This article was written by Tom Larwin
Coming into the 2004 season the Padres had played 2,775 regular-season games in 35 seasons at San Diego/Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium (1969-2003), a multipurpose stadium typical of other major-league baseball venues of that period. The opening of San Diego’s Petco Park represented another period in baseball venues, one in which stadiums were designed for baseball purposes specifically, i.e., “ballparks,” and located in or close to major commercial centers.1
The San Diego community was excited about the new ballpark. Its dramatic architectural style and downtown location provided a substantive change from the former stadium in Mission Valley. An example of the feelings was this headline on the lead article in the April 8 San Diego Union-Tribune:
“RUNS, HITS & AURAS: For some, watching baseball in a great ballpark is like a religious experience. Only time will tell if Petco Park becomes one of the cathedrals of the game”2
The Padres’ home opener came after three games in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, with the Padres winning one and losing two. The Giants came in with a 2-1 record from their opening road series with the Houston Astros.
On the mound for the Padres was San Diegan David Wells, a veteran of 17 seasons. Wells grew up and went to high school not far from the new ballpark. He was to face former Padres pitcher Dustin Hermanson. It was to be each player’s first start of the season.
The San Diego connection for this first game at Petco Park extended to the umpiring crew, three of whose members had San Diego roots. Mike Winters was the home-plate umpire, while Brian Runge and Kerwin Danley handled second and third bases, respectively.
The game got underway with the first pitch at Petco Park recorded at 7:07 P.M. thrown by Wells, a called strike to Giants leadoff man Ray Durham.
The Giants went one-two-three in the top of the first inning and that allowed the Padres’ Brian Giles the opportunity to get the first base hit at Petco Park, a single to right field at 7:17 P.M.
The score stayed 0-0 going into the bottom of the third inning, when the Padres’ number-eight batter, shortstop Khalil Greene, hit a single to center field. He was sacrificed to second base and scored when third baseman Sean Burroughs hit a double — the first extra-base hit in Petco Park’s history — that scored Greene with the first run in Petco Park.
In what had become a pitchers’ duel, the Padres were still ahead 1-0 after eight innings and the Giants had been limited to five hits while the Padres had six.
The ninth inning started in what had become standard San Diego fashion when the team had a late-inning lead: Roaring flames were pictured on the scoreboard and the song “Hell’s Bells” blared from ballpark speakers as Trevor Hoffmanmade his way from the center-field bullpen area to take the mound for the Padres. This was Hoffman’s second appearance of the season; he had allowed no runs in a one inning, no-decision, appearance against the Dodgers the day before.
Hoffman immediately had trouble: The first two Giants batters to face him, Pedro Feliz and pinch-hitter Michael Tucker, reached base on singles. With Yorvit Torrealba next up, Cody Ransom came in to run for Felix at second base. Giants manager Felipe Alou signaled for a bunt and one was perfectly executed by Torrealba with Ransom and Tucker reaching third and second.
Alou then sent up another pinch-hitter, A.J. Pierzynski, who hit a groundball to shortstop Greene. Ransom was moving on contact and was tagged out at home plate on the throw from Greene to catcher Ramon Hernandez. The Giants were down to their last out with runners on first and third and leadoff man Ray Durham coming to bat.
Since coming on, Hoffman had faced four batters and threw five pitches, all for strikes, and each of the four swung at first pitches. Durham was no different: he swung at the first offering and laced a double to left-center field, scoring the two baserunners, and turning the game around to a 2-1 lead for the Giants. That’s the way it stayed as Neifi Perez grounded out.
The capacity Petco Park crowd of 41,400 was stunned by the quick turnaround, especially against fan favorite Hoffman, who was saddled with his first blown save of the season. This was Hoffman’s first save opportunity since 2002; he was on the disabled list for most of the 2003 season. There was no doubt that Hoffman, at age 36, left many of the Padres fans wondering if he had lost his magic.
Going into the bottom of the ninth inning with the lead, the Giants brought in pitcher Matt Herges. At the start of this new season Herges was the team’s designated closer, having picked up saves in each of the Giants’ two wins. Padres shortstop Greene was up first and singled to left field. Ramon Vazquez batted for pitcher Hoffman and sacrificed Greene to second base. Then, after 12 pitches, Sean Burroughs sent a hit into center field that scored Greene and knotted the score at 2-2. The Padres were unable to score further in the inning and the game proceeded into extra innings.
After being in the lead for most of the game, then down, and nearly out, the Padres had renewed life with the ninth-inning comeback. Antonio Osuna was the Padres’ new pitcher in the 10th inning. This was Osuna’s 10th season in the major leagues and his first with the Padres. He was to face the Giants’ number three, four, and five hitters in the order: Marquis Grissom, Barry Bonds, and Edgardo Alfonzo.
It did not go well for Osuna: Grissom greeted him with a home run to lead off the inning, and the Giants were quickly back into the lead — and next up was Bonds. Thus far in the game he was 0-for-3 in addition to an intentional walk. Bonds came into the game with one home run for the season — career number 659. He was chasing number 660; that would tie him with Willie Mays for the third-most career major-league home runs.
A dramatic home run was not to be as Bonds popped out. Despite another hit by the Giants, they were unable to score any more runs and the Padres came up to bat in the bottom of the 10th, behind 3-2.
Hoping to close out the win for the Giants, Herges remained in the game to face the middle of the Padres’ batting order. A late-inning replacement in left field, Kerry Robinson, was up first and on a 3-and-2 pitch grounded a single into center field. The next two batters made outs, bringing up Greene, who had reached base in each of his five times at bat, with three singles and two walks. On a 3-and-2 pitch he took ball four and reached base for the fifth time, placing runners at first and second and bringing up Miguel Ojeda, pinch-hitting for pitcher Eddie Oropesa. This was Ojeda’s initial at-bat in the 2004 season.
Manager Alou countered with David Aardsma relieving Herges. Three pitches later, Ojeda hit a ground-rule double that scored Robinson, tied the score, 3-3, and left Padres runners at second and third. Next up was leadoff batter Burroughs, already with two hits and two key RBIs that included the big one in the ninth inning to tie the game. It took only two pitches and Burroughs had his third RBI of the game with a line-drive base hit to left field that drove in Greene with the winning run.
The headlines for the next day’s articles in the San Diego Union-Tribune summed up the major story lines for Petco Park’s inaugural game:
“A DAZZLING DEBUT, FINISH, Comeback Win Caps Historic Night”3
“Western Mettle, Padres Inaugurate Petco by Staging Two Comebacks After Losing Lead in Ninth”4
“Burroughs, Ballpark a Timely Match”5
“Bonds Still Waiting, Petco Is Barry-Proof for at Least One Night”6
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
2 Chris Jenkins, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 8, 2004.
3 Jeff McDonald and Jonathan Heller, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 9, 2004.
4 Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 9, 2004.
5 Bill Center, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 9, 2004.
6 Chris Jenkins, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 9, 2004.