Fast approaching middle age if they aren't there already, the Padres will play their 43rd home opener in the major leagues this afternoon. On the same day that future Padres pitcher Pete Walker was born -- April 8, 1969 -- San Diego debuted in the big leagues with a 2-1 victory over the Astros in front of 23,370 at Jack Murphy Stadium. True to those less specialized times, relief pitchers weren't needed. Padres starter Dick Selma finished off both the Astros and his shift in two hours and 13 minutes.
The Padres had joined a rough neighborhood. The National League West was home to a budding dynasty in the Reds and a near dynasty in the Dodgers. The Giants, who'll be in downtown San Diego today, would lead the league in scoring in 1970 after compiling the NL's highest victory total for the 1960s. Bullied by everybody, the Padres didn't finish out of last place until 1975. Their first winning season came in 1984. Recent decades have been much kinder to them.
Today's sales of game programs should be brisk. More than half of the team's players were on other teams last year. Chris Denorfia, Ernesto Frieri, Ryan Ludwick and Cory Luebke each joined the Padres after Opening Day. Full-fledged newcomers are Jason Bartlett, Jorge Cantu, Samuel Deduno, Alberto Gonzalez, Aaron Harang, Brad Hawpe, Orlando Hudson, Cedric Hunter (who was drafted and developed by the Padres), Rob Johnson, Cameron Maybin, Dustin Moseley, Pat Neshek, Eric Patterson (DL) and Chad Qualls.