The Los Angeles that I grew up in during the 1950s was a place so beautiful that I can hardly believe it ever existed.
So few people lived in Los Angeles that it could easily be called a small town. The beaches were unspoiled and empty. Slightly inland, orange grove and eucalyptus trees were everywhere.
Today Los Angeles is ruined, killed by too many people and too much cement.
As beautiful as Los Angeles was back then when my family wanted to vacation in a truly magnificent spot, we went to San Diego.
Ted Williams was the premier Padre.
In his contribution to a wonderful collection of essays published 1995 by the Journal of San Diego History, Williams shared his recollections about the early days of his Padres’ career from 1936-1937 before he was called up by the Boston Red Sox.
Williams as quoted in the article “This Was Paradise,”
I remember my first at-bat for the Padres. The manager, Frank Shellenback, sent me in to pinch hit and I took three strikes right down the middle. Didn’t even swing. Then he sent me in to pitch one night and I got hit like I was throwing batting practice. But that first time I pitched I also hit — and I hit a double, I pitched two innings, and the next time up I hit a double. And then I was in the lineup. I went over to Lefty O’Doul one day and I said, ‘What do I have to do to be a good hitter?’ He said, ‘Kid, don’t ever let anybody change you.
That 1937 team was a good composite team: young, old, former big league players, good leadership under Frank Shellenback (the nicest man I ever met in baseball). Why we didn’t win it I don’t know. There was no friction. Did we win the playoffs in ’37? (Editor’s note: Yes!)
Lane Field was an old wooden ballpark, nice park for a lefthanded hitter, and the ball carried pretty good. We played a lot of day games. I enjoyed guys like Herm Pillette (the old pitcher), Howard Craghead, Jimmy Kerr (the catcher), George Myatt, Bobby Doerr . . .
There was no particular pressure on me playing in San Diego. I didn’t know what pressure was. I was nervous–not because I was born there, but because it was a whole new experience playing before crowds, professional baseball. San Diego was the nicest little town in the world. How the hell was I to know it was the nicest town in the world? I’d never been anyplace.
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