By J.W. August, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association
Photo: Jack Murphy and his dog Abe outside Snapdragon Stadium. Photo by J.W. August
August 18, 2022 (San Diego) - Jack Murphy was a mover and shaker in San Diego’s sports world. His statue once greeted fans exiting the trolley at the main entrance of “the Murph,” a nickname attached to former Qualcomm Stadium.
Now you can see the statue of the veteran sports editor and columnist with his dog Abe loyally at his side outside of the new Snapdragon Stadium, looking north towards Los Angeles. That’s fitting because he played a key role in convincing the Los Angeles Chargers to move south to San Diego. Some say if he was still alive, they might still be in town.
He has an extensive list of contributions to San Diego’s sports legacy. Longtime fans might well label him the Tony Gwynn of San Diego’s sports reporters. He was that important to the city’s sports profile.
Prompted by a recent column written by Kirk Kenny, a sportswriter at Murphy’s old stomping grounds, the San Diego Union-Tribune, I went to see the statue at its new home.
The Snapdragon is bustling with the many things needed to have the stadium ready for its upcoming debut. I asked security and construction people if they knew where the Jack Murphy statue was. They never heard of him. That’s understandable. perhaps, as he passed in 1980 at the age of 57.
I eventually found Jack and Abe and noted that the ground around them appears finished, with plantings, mulch and a plaque.
But the plaque only lists the names of the well-connected folks responsible for creation of the statue in 2003. Nowhere can one find anything identifying who Murphy was, who the dog was, and why there is a statue in the first place.
I asked San Diego State University if there are any plans to place the original plaque describing Murphy’s accomplishments. Jamie McConeghy at SDSU Athletics told me “the statue and plaque are completed as is.”
So the plaque acknowledging the contributors is there but nothing describing Murphy’s contributions. I asked if it may eventually appear at the site, but McConeghy said, “there are no plans for a bio as of right now.”
He did say the statue stands where the media will enter the stadium. Hopefully fans arriving through the same gate will take a minute and do a Google search to find out more about the guy with the dog.
If they do, they will see how Murphy played a key role in bringing the Padres to town as well. He was a powerful influence in San Diego, spending 29 years in front of a typewriter, banging out columns that did much to raise the city’s sports profile.
Thanks to his encouragement of voters, San Diego Stadium was built and later renamed Jack Murphy Stadium. Then it became Qualcomm Stadium. Now the area is home to Snapdragon Stadium.
His legacy is unchallenged, but for now his statue will remain a mystery to passing fans.
J.W. August is an award-winning journalist and freelance producer who has served as investigative producer for NBC 7 San Diego and as managing editor and senior investigative producer at ABC 10 San Diego. His in-depth investigations have included a wide range of topics such as rising seas, hate groups, nuclear fuel storage, stem cell clinic claims, dolphin deaths, and massage parlors as fronts for organized crime.
His 40-year career includes many honors, notably 35 Emmy awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the National Press Club award for consumer reporting, the Freedom Foundation award for coverage of hate groups along the border, the National Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine Award for fostering open government in San Diego, and the Investigative Reporters and Editors award for outstanding investigative reporting on illegal waste dumping.
August is past president of the Society of Professional Journalists San Diego Chapter, as well as past president of Californians Aware, a public interest group devoted to helping the press and public hold public officials accountable for their actions. He is also an adjunct professor at Point Loma Nazarene University, teaching investigative skills and long-form storytelling to aspiring future journalists.