Who were the first Padres?

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.

The baseball Padres
The original Padres baseball team was a minor league team that came to San Diego in 1936. They won the Pacific Coast League championship in 1937 led by a very young San Diego native named Ted Williams. Williams, who went on to star for the Boston Red Sox, was still in high school when he started playing for the Padres, so his parents had to sign his first minor league contract.

Prepared by Stuart J. Fischer, MD, today’s Daily Editor.