Our fearless leader David Frerker began his article yesterday with an interesting statement about San Diego’s Mt. Rushmore as it pertains to athletes.
“The top names that easily come to mind are Tony Gwynn (Padres), Trevor Hoffman (Padres), Junior Seau (Chargers), Phil Mickleson (PGA), Billy Casper (PGA) etc. But only four names fit on the Mount Rushmore of San Diego Sports. Our four would be Tony Gwynn, Ted Williams, Junior Seau and Jimmie Johnson.”
That got me to thinking. When taking the entire sports history of San Diego into account, who would be the four most important people in the history of San Diego sports?
No doubt there are probably somewhere between 15-25 different people that would be in the running. From athletes to owners to media members could and should be considered. But from a person that has lived in this town his entire lifetime of nearly four decades, here is my list (and the reason behind their prominent spot).
Ray Kroc — If it were not for Mr. Kroc we would not have had the opportunity to have #CelebrateSD last weekend as the Padres would not even be in San Diego. Ray, as most probably know, saved the Padres from being the Washington DC Padres back in 1974. Of course, it is Padres, and MLB lore, that Mr. Kroc grabbed the microphone at then San Diego Stadium and called the team out for their lackluster play against the Houston Astros on April 9 of that year as described on sabr.org
Making his way to the public address booth, he grabbed the mic and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I suffer with you.”
Suddenly, a male streaker bolted onto the field, further angering Kroc.
“Get that streaker off the field,” his voice boomed throughout the ballpark, “throw him in jail!”5
Kroc went on. “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the Dodgers drew 31,000 for their opener and we’ve drawn 39,000 for ours. The bad news is that this is the most stupid baseball playing I’ve ever seen.”
The crowd suddenly erupted in cheers, appreciative of Kroc’s candor.
As a side note: this outburst by Kroc was the same night as the KGB 101.5fm /San Diego Chicken debuted.
Mr. Kroc would die in January of 1984, the year that the Padres would win the NLCS by beating Kroc’s beloved Chicago Cubs and would later lose to the Tigers in the World Series.
Jack Murphy — To most Jack Murphy is just what many San Diegans still call Qualcomm Stadium. However, to those that remember back (or like me have read) in 1960, Jack Murphy was the Sports Editor for the San Diego Union (which would later merge with the Evening Tribune to create the current San Diego Union-Tribune). It was his columns that persuaded the then LA Chargers (in their first go round) to relocate to San Diego.
Once the Chargers started outgrowing Balboa Stadium, it was Murphy that began using his column to get the ball rolling on the Stadium that would later carry his name (you can see a statue outside of the Trolley station of Mr. Murphy and his dog Abe). He would help bring everyone together back in 1965 to get the Stadium built.
Four years later, it was Mr. Murphy that helped secure the Padres becoming a National League team in 1969.
Murphy would pass away in 1980 and not long after his death, the San Diego City Council renamed the stadium “San Diego-Jack Murphy Stadium”. Many people still call Qualcomm Stadium “The Murph” after the Tech giant bought the naming rights back in 1997 (and that naming rights deal expires this year (2017)).
Now that we have half of the mountain taken care of, the hard part comes narrowing it down for the other half.
Tony Gwynn, Junior Seau, John”Coach” Kintera, Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton, Coach Don Coryell, Trevor Hoffman, LaDainian Tomlinson, Ted Leitner, Jerry Coleman, Bill Walton, Bob Breitbard… There are several people that are qualified to be put on the other half.
Personally, my two picks are Tony Gwynn and Coach Don Coryell.
I mean really, do I have to explain Tony Gwynn? The man did everything in San Diego. Four years as a standout at San Diego State University on both the basketball and baseball teams. Hell, TG still holds the Aztecs record for most assists for the basketball team.
Then the man known by many as “Mr. San Diego” or “Mr. Padre” was drafted by both the San Diego Padres (58th overall pick) and the San Diego Clippers (10th round) on the same day.
Who doesn’t know that he played for the Padres for 20 years, collected every single one of his 3,141 hits for the Padres or his NL record 8 batting titles? After his career he would go on to coach the Aztecs at the field that bore his name (it was dedicated Tony Gwynn Stadium at Charlie Smith Field in 1997 while he was still playing for the Padres) for 12 years.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. Gwynn is also a member of the Breitbard Hall of Fame (San Diego Hall of Champions) five years prior to that, the same year he was honored to be in the Padres Hall of Fame. In 2004, the Padres retired his number (one of only five numbers, plus MLB’s retirement of 42) and the one Hall of Fame that not many people may know about. The California Hall of Fame (located in Sacramento) inducted him in 2016.
My final person on the Mt. Rushmore of San Diego sports is a person, who in my opinion should’ve been in the Pro Football Hall of Fame about 10 years ago, Don Coryell.
Coach Don Coryell — The legend began coaching in the San Diego area at San Diego State in 1961. He spent 12 years on the Mesa racking up a 104-19-2 records in the Scarlet and Black. It was while he was at SDSU that Coryell began developing his passing attack.
After coaching the St. Louis Cardinals (later moved to Arizona) he came back to “America’s Finest City” to coach the Chargers from 1978 until 1986. He took over the Chargers when they had a 1-4 record in 1978…they would end up finishing the season 9-7 for their first winning season since 1969.
Three consecutive division titles in 1979, ’80 and ’81 followed suit. Dan Fouts was at the helm of those offenses and guided “Air Coryell” as the Chargers would lead the NFL in passing for six consecutive years and seven out of eight years (1978-83, 85). Add in to all the revolutionary aspects of the passing game, that most of us take for granted, he is the only coach to ever amass 100 wins in both college and NFL ranks. His career NFL record with the Cardinals & Chargers was 111-83-1.
When looking at the people that he coached or is in his coaching tree is remarkable.
His coaching tree includes John Madden, Joe Gibbs, Norv Turner, Earnie Zampese and Mike Martz among others. All the coaches listed are coaches that have won Super Bowls using the “Air Coryell” offense or some sort of variation of it.
So, that is my list… What say you???
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