Opinion: San Diegans recall most memorable sports moments as Aztecs enjoy NCAA spotlight

Mr. Padre’s 3,000th hit was the pinnacle for me

My favorite San Diego sports moment involves the 3,000 hit run by Tony Gwynn, aka Mr. Padre, and seeing Tony hit the mark at Olympic Stadium in Montreal on August 6, 1999.

It was exciting to go to the games at Qualcomm Stadium when Tony was so close. We still have pictures from the games and Tony’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tony, we miss you. As an alumnus of San Diego State University, it has also been amazing for me to watch the SDSU men’s basketball team progress to the NCAA National Championship game. Go Aztecs!

Stephen Haley, Escondido

The 50-yard kick in 1981 is still the best

My favorite San Diego sports moment happened on January 3, 1981. The San Diego Chargers faced the Buffalo Bills in the AFC West divisional playoffs. The Chargers are just two wins from their first Super Bowl with arguably their best team ever. I said in those Air Coryell years, the only two teams in the NFL that can convert on third down and 30 yards to go are the Chargers and whatever team they’re playing against.

Late in the game, trailing 14-13, Dan Fouts hit backup wide receiver Ron Smith over the middle for a 50-yard touchdown pass and what would have been a 20-14 victory. The stadium erupted and the loudspeakers screamed “San Diego Super Chargers”. There were other San Diego sports moments with more stakes and perhaps more drama. But there’s nothing better than sitting high in the upper deck of San Diego Stadium at the 40-yard line, watching Smith take Fouts’ perfect punt into the end zone.

The euphoria turned to shock a week later when Oakland’s Raymond Chester caught a ricochet pass on Oakland’s first possession for a touchdown and the difference in the Raiders’ 34-27 victory.

We’ll have to wait another 13 years for the Super Bowl. It was also the last game played at San Diego Stadium. Three days later, the city council voted to rename it Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego.

Chuck Dunning, La Jolla

Alex Morgan often makes magic moments

My favorite San Diego sports moment?

The comet that is San Diego Wave FC’s Alex Morgan, who weaves his way through all the other players to spread it out and take it in pursuit of the ball — and — goal! She is a gazelle, a ballerina and a bulldog in one. The best part is all the players right behind her — Naomi Girma, Amira Ali, Jaydin Shaw, Taylor Cornick, and more. Go Wave!

Maybe it should be an image of Steve Breen. Good luck trying to catch Alex.

Oh, and after the game she runs around waving to the crowd with her daughter. Let us see any man equal to this.

Joan Bockman, Oceanside

The first game of the ’84 NLCS stands out

By the time the Padres finally won the National League pennant in 1984, I had lived here for almost two decades. My sons, both San Diegans, were Padres fans, but I was a refugee from Detroit, where I had grown up rooting for the Tigers. The Tigers-Padres World Series was this baseball fan’s dream come true.

There were no tickets available for the series opener, scheduled for Tuesday, October 9. But on Sunday, October 7, the Padres announced that 6,000 tickets would go on sale at the ballpark box office at 8 a.m. the next morning — two per customer, first-come, first-served — a bargain at $25 apiece! Our two sons (then 16 and 15) volunteered to camp out overnight at the stadium to ensure the family could secure tickets.

At 9pm this Sunday we dropped them off at Jack Murphy Stadium amongst hundreds of loud, boisterous fans. Their mother and I returned four hours later with sandwiches, snacks and a six-pack of coke to see them through the night.

It was a wild scene with cars circling the ballpark, honking horns and fans hanging out the windows waving beer cans and chanting “Padres! Padres!” (as well as a few choice epithets for the Tigers). The radios were blaring and there was no sleep, but the next morning the boys won four tickets to the first game.

We arrived two hours early to make sure we didn’t miss the 5:30 p.m. opener. I wore my Tigers hat and t-shirt, prompting some interesting remarks from San Diego fans – most of them good-natured, if not a little derisive . Dozens of print and media journalists were on the field interviewing players and coaches.

Team managers Sparky Anderson and Dick Williams were under siege, as were superstars Tony Gwynn, Steve Garvey, Alan Trammell and Lance Parrish. Finally, Padres starter Eric Shaw threw the first pitch to Lou Whittaker. The game has started!

Our seats were so far up in the upper deck of center field that we needed binoculars to see the patio, but we didn’t care. Attendance was the most important thing and we enjoyed every minute of it in the autumn gloom as Jack Morris led the Tigers to a 3-2 win.

I will always remember being at the 1984 World Series opener.

Emery J. Cummins, Pacific Beach

Garvey wins the game when time is stopped

On October 6, 1984, Steve Garvey hit a 95 mph fastball from Lee Smith of the Chicago Cubs over the 370-foot marker in right-center field at Jack Murphy Stadium in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series for game-winning home run.

This propelled the San Diego Padres to win Game 5 and advance to the World Series for the first time. I believe it was the defining sports moment in San Diego sports history. I was one of over 54,000 fans in attendance. Time stopped. It was magical. The interesting subtext was that Garvey hit just eight home runs in 617 at-bats during the regular season. Here we are 39 years later. Gone are the Chargers to greener pastures (what a joke) in Los Angeles. The Padres have spent their massive coffers to secure a top-notch team (on paper) in hopes of grabbing the brass ring of their first World Series ring.

And then there are the Aztecs. They defied all odds to reach the national basketball championship using suffocating defense and decent scoring. They are a pleasure to watch. Thank goodness for the Transfer Portal and Extended Eligibility Solutions for COVID-19. Now let’s hope this run entices future sports standouts to consider attending SDSU. (Come on, means of name, image, and likeness). With the addition of the Wave football team, there is much to look forward to and gather in San Diego sports. To paraphrase Timbuk 3, the future is so bright that San Diego fans should wear shades.

Jack Keane, San Carlos

Butler buzzer beater worth remembering

Aztec guard Lamont Butler’s game-winning shot in last week’s Final Four deserves a place in San Diego history, and not just San Diego State University history.

Pittsburgh has a statue of Franco Harris in its airport so that I will never forget his “flawless reception.” We should have a similar statue or a huge painting/photo of Butler’s historic game winning shot at our airport for all arriving passengers to see.

Steven Hestilov, Solana Beach

Sports create happy moments all the time

SDSU’s basketball game against Florida Atlantic University couldn’t have been more stunning. Immediately after the match I went to a shop and while paying I asked the shop assistant if she had heard the news. She looked concerned, but when I told her the Aztecs had won in the Final Four, she looked completely relieved. She had already heard the news but was worried that I had news of another horrific shooting.

That sports can bring such happy moments when there are so many bad news bulletins makes sporting events even more welcome gifts.

Dayna Krigens, Encinitas

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