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Published 2/1/2011
Stuart J. Fischer, MD

Who were the first Padres?

Brush up on San Diego’s past and present attractions

San Diego is famous for its baseball team, the Padres, who play at Petco Park near the convention center. But who were the real padres who helped build the city?

Church missionaries weren’t the first to come to San Diego. The area had been inhabited for thousands of years by native peoples called Kumeyaay. The Kumeyaay still live in the area—on 13 reservations in San Diego County.

Spanish adventurers also preceded the Padres. The first European to reach San Diego was Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. In 1542 he led an expedition from Guatemala and Mexico that landed in San Diego Bay, in an area now known as Point Loma. Sixty years later another Spanish explorer, Sebastian Vizcaino, named the area for the Spanish saint San Diego de Alcala.

The Padres—a title given to priests—came much later. In 1769, Franciscan friars led by Father Junipero Serra established the first mission in Alta California, Mission San Diego de Alcala. Serra went on to build a chain of 21 missions in California, including the famous San Juan Capistrano. He also planted a palm tree at the site that is the traditional starting point of the historic trail through California, El Camino Real.

The current mission building is the fifth on the site. When California was ruled by Mexico, the mission passed briefly into private hands. After the United States acquired the area, the mission was used as a barracks by the U.S. Army. It was returned to the Catholic Church and the Padres by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.

Today, Mission San Diego is a National Historic Landmark and an active Catholic parish.

Other San Diego landmarks
Naval Base San Diego is the home of the United States Pacific Fleet and houses 57 ships. It is the largest naval base on the west coast. The working population of the base is approximately 30,000.

The San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park contains over 4000 animals, many of them endangered species. Perhaps the most famous zoo residents are three giant pandas; two were born in China and the third, Yun Zi, was born at the zoo in August 2009.

Balboa Park, in the center of San Diego, is also home to several of the city’s museums. The park has hosted two world’s fairs including the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition and the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, which was held to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal.

Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla hosted the U.S. Open golf tournament in 2008, which was won by Tiger Woods. The Buick Open, another stop on the Professional Golf Association tour, is also played at Torrey Pines every year. The course is named after a rare species of coastal pine tree found only in San Diego and on a small island off the Santa Barbara coast. There are only 2,000 Torrey pines in existence.

The Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island in San Diego Bay is one of the largest all-wooden buildings in California. It was the first resort hotel to use electrical lighting. Children’s author L. Frank Baum was a frequent guest. The hotel’s unique architecture with multiple turrets and bright red roof were said to be the inspiration for some of his later stories in the Wizard of Oz series.

A National Historic Landmark, the “Hotel Del” has been featured in numerous films, including Some Like It Hot, The Stunt Man, and Steve Martin’s My Blue Heaven.

People and places
Theodor Seuss Geisel, known worldwide as Dr. Seuss, wrote his most famous children’s book, The Cat in the Hat, in San Diego. Dr. Seuss was a longtime resident of the city. He was challenged to write a book that used no more than 225 different words felt to be important for first graders to know. The book uses 236 distinct words.

John Madden was defensive coordinator for the San Diego State University Aztecs before he coached the Oakland Raiders.

The first YouTube video ever uploaded, “Me at the zoo,” was shot by YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim at the San Diego Zoo.

The center of San Diego was originally located in an area now known as “Old Town” near Father Serra’s original mission. In the mid 1800s Alonzo Horton began to promote development in an area closer to the waterfront; it’s now known as the Gaslamp Quarter.

Famous western lawman Wyatt Earp lived in San Diego. He owned four saloons and gambling halls in the Gaslamp Quarter in the 1880s.

Caesar’s—not Julius!
The first Caesar’s salad was prepared by San Diego resident Caesar Cardini on July 4, 1924. Cardini’s restaurant was actually across the border in Tijuana so he could escape the rules of Prohibition and serve liquor. He invented the salad when he ran low on supplies and put together a dish made up of what was left in the kitchen.

Stuart J. Fischer, MD, is a member of the AAOS Now editorial board. He can be reached at 3pindoc@attglobal.net