A leap of faith: How the Padres believed spending big would make San Diego a sports town again

AP Photo/Derrick Tuskan

SAN DIEGO -- Peter Seidler was at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 18, 1977. He was 16, sitting alongside his uncle, longtime Los Angeles Dodgers president and owner Peter O'Malley, when Reggie Jackson belted three home runs to famously clinch another New York Yankees championship. Seidler, now 60 and presiding over a San Diego Padres team with similar aspirations, can still recall the feeling.

"My body was shaking because the building was shaking," he said. "It was a lifetime memory that you just can't shake. As a Dodger fan, it was intimidating. At the same time, it was awesome. It was a thrill."

Seidler couldn't help but think back to that moment last October, with the Padres in the postseason for the first time in 14 years. The COVID-19 pandemic had kept San Diegans away from Petco Park, preventing them from witnessing one of the most exhilarating teams in franchise history. As the wild-card round progressed, and the Padres won two close elimination games to advance into the division series, the only audible cheering came from a small suite that accommodated the players' wives. Seidler, eight years into his ownership tenure and weeks away from officially supplanting Ron Fowler as the Padres' control person, often wondered what it would have felt like under normal circumstances.

He thought about how it might compare to 1977.

"Except in Padres brown," Seidler said, "with this city shaking that building."