Saturday, April 23, 2011

Padres' First Mission Valley Ballpark

San Diego’s second baseball stadium
By Keith Antigiovanni
April 28 is the 52nd anniversary of Westgate Park in Mission Valley.
The San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) moved to Westgate after 22 seasons at their former home, Lane Field at West Broadway and the San Diego Harbor.
Padres ownership sold the franchise to Arnholdt Smith, owner of the U.S. National bonk of San Diego, in 1955. Smith put his own mark on the franchise by moving the team to Mission Valley (5 miles north of downtown San Diego).
Mission Valley at that time was mostly dairy fields but was also an up-and-coming industrial, retail and tourist base. Mission Valley represented San Diego’s post World War 2 expanding population.
In the months before the 1958 season Smith constructed his ballpark, the 8,200 seat Westgate Park at the present day site of Fashion Valley Shopping Center, specifically the northeast corner south of Friars Road and west of State Freeway 163.
Construction was completed in time for the Padres doubleheader against the Phoenix Giants on April 28, 1958. It took a few seasons for the club to get comfortable in the new ballpark but the Westgate years were good times for the Padres and their legion of fans as the franchise won the PCL title in 1962, 1964 and 1967.
The Padres were affiliated with a number of Major League teams in the Westgate Park era which included the Cleveland Indians (1957-1959), Chicago White Sox (1960-1961), Cincinnati Reds (1962-1965) and Philadelphia Phillies (1966-1968).
After the 1967 season San Diego Stadium (Qualcomm) opened three miles east of Westgate. The American Football League’s San Diego Chargers played their first game at the new stadium on August 20, 1967. Meanwhile Smith’s bid for a National League expansion team in 1969 was successful and he moved the PCL Padres to the new stadium for the 1968 season.
The Padres spent their final season in the PCL at San Diego Stadium while the city made plans to replace Westgate with the current Fashion Valley shopping center. Westgate was razed in 1969.