Fifty years ago this week, on April 8, 1969, the Seattle Pilots took to the field in their first game and beat the California Angels in Anaheim, 4-3. Three days later, cheers rang out when they played their first home game, shutting out the Chicago White Sox, 7-0. Major League Baseball had finally arrived in Seattle, and it was a long time coming.
In 1872 Seattle had an amateur team called the Dolly Varden (Go Fish!), but professional ball didn't arrive until 1890, when Pacific Northwest Baseball League franchises were awarded to Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane. Soon after, Daniel Dugdale arrived in the Northwest and managed several teams, including the legendary 1912 Seattle Giants. The Giants later became the Indians and, finally, the Seattle Rainiers.
The Rainiers were well-loved throughout the region. Crowds of baseball fans showed up at the games to enjoy hot dogs and beer while watching sports legends like Fred Hutchinson and Earl Averill show off their skills. Thousands more listened to the games on the radio and followed the team's progress in the local papers.
Rounding the Bases
By the 1960s baseball attendance had fallen off, and Seattle began looking for a Major League team. The Pilots arrived with much fanfare, but after a single season here the team took wing to Milwaukee and become the Brewers. The reason was simple -- the Northwest may have had a Major League team, but only a minor-league stadium for it to play in. Sicks' Stadium -- built in 1938, six years after after Dugdale Park burned to the ground -- was home to many fond memories, but it wasn't adequate for the big leagues. As early as 1959, sports fans and business leaders cried out for a new sports facility, but it wasn't until 1976 that the Kingdome was ready for play.
This new stadium was not without its detractors and naysayers, but 57,762 fans showed up on April 6, 1977 to watch the newly enfranchised Seattle Mariners play -- and lose -- their first game. The stadium hosted an All-Star game in 1979, but the Mariners didn't win their first playoff series until 1995 -- the same year that voters rejected funding for a new stadium.
The Mariners won the American League West Championship in 1997, by which time the state legislature had stepped in and approved taxes for a new home field. The Kingdome was imploded in 2000, after Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park) had risen nearby to take its place.Since then, fans have seen records broken and tied, heroes retired, and players and icons entered into the Hall of Fame. The World Series, alas, remains elusive, and while this season is off to a good start there are many more games to go.
NEWS THEN, HISTORY NOW
This week marks four notable events in Vancouver history. On April 5, 1879, Fort Vancouver was renamed Vancouver Barracks, 54 years after it was established by the Hudson's Bay Company. On April 6, 1912, the Port of Vancouver was created, and on April 5, 1943, the Kaiser shipyard launched its first escort aircraft carrier. Lastly, on April 5, 1972, a severe tornado struck Vancouver, killing six and injuring more than 300.
On April 9, 1867, the United States purchased Alaska at the urging of U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward. Three decades later, after the discovery of gold in Canada's nearby Klondike River, Seattle benefited from the ensuing rush north. During the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition the city erected a statue in honor of Seward and the key role his Alaskan advocacy played in our region's development.
On April 6, 1908, 22 timber companies organized the Washington Forest Fire Association to suppress fires on private lands. For the next 50 years the WFFA worked with state and federal land managers to organize fire patrols, create fire-suppression programs, and change the logging practices that caused many of the fires. Soon after the state legislature created the Department of Natural Resources in 1957, the WFFA became the Washington Forest Protection Association, which continues to advance sustainable forestry practices throughout the state.