening day games is gone.
“Last time I saw it, it was still standing,” Cerda said. “It’s sad.”
Cerda and his daughter Sylvia Cerda-Bates spent some memorable moments there. He grew up in Tecate and attended his first game in the early 1970s when he would cross the border to watch his favorite baseball team.
The love of the game was handed down to his daughter who started going early in life.
“This was my first game ever, as a baby,” Cerda-Bates said. “I must have been months old. He said that the camera zoomed in on me sleeping in my dad’s arms.”
Ramon shares the same favorite memory of the stadium with the player responsible for it.
In the 1984 National League Championship Series, Steve Garvey hit a two-run walkoff home run to defeat the Chicago Cubs in Game 4 before advancing to the team’s first-ever World Series the next day. Garvey, now 72, told FOX 5 in February that the moment brought with it “15-20 minutes of just pure joy by the fans and the noise.”
Cerda says he was sitting in the front row of an upper level seat for the game, and that, “It was wild.”
“I was with my brother-in-law and I kind of feel bad because he was keeping his eye on me and he was afraid I might fall over because I was standing on the railing,” he said. “I was going crazy. There were a couple of Cubs fans behind me and we were going at it in a nice way.
“When Garvey hit the home run, the whole stadium was going crazy and I was jumping up and down and I remembered those guys in the back. I turned around and they were gone.”
There were plenty of other games, too. He still has ticket stubs and programs from the two MLB All-Star Games held in Mission Valley as well as the Padres’ final game there in 2003.
Recalling it now, daughter Sylvia says she enjoyed everything the stadium had to offer.
“The memories I have the most are attending different events here,” she said. “Like the monster truck show, the motocross. Some low-rider car shows as a teenager.”
But while her father rooted for the Padres, she was cheering on the Chargers.
“When the Chargers played the Raiders, we prayed that the Chargers would win, especially the home games,” she said. Luckily, every time I came to the game, we won. Thank goodness.”
The father-daughter duo say they continue to attend Padres games, but not nearly as often as they once did. And seeing the old stadium demolished still makes them emotional.
“A lot of the games, a lot of tailgate parties,” she said. “All those memories. I mean, it’s really sad. We’re going to miss it.”