Football great Walt Sweeney had a soft spot for dogs

 

By Diane Bell
UT San Diego
4:45 P.M.FEB. 4, 2013

Bill Swank had planned to deliver a Local Authors Exhibit medal to former Chargers lineman Walt Sweeney while they watched the Super Bowl here together. But it wasn’t meant to be. Sweeney, 71, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this month, died Saturday at his home.

photo
Walt Sweeney of the San Diego Chargers in 1963.

“It took him about 15 years to get his book published,” said Swank, who had helped fine tune Sweeney’s tell-all autobiography, “Off Guard.” The book details Sweeney’s early use of team-approved performance-enhancing drugs and chronicles the impact of drugs and alcohol on his life.

“When he knew he was dying, his biggest concern was finding a home for his dog,” said Swank. “He had a big soft spot. It was a side many people didn’t know about Walt.” In the end, Sweeney’s son, Rick, took in the dachshund. As it turned out, Sweeney had inherited the dog from a friend who, likewise, was dying of cancer…

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Annual Awards Luncheon – 2012

12th Friends of Balboa Park Annual Awards Luncheon

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Friends of Balboa Park Annual Awards Luncheon honors volunteer leadership and provides public recognition of people and projects in Balboa Park. Inspiration Awards were presented Balboa Park volunteers for their exceptional dedication. The 2012 honorees were:

  • Jane Cowgill – San Diego History Center and The Old Globe
  • Betsy Gardner – San Diego Junior Theatre
  • Kay Harry – San Diego Floral Association
  • Mary Toomey – San Diego Natural History Museum
  • William Swank – Community Christmas Center

 

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Soldiers with Mormon Battalion were the first Padres?

San Diego Union-Tribune
6 a.m. July 30, 2012

Today’s lead isn’t buried in verbal cotton candy.

I’ve got hardball news.

In 1847, Mormon soldiers stationed at Mission San Luis Rey in what is now Oceanside played the first baseball games in California’s recorded history.

Azariah Smith, a private with the famed Mormon Battalion, wrote the following in his journal:

“Sunday March the 6th. We drilled as before and through the day we play ball and amuse ourselves the best way we can. It is very cool weather and clothing scarce.”

So what’s the big deal?

“When I started research for ‘Baseball in San Diego: From the Plaza to the Padres,’ ” says local baseball historian emeritus Bill Swank, “I wanted to discover mention of baseball in San Diego before May 6, 1871. I remember practically going blind and even falling asleep while spinning old 1850-1860s newspaper microfilm reels at the downtown library searching for the word ‘ball.’ When I found it in a headline, it meant a ball where the locals could trip the light fandango.”

Stymied, Swank ended up downplaying the period before 1871: “Billiards, bowling and boredom helped pass the time in the sleepy watering holes of Old San Diego.”

So it was a thunderbolt out of right field when, last month, Bay Area historian Angus Macfarlane (Swank fondly calls him a baseball “prehistorian”) said he may have stumbled upon what he calls the “Holy Grail,” Smith’s entry in “The Gold Discovery Journal of Azariah Smith” by David Bigler of Utah.

In a note to Swank, Bigler speculated that “the Mormon Battalion’s members hailed from virtually every state in the Union at that time and any one of them could have taught the rest how to play baseball.”

Coincidentally, on March 6, 1847, troops from New York arrived in San Francisco and in April went to Santa Barbara. According to historian Donald Briggs, the men proved unruly, “galloping their horses or playing ball in the streets.

So that’s the box score. Mission Mormons beat New Yorkers by a month.

Though it’s conceivable that “ball” referred to another recreation, Macfarlane assures me that “ball” was the common name for what we know as baseball.

Smith, by the way, has another claim to fame. He was right there when gold was discovered in Northern California. Rejecting the lure of riches, the homesick ex-soldier returned to Utah.

Nevertheless, he appears to be San Diego’s first known “ballist,” a distinction that can’t be conferred upon a friar.

“I always thought Padres was a great name for our San Diego baseball team,” Swank says with an irreverent twinkle. “Maybe they should be called the Mormons instead.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Diane Bell column (San Diego Union-Tribune, December 17, 2011)

Claus for a cause: Bill Swank, a local baseball historian who doubles as Santa Claus during the holidays, took his campaign to get a statue of Ted Williams erected at downtown’s former Lane Field to the S.D. Port Commission board meeting Tuesday. Guards allowed the red-suited “Baseball Santa” to enter, but minus his candy cane-striped baseball bat and his “Occupy Lane Field” protest sign.

Swank delivered his plea Santa-style:

“T’was the night before baseball

and all through the town

Not a creature was stirring

when Santa took the mound.

He told the board members

I have a goal,

a statue of Ted Williams…

or I’ll give you all coal!”

Swank elicited a few chuckles but no comment on the statue. Given the current cold snap, coal might actually be much appreciated.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Sportswrap with Jim Laslavic, KNSD-TV NBC San Diego (December 4, 2011)

Click on link:  http://youtu.be/SUD-4B1Lk9k

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Occupy Lane Field” A Statue for Ted Williams

Diane Bell column, San Diego Union-Tribune (November 22, 2011)

KUSI-TV Channel 9, San Diego (November 26, 2011)

KGTV Channel 10, San Diego (November 26, 2011)
Click here to find out more!

AP

Push For Ted Williams Statue Downtown

Local Baseball Author and Historian Wants A Piece Of San Diego History Preserved

POSTED: 7:35 pm PST November 25, 2011
UPDATED: 2:42 pm PST November 27, 2011
SAN DIEGO — Bill Swank, a local baseball historian, says it’s time one of San Diego’s most prolific baseball players be honored with a statue downtown.
That slugger is Ted Williams who played for the Boston Red Sox, and became one of baseball’s greatest players of all-time.

Williams who was born in San Diego in 1918, began his pro career at the old Lane Field downtown, when the Padres joined the pacific coast league.

On Saturday, Swank stood at the corner of Pacific Highway and Broadway, and said a statue of Ted Williams should be placed there along with the home plate plaque and patch of grass that signify where the old ballpark once stood.

Williams was still attending Hoover High School when he played in that inaugural season of Lane Field back in 1936.

excerpt from Diane Bell column, San Diego Union-Tribune (November 29, 2011)

KNSD-TV Channel 7, Sportscaster Jim Laslavic interviews Baseball Santa about "Occupy Lane Field" protest on behalf of Ted Williams statue on Sportswrap (December 4, 2011)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Push For Ted Williams Statue Downtown

Local Baseball Author and Historian Wants A Piece Of San Diego History Preserved


photo by AP

Bill Swank, a local baseball historian, says it’s time one of San Diego’s most prolific baseball players be honored with a statue downtown.

That slugger is Ted Williams who played for the Boston Red Sox, and became one of baseball’s greatest players of all-time.

Williams who was born in San Diego in 1918, began his pro career at the old Lane Field downtown, when the Padres joined the pacific coast league.

On Saturday, Swank stood at the corner of Pacific Highway and Broadway, and said a statue of Ted Williams should be placed there along with the home plate plaque and patch of grass that signify where the old ballpark once stood.

Original story here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment