There are some that would love to see the San Diego Chargers move to Los Angeles – mostly those involved in the business aspect. There are even a few that would root for the club if they became the L.A Chargers. I, on the other hand, feel absolutely sick to my stomach even at the thought of it, and here’s why.
I was born and raised in San Diego and currently reside in Arizona. I have many fond memories of my hometown and visit fairly often. My memories include such things as jet skiing in the bay, bonfires on the beach and hanging out at Horton Plaza mall. Even my late father’s ashes lay in the frigid water of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Coronado. Yet, my most favorite recollections are watching the San Diego Chargers on TV. Supporting the Chargers is what keeps me close to home, and keeps those memories alive and vivid in my mind. For the past few years, there have been multiple articles written and many discussions articulating the possibility of the Chargers moving to L.A. That being said, I could never root for the L.A Chargers.
I do not like L.A. It could be the traffic, the vanity of everyone that lives there or even the annoyance of how everything feels so rushed. There has always been an undisclosed tension between the people of San Diego and Los Angeles, but I don’t think anything compares to the football pressure. Yes, the Chargers spent a year in L.A, but left in 1961 for one reason…no fans! Most recently, many were left bitter when the Rams left there and headed east to St. Louis after the 1994 season. Since then, the city has been searching for a team to wake up the city’s sleepy football community. Here’s where I will say, with my heart on my sleeve, “Look somewhere else because it can’t be the San Diego Chargers”.
San Diego is a city everyone loves. Have you ever heard someone utter “meh, I really don’t like San Diego”? I have so much love for where I’m from and for the Chargers! I sometimes blab on about how Philip Rivers, even without a Super Bowl ring, is a top-five quarterback, or that the team is extremely underrated, or even going as far as wearing a shirt with Manning’s name and an inappropriate symbol embossed on it. I love San Diego and I love the San Diego Chargers. Hell, I even love that Father Time stadium we call the Q. I couldn’t possibly see it any other way. Envisioning “The Los Angeles Chargers” makes me cringe and snarl. But more importantly, I feel a heavy heart with even the possibility of a move; a heaviness that cannot ever be mended. The San Diego Chargers are one of the last things to give me solace in the city I live that isn’t considered home.
One of San Diego’s greatest athletes was born in Los Angeles, the late Tony Gwynn, but spent his entire baseball career in the nation’s finest city playing his entire career with the Padres. For many reasons, Gwynn migrated to San Diego and remained there. Even his final resting place is in Poway. In addition, Junior Seau spent his beginning and remaining years in San Diego. With such a rich history, there’s absolutely every reason to be a fan of any San Diego professional sport.
I despise Los Angeles, and the fact that the city was once home to the Raiders gives me an even more burning hatred. I want the Chargers to forever claim San Diego as their finest city, and having the best fans in the NFL. I couldn’t see it any other way. Fans like me will agree it wouldn’t be the same and, personally, the loss would perpetually scar my football heart. It might be that the Chargers have a very special fan base or that they continue to have an underdog reputation and never get the credit they deserve. But I wouldn’t want it to be any different. The San Diego Chargers are imprinted on me, like a scalding brand to a calf’s hindquarter. I cannot, and will never, support a team called the L.A Chargers.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to introduce you to Ernie Martinez. Ernie has been in the San Diego Sports Talk industry for over 25 years. There may not be a more likable, more humble personality in the San Diego market than Ernie. In an age where personalities in radio come and go, as much as the wind blows, Ernie has been a mainstay.
Mr. Martinez has shared all the highs and lows the same as every other fan in San Diego has endured during the past 25 years. His passion for the Padres and the Chargers is unmatched, and comes across in his stylistic phrasing on the radio and in his tweets on Twitter.
Currently, Ernie is the producer on the morning show on 1360am “World According To Chris and Ben,” a show which he named. As we approach training camp in a month, make sure you follow @erniemartinezSD on Twitter and on 1360am.
Thomas: It’s very interesting to me to see how a man got to be where he is now. You career began as a mouse in Chuck E. Cheese. You’ve got to share that experience from 1983.
Ernie: My foundation for the work force was built by my Dad at an early age of 5-years old. He owns and operates ( along with my Mom…50 years strong ) his own business ( landscaping/gardening). I had a paper route as well ( The Times Advocate which eventually became the North County Times).
Prior to my senior year in high school, Escondido High, I ventured to seek something else. That something else led me to Chuck E. Cheese Fun Time Theatre, where my job duties were to be a gameroom attendant and Chuck E. Cheese the mouse. Being the mouse I had to avoid being kicked in places that would buckle any mouse…. One time, this kid attempts to kick me (Chuckie) and I grab his foot, and in the classic Dirty Harry voice… here’s how the incident played out as I recall.
Chuckie: “I dare you to do it again.”
Kid: (In a shocked voice) “Chuckie…. you’re not supposed to talk.
Chuckie: “You try kicking me again and talking will be the least of your worries.”
From then on when he came in, he would try to see who was behind the mesh eyes the Chuckie costume had.
My other Chuckie story is when my head fell off in front of a bunch of 2-3 year olds. While holding my head, I’m staring at a bunch of shocked kids and fuming moms.
Thomas: What made you want to get into the Sports talk Industry? Who did you look up to when making that decision?
Ernie: I started writing and creating my own newspapers and sports magazines at a very young age. That desire to write lead to journalism classes in high school, eventually a sports writer and a sports editor for the school paper.
In 1982, I was invited to attend an editor’s day at the ball park at San Diego Stadium (All the high schools from San Diego County were invited). We got to meet Whitey Wietelmann and Bob Chandler while interviewing Dick Williams and Steve Garvey. I asked “The Garv” a question and was stoked! That excitement leads to radio aspirations.
After high school I attended Palomar Junior College where they have their own campus radio station, KKSM. I started doing shows and sports, got a real job at a radio station in Escondido and landed a job with the Mighty690 when they launched in 1991.
I had always enjoyed listening to games on the radio. Jerry Coleman, Bob Chandler, Dave Campbell and Vin Scully were all inspirations. I just knew I wanted to do something with Major League Baseball.
Thomas: You had some really good stories at Steve Adler’s going away party last year about the Padres being in New York during the 1998 World Series. What was it like to be there first hand watching “your” team play in that stadium vs the Yankees?
Ernie: It was a whirlwind for 2.5 weeks during the playoffs and World Series. I started covering the team in 1991 and saw them go from a good team to a bad team and then leading up to the ’98 season. I had been to and gone through New York before…but to be there and a room in a cool hotel and covering the team was awesome. Walking through the stadium to see the locker room that Ruth and Gehrig shared was very cool. Of course my greatest moment was to see Tony Gwynn silence the crowd with his blast off the facade in game one of the series. Then Greg Vaughn goes back-to-back. Great trip.
Thomas: Speaking of the Legend that is Tony Gwynn. What are some of your favorite memories of him? Both as a fan and a member of the media?
Ernie: I saw Tony play many games as a fan. But for some reason the one that sticks out was a mid-week game with a good buddy where it was a typical Gwynn night. A couple of hits and three assists. We cheered… good time. As a reporter, there are many but here are some that stick out.
1. The homerun at Yankee Stadium.
2. I would always get to the park and sit in the pressbox and watch Tony take BP at around 2:00 or 2:30 in the afternoon. After he was done I’d go down and he’d be sitting in the dugout talking with a reporter or someone. One time he’s putting pine tar on his bats and says, “Ernie, let me show you how I pine tar a bat.” I was a kid in a candy store.
3. I was invited to take BP against Bruce Bochy one afternoon. Tony was on the DL but working out. I was shagging balls in RF when Tony came running out to his position and asked me what I was doing in his house. I smiled and moved to CF. Once again there was a Gwynn and Martinez in the same OF.
Thomas: Okay, let’s talk Gridiron now. Telesco and McCoy seem to have brought with them some needed fresh air to a polluted Complex. What are your impressions of the new era Chargers so far?
Ernie: I can’t tell you how excited I am about the Chargers right now at this very moment. Like other fans, I look forward to the season, but I am more about watching the MLB season play out and slowly transition into football. I haven’t looked forward to the Bolts with this much anticipation…. ever. It’s not just because they are coming off a playoff year, but it’s how they gelled together last season. Players were challenged and rose to the occasion and the team seemed to plug up some holes with talent during the offseason. I am just excited to see how they play in the upcoming season. Fired up!
Thomas: It seems the fans are going to have a public vote hopefully in 2016 for a new stadium. With all the transplant individuals in this city along with voters that are dead set against any public money going to pay for the stadium, the situation seems a little doubtful. Do you think the Chargers can get this passed? What is your opinion of the Downtown location over the current Mission Valley site?
Ernie: My response, I hope so. The Chargers could have left over the past few years and gone elsewhere but have remained in San Diego. That is a sign of loyalty. I believe this is where they want to stay and bring home a championship. The NFL belongs in this great city of ours. This city has had a rough patch with finances and I can only hope they and the team can come together on a plan and wonderful facility whether it’s in downtown or Mission Valley.
Thomas: You have a “true” talent with your drawing and work you’ve done in graphic design. What interested you into this field at first?
Ernie: First of all, thank you. I started drawing at a very young age. Creativity and artistry run in the family. My mom started having us create birthday cards when I was about 4-years-old and I have never had to buy one. I make my own.
I have always enjoyed painting and writing. I started making baseball cards of my friends when I was in the 7th grade and continue to make them to this day. I have probably made close to a thousand. Friends come up to me and say, “I still have the card you made of me in Pony League.” It’s a good feeling.
Computers have allowed me to further my creativity. A few years ago, after being waived from the radio industry, I earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design.
Thomas: Would you please share with us the work you do for “The Miracle League” and exactly what it is they do?
Ernie: My main goal when I started radio was to do play-by-play for baseball. That was before sports radio launched on the west coast. After moving forward in sports talk radio, I did little play-by-play. Although I was part of the first ever radio play-by-play broadcast at Petco Park for the Tony Gwynn Classic along with Alan Horton ( Voice of the Minnesota Timberwolves ) on March 11, 2004.
While out of the radio business a few years back, I was asked if I was interested in volunteering with The Miracle League of San Diego. I became their play-by-play announcer. I’d do 5-6 games on a Saturday, two times a year. There is a spring and fall season. I announce the games over the loud-speaker at “Engel Family Field” at San Dieguito Park. It is one of the greatest things I have ever done while fulfilling my dreams of being a play-by-play announcer for baseball. It’s tons of fun!
The MLSD provides people with special needs the opportunity to play baseball in an organized league at two locations in San Diego County: Engel Family Field, a Little Padres Park in San Dieguito Park and Del Mar and Green Field at Coronado High School in Coronado.
Thomas: You book the guests for the show you named “World of Sports According to Chris and Ben.” How hard is it to book guests for a 5 day a week show? Any good booking stories you’d like to share?
Ernie: Producing was the one job I never really had to do in my 20 plus years in radio. It was very challenging at first and I didn’t enjoy it. I felt, and I do at times, feel like I’m bothering people. But I’ve moved past that. Being back in the industry, I’ve rekindled relationships with those I have worked alongside in the past and helped cultivate some new and fresh guests since being back in radio at this position.
Chris Ello, Ben Higgins and Herm Gasaway have all been a tremendous help in moving forward and always looking for a timely guest. My goal is to have 10 guests per week ( 2 per show ). Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Some of our best shows have had no guests. It allows the host to do their thing. I thought our coverage, as a whole, ( The World of Sports” and “The Drive” with Mike Costa and Judson Richards and Jim Russell) of the passing of Tony Gwynn was phenomenal. We all worked hard, booked great guests – on the fly – and added insight, as well as the insight from our callers and listeners.
The one booking story that stands out goes back to October 1991 during the World Series between the Braves and the Twins. Dave Marcus, long-time Padres engineer, and I are producing a weekend baseball show for former Padres announcer Dave Campbell, and Jim Rome. The amazing part is, back then we had two producers for a weekend show. Those were the days.
Campbell asked to call Leo Mazzone to see if he would join the show Sunday morning following game 6. The Braves were a win away from a championship if they won on Saturday. I call Leo and he says, “Well, if we win tonight, I can’t promise anything.” My response, in a very shy way, “And if you don’t?” I was young and wasn’t thinking. Mazzone paused for a few seconds as I waited on the other end of the phone. I’m now kicking myself. He agreed to do it. Needless to say, Kirby Puckett makes a homerun saving catch and then hits a walk-off in game 6. Mazzone joins the show Sunday morning prior to game 7. And the rest is history.
Thomas: So where can fans find you on Twitter and the show?
Editor’s note: I can’t thank Ernie enough for taking the time to do this interview. With all due respect to every other individual that we’ve interviewed on BoltBlitz.com, players included, this might be my favorite. Thanks again, Ernie. And Thomas, keep knocking it out of the park. Great job by both of you.
As a born and raised San Diegan misplaced, but not out of touch, our fair city and our beloved teams have suffered three tragic losses in just about two years. My passion for the Chargers is equaled (or rivaled) only by my passion for the Padres.
I grew up listening to the Colonel, Jerry Coleman with his melodic musings as a kid, into my teenage years and into adulthood. I was at “The Murph” when the Padres fulfilled the improbable dream in 1984 by coming back from, at the time, an unheard of 0-2 deficit in a best of five series to sweep the Chicago Cubs at home and advance to their first ever World Series berth and vividly remember his play-by-play during that series. “Oh Doctor!” still rings in my ears.
I watched Tony Gwynn blossom from a below average fielder to a gold glove winning Right Fielder and watched him bat .370 with Alan Wiggins in front of him on the way to that magical ride in ’84. Tony was not only great for his hard work and his accomplishments, but he was also a great man.
Anyone claiming to be a Charger fan knows the legacy of one Junior Seau. Plenty has been written about Junior, and I’m sure that will continue for a long time. He is permanently etched in Boltlore. Fans still feel the pain from his passing.
You see, Tony and Junior had a lot in common, both on and off the field. Neither sought the spotlight. Both men were genuinely humble and cared more about their teammates, and more importantly, their city than anyone. Both were cornerstones of their respective teams. When you think Padres, you automatically think Tony Gwynn. When you think Chargers, sure, you think of Ladainian Tomlinson, but you also think Junior, you think “Say OW!”
Three losses to key figures in our sports lives, all faces of their franchises, all forever remembered as part of San Diego and its great heritage lost to us. How much can one fan take?