North Park loses an icon, Joe Schloss
By Katherine Hon | Past Matters
The day before Thanksgiving, North Park Little League posted online the sad news that Joe Schloss, a Little League coach for 60 years, had died following a brief illness. He was 88. The announcement described him as a “World War II veteran, the longtime owner of A-B Sporting Goods in North Park … a loving husband and proud father. He touched the lives of all those he knew.”
Much has been made of Joe’s Little League coaching career, and rightly so. As of 2015, Schloss had been coaching continuously since the mid-1950s and helped establish North Park Little League in 1957. The northwest diamond at Morley Field was dedicated to him on May 13, 2000 — when he had been coaching a mere 45 years — and the sign with his name still hangs proudly on the backstop.
This past spring, May 16 was declared Joe Schloss Day, and a special ceremony was held at Morley Field to honor him. His team and San Diego notables including the San Diego Chicken celebrated with him. NBC7 reported that typical for the humble team-player, Schloss was overwhelmed and a little embarrassed by the attention, but thrilled to be there. He credited his longevity as a coach to many co-coaches over the decades, and said, “60 years have just flown by.”
But Joe Schloss means much more to North Park than just his impressive coaching career. A family store has been on University Avenue since 1939, when his father David started a radio store at 3022 University Ave. In 1941, David took over A-B Appliance Co. and moved it from 3834 30th St. to 3011 University Ave. In the early 1960s, the store moved to its current location at 3027 University Ave. at the corner with Ray Street. Sporting goods were added to the mix of retail items and to the store name in the late 1960s.
After his Navy service in the Pacific during World War II, Schloss joined his father at the store, first as a salesman and later the owner, through the decades from 1946 to this year. Since 1982, his son Gregg also has been at the store full time. Gregg is assuring the steady stream of customers arriving to give condolences that the store will continue its fine tradition of providing outstanding merchandise and service.
Joe Schloss learned early to care about his community. As businessmen on University Avenue, he and his father enthusiastically participated in the Toyland Parade when the annual event that started in the 1930s and stopped during World War II began again in the late 1940s. Inflated balloon figures were part of the 1949 parade, and Schloss remembered getting them set up the day before. He also recalled spending long hours decorating University Avenue for many a Christmas season. Some of the best photographs of the 1958 Toyland Parade came from a well preserved set of his color slides. His father played Santa in the Toyland Parade for nearly two decades, when 300,000 people watched from the sidewalks and entries included real reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh, camels courtesy of the San Diego Zoo, and equestrians from throughout California and Arizona.
Local organizations including North Park Little League and North Park Lions Club benefited from Joe Schloss being a member. He eagerly shared memories and pictures whenever the North Park Historical Society needed them. He is immortalized on page 126 of the book, “Images of America: San Diego’s North Park,” which he was proud to show to his many loyal customers. The folding chair in front of the store counter is empty now, but Joe will always be there in our hearts, warmly welcoming us to his corner of North Park.