Decades after it was last used by the minor-league San Diego Padres, San Diego’s Lane Field is commemorated in unique fashion at its former site.
In 1925, a Navy athletic field was completed at a site near the waterfront in downtown San Diego. The field was later equipped with football-style bleachers while being used for multiple types of events, remaining that way until 1936, when Bill Lane relocated his Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League to San Diego. Through a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, the former athletic field was repurposed into a ballpark, complete with a grandstand and baseball diamond.
Lane Field opened its gates for the minor-league San Diego Padres in 1936, the same season that saw a local product named Ted Williams suit up for his hometown team. The 17-year-old Williams spent the ’36 season in the Padres uniform, returning in 1937 and making a stop with the Minneapolis Millers in 1938 and beginning his Hall of Fame major-league career with the Boston Red Sox in 1939. He was not the only future Hall of Famer to suit up for the Padres during that period, as second baseman Bobby Doerr also played for the ’36 club.
Ultimately, Lane Field would continue hosting the Padres through the 1957 Pacific Coast League season. Following that year, the Padres—by now under different ownership—moved to the brand-new Westgate Park in Mission Valley. This ultimately marked the beginning of decades-long shift of professional baseball from downtown San Diego to Mission Valley, as the multipurpose San Diego Stadium (later known as Jack Murphy Stadium and Qualcomm Stadium, now SDCCU Stadium) was completed in 1967 for the AFL’s Chargers and in anticipation of a Major League Baseball franchise setting up shop in the city. The PCL Padres played the 1968 season at the new San Diego Stadium, before being supplanted the following year by an MLB expansion franchise of the same name.
Toward the end of its run hosting the Padres, Lane Field and its wooden grandstand were beginning to deteriorate and, with Westgate Park making it obsolete for professional baseball, the ballpark was demolished. For many years, the site was used for surface parking and—while a plaque donated by a local SABR chapter was installed there in 2003—there was not a strong reminder of the ballpark that had once stood at that location.
That began to change earlier in this decade. In 2012, San Diego Port Commissioners approved a hotel complex project that would include a park dedicated to Lane Field. Plans called for the infield to be laid, with home plate located in the original spot, an elevated pitchers’ mound, bases, and lighting used to illuminate the baselines. The park was dedicated in 2015, featuring an outline of the batters’ boxes with a plaque on the site of home plate that includes a quote from Ted Williams and a silhouette of him batting. The Splendid Splinter’s quote: “There’s only one way to become a hitter. Go up to the plate and get mad. Get mad at yourself and mad at the pitcher.”
While the pitchers’ mound is not elevated as depicted in earlier plans, the final design makes the purpose of the dedication clear with a pathway to home plate and a marker that the mimics the pitchers’ rubber. The entire site is not dedicated to the ballpark, as new development has risen in what was a portion of the outfield. Still, the buildings compliment the park nicely, and do not take away from tributes to Lane Field that exist on the site.
When visiting downtown San Diego, the Lane Field site is worth a stop. It is walkable from Petco Park—the home to the Padres that opened in 2004 and allowed professional baseball to return to downtown San Diego—and is across from Broadway Pier, where visitors can catch good glimpses of the water and the city skyline.
By serving as the steady home base of a Minor League Baseball franchise for two decades and seeing plenty of memorable players appear along the way, Lane Field carved out a significant role in the history of professional baseball in San Diego. Though it is no longer standing, the reminders of legacy at the site help connect San Diego’s past with its present while fittingly honoring the history that unfolded at Lane Field.
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