I was dialing the way-back machine to 1919 and noticed a couple of interesting reminders of our times, a century later. Hockey was in the news, and so was bad baseball.
Seattle had a Pacific Coast league baseball team, at various times called the Giants, Indians and Rainiers. In 1919, the team played at Dugdale Field in Rainier Valley, which later burned and was replaced by Sick’s Stadium, which itself was later replaced by a Lowe’s hardware.
In any case, in March of 1919 the team changed its name to the Purple Sox. Yes, you’ve got the famed Red Sox and White Sox, but Seattle went purple. If you don’t believe me, even Ebbet’s Field, the company that makes historic baseball uniform reproductions, has a Purple Sox t-shirt for sale. You can’t get too obscure with baseball buffs, but I admit I had never heard of the Purple Sox. I even thought it might be a joke. But no. That team name only lasted a single season.
I began looking for stories about the team in old newspaper clippings, and I found one thing for sure: they were pretty lousy, which is what reminds me of this summer of the Seattle Mariners “step back” season. The Purples finished their Pacific Coast League season in last places at 62-108. That’s a winning percentage of .356.
They did have one impressive win in June over Sacramento, scoring 11 runs in a single inning on their way to an 18-3 victory. But lest anyone get too excited, one sportswriter warned the team not to get too “gosh goozled chesty” about the victory. This led to me trying to understand what “goozled” meant in this context. The phrase basically is a warning not to get too arrogant over such one-game prowess. (According to the Dictionary of Regional American English, “goozled” is a large amount of something and “chesty” is arrogant or self-important. Don’t bother trying to Google goozled, by the way, you won’t get far).
Hockey was also a big deal in 1919. The Seattle Metropolitans hockey team had led America to its first Stanley Cup victory, and Seattle’s first great national championship in 1917. The team went back to the cup finals in 1919. They were tied with the Montreal Canadiens when the deciding games were cancelled due to the Spanish Flu pandemic. Seattle has been hard hit. No cup was awarded that year. Cupus Interruptus? It must have been frustrating for fans, but sad for folks—spectators and players—who came down with the deadly bug. The team didn’t win another cup and left town in the early 1920s.
We don’t have hockey yet, but it’s coming. The general manager of the new team was named in July, Ron Francis, a man who has been described as “hockey royalty.” This summer the nearly $1 billion revamp of the old arena at Seattle Center is well underway to get it ready for NHL hockey by the 2021 season, if all goes according to plan, so we can once again contend for the cup.
A name for the team has not yet been picked, but personally I hope it isn’t the Purple Sox. Or the Goozlers. Still, progress is something hockey fans could get pretty “gosh goozled chesty” about.