Monday, April 30, 2007 | I’m pleased that Lane Field will no longer be a parking lot.
That stretch of lower Broadway between Pacific Highway and Harbor Drive has deserved much better for a long, long time.
Soon enough, it will be home to a gleaming high-rise complex of pricey condos, hotels and restaurants. That’s OK by me.
But I’m hoping the developers will take time enough to remember what used to be there many years ago — and that was a ballpark. Remember how Larry Luchino insisted that his dream child, Petco Park, shouldn’t be called a stadium, but a “ballpark?” He was right. Much more soothing to the ear.
Lane Field used to be a ballpark. It served as the 8,000-seat home of the minor-league San Diego Padres baseball team from 1936 to 1957 when the once-glorious wooden structure, by then sad and termite-ridden, was torn down.
Gone forever, except in name.
I’d like to see the developers pay tribute to Lane Field with a statue of some sort, perhaps of the legendary Ted Williams. Heck, we named a freeway after him. Why not honor Teddy Ballgame with a statue at the very site where he first played baseball as a professional, in 1936 and ’37, as a splindly 17-year-old kid (he was also forever known as “The Kid”) out of Hoover High School.
Then there was the time, lore has it, that Williams hit the “longest home run ever hit.” Seems the left-handed slugger hit a homer that sailed so far over Lane Field’s right-field fence that it landed smack into an empty boxcar of a train headed north to Los Angeles. The baseball never hit the ground.
Yeah, a statue would do it.
If you look closely now, at ground level in the area that used to be way past right-field, you’ll find a small, nondescript plaque that mumbles something about how the site used to be Lane Field.
Nice, but not nearly good enough.
If you’re of a certain age, maybe you’re familiar with that plaintive old Sinatra ballad that sums up how I feel about Lane Field — and for that matter, Westgate Park and Balboa Stadium, where I spent many, many happy hours of my young life.
The opening stanza goes like this:
And there used to be a ballpark where the field was warm and green
And the people played their crazy game with a joy I’d never seen
And the air was such a wonder from the hot dogs and the beer
Yes, there used to be a ballpark right here.
It goes on, but you get the idea.
That’s my humble suggestion to the developers of Lane Field and the port of San Diego’s Board of Commissioners. Let’s do something memorable to pay proper and lasting tribute to what Lane Field used to be, way back when there used to be a ballpark right there.
John Freeman is Director of Communications for Knight & Carver YachtCenter in National City. He’s a San Diego native who isn’t old enough to remember going to Lane Field. But memories of Westgate Park and Balboa Stadium? Now that’s another story. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, send a letter to the editor.