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By the Numbers
1780 – Karl Wallenda’s ancestors began performing circus acts, in the Austro-Hungarian empire
1905 – Karl was born
5,268 – Padres game-day attendance preceding Karl’s act
600 – Steps it took Karl to get across the stadium
6 – Years the Padres had been a Major League team when Wallenda walked
20 – Games Padres left-handed pitcher Randy Jones won that year
The Padres had just lost 5–1 in a game against the Montreal Expos when fans were treated to a special performance. Wearing a tie and slippers, 70-year-old Karl Wallenda walked on a wire across what was then San Diego Stadium (later known as Jack Murphy, and now Qualcomm).
Here, photographer Joe Holly captured the stunt for the San Diego Union. In the postgame radio show, Jerry Coleman narrated with a shaking voice. Wallenda was balancing 130 feet above the ground without a net.
Karl was a fearless member of the famous Wallenda family. Growing up in Germany, he mastered tricks like doing a handstand on top of several stacked chairs before taking up wire walking. He later performed with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Karl Wallenda’s career ended less than three years after this photo was taken, when he fell to his death in Puerto Rico, due to incorrectly connected guy-ropes. Today, Karl’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren still perform high-wire circus acts. As they say, the show must go on.