After writing my last piece on the history of the Seattle Mariners no hit games, it made me really appreciate how blessed we have been with our franchise. Memories of baseball are not always great ones, every fan can understand that. One of the lost and forgotten memories about the history of baseball in the Pacific Northwest, is that it did not start with the Seattle Mariners.
Let us travel back in time to the year 1969. We are coming to a close on one of the more influential decades this country has ever seen. Searching through the haze of the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll of Woodstock, the violence and terror of the Vietnam War, Neil and Buzz going where no man has gone before, we see the rising popularity of the sport of baseball on the west coast.
Somewhere lost in all of the mess was a brand new expansion team granted to the Emerald City. The Seattle Pilots.
Baseball being brought to the Northwest was a long time dream of the Pilots co-owner, William R. Daley. Daley was the owner of the Cleveland Indians from 1956-1962 and had tried to move the Indians to Seattle during that period. William was the majority owner and the one with the big check book backing the franchise.
In the 1968 expansion draft the Seattle Pilots selected a young outfielder Lou Piniella from the Cleveland Indians. Lou’s career as a player in Seattle was short lived, he never even saw a pitch before being traded to the Kansas City Royals. Piniella was the first player to ever come to bat for the Royals. Piniella was the 1969 American League Rookie of the Year.
Piniella was not the only player with a short stint in Seattle. Bringing professional baseball to Seattle had so much promise; the Seattle Clamdiggers/Rainiers/Angels had seen success in the Pacific Coast League so the same was expected of the new franchise coming to town. Turns out professional baseball in Seattle at the time was a dud. Attendance for the entire year in 1969 peaked at 678,000. The highest was the New York Mets at over 2 million.
The Seattle Pilots went bankrupt after the 1969 season. The team was sold on April 1st, 1970, to a group of investors called “The Brewers”. The Brewers group included a young man named Bud Selig. Selig and his team had been trying to bring the bigs back to Milwaukee for years and they finally got their chance. The Brewers played their first season back in Milwaukee as a part of the American League West in 1970-71.
As fun as it is to sit here and talk about free agency, the big names, rumors, and starting lineups, it is important for us as fans to study and understand our history. The good, the bad, and the ugly.