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Tuba Man's Suffers Loss of Memorabilia : Hours After Game, Arson Destroys Sports Bar

February 02, 1988|MICHAEL GRANBERRY | Times Staff Writer

Less than 24 hours after San Diego's finest moment in sports--playing host to Super Bowl XXII--one of its leading sports bars, a North Park landmark, was destroyed by fire.

Officials from the Metro Arson Strike Team listed the cause of the fire at Tuba Man's Grandslam in the pre-dawn hours Monday as arson, assessing the damage at $250,000. Local fire department officials said units arrived at the bar, located at 2551 University, at 3:22 a.m. It took 31 firefighters 2 1/2 hours to put it out.

Monday afternoon, Michael Hess, an estimator with Cal Coast Construction--the firm that's been hired to put it all back together--was standing inside the charred remains. He assessed the cost of reconstruction at $100,000.

Because the outer walls are plaster, they survived, Hess said, meaning the interior can be restored more easily. Western Check Cashing and Video Rentals, adjacent to Tuba Man's, suffered $30,000 damage, which qualifies as a "total loss," according to Sarah Jamil, whose father owns that business.

"The physical damage to Tuba Man's is nothing compared to what the sentimental damage is," Hess said.

"These walls were covered with memorabilia," he said, kicking a bit of burned debris. "He (bar owner Jim Eakle) had photographs of athletes, pictures from World Series past. These things had been collected from all over the country. Most were autographed by the athletes themselves. The value of this place was in the memorabilia--nothing else. And you can't put a price on that. Now it's impossible to get it back."

Eakle--who owns another Tuba Man's Grandslam, at 5049 Newport Ave. in Ocean Beach--has emerged as a minor celebrity, playing the tuba at San Diego Padres games. (Thus the nickname "Tuba Man.") The bar on University was the older and more museum-like, having opened more than a decade ago.

The sole surviving Tuba Man's Grandslam celebrated its second birthday Saturday. Eakle was unavailable for comment Monday. Friends say he was home, with the phone off the hook.

The Irony of It All

Farouk Najjar is the owner of Express Market, directly across the street. Najjar couldn't stop talking about the irony--about the fact that Tuba Man's Grandslam appeared to be doing its all-time best business during the hours of Super Bowl XXII.

"I closed Sunday night around 8:30," Najjar said, "and Tuba Man's was so crowded, it was unbelievable. Unbelievable! Sunday had to be one of the biggest things ever for them, and for us too. And then this morning, everything was like history. Look at it now. Nothing there. It's all gone. Nothing."

Najjar said a grieving Eakle came into his store Monday morning to buy only a box of Kleenex.

"I didn't say anything," Najjar said. "It just looked like one of those times when you shouldn't say anything. I didn't want to do anything . . . that might have hurt his feelings any more."

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