On a summer’s evening in 1992, photographer Charles “Charley” Starr, on assignment for the San Diego Union-Tribune, drove to an empty lot in the hills above Jack Murphy Stadium, hoping to get a twilight shot of MLB’s annual All-Star game being played there.
The picture he took on July 14, 1992, is now considered one of the most iconic San Diego sports photographs in our city’s history.
In a recent interview with iHeartRadio’s Darren Smith and Jack Cronin, Starr said that he initially planned to take an overview shot of just the stadium from the vantage point of a hilltop in Normal Heights. But when Starr reached the location (nothing more than a dirt lot at the time), he stumbled upon a small group of fans casually watching the game from lawn chairs and the back of a pickup truck. A television set was propped on a milk crate and hooked up to a generator. A construction worker’s bucket served as their cooler.
I came across those guys watching the game and just took the picture. It was that complicated. They were happy to talk to me as long as I didn’t interrupt too much of the game. They offered me a beer.
Charley Starr to Darren Smith & Jack Cronin, XTRA 1360, 3/3/21
My attempts to contact the subjects of the photograph were unsuccessful. However, a friend of theirs told me this:
I know this man, Marvin. Every time I see him I tell him his picture is still recognized.
After a hard day’s work, these fellas parked up there drinking beers and enjoying the view. The Union-Tribune fella was just standing there snapping photos when my buddy Marvin was tuning the TV. It turned out to be pretty famous.
He’s not a social media guy so will never pop up and give his side of it.
Post in “San Diego Padres Uncensored,” Facebook Group, 3/9/21
The story of how that particular group of friends found themselves on a dirt lot watching the All-Star game on a summer evening in 1992 is probably best left to our imagination anyway. And, as with all forms of art, the stories that really matter are our own individual reactions to it.
For many, the photograph perfectly captures being a sports fan in San Diego. We feel like we know Marvin, Sheila, Robert, and Pancho — that this could have been us on that hillside watching Tony Gwynn, Fred McGriff, and Benito Santiago represent the National League that day. It was a big-time event, and these fans with their ad-hoc setup were fully enjoying the moment, San Diego style.
Fans across San Diego have enjoyed and felt a connection to Starr’s photograph for nearly thirty years now. One fan even had it tattooed on his arm in 2018 after it was decided that the stadium would be demolished as part of San Diego State University’s purchase and rebuilding of the site.
To me it represents a time of innocence from my childhood — before the expansion of the stadium & talk of replacing it eclipsed the events happening in it. The timeless view of Mission Valley, as well as the stadium … before every inch was explored for some master planned condo development.
Mostly here to promote fun baseball! My focus is on our experiences as fans and shared connections in the baseball community. I also produce content on social media, including vlogs and event coverage. Instagram: Geekster43