Tacoma's new Cheney Stadium hosts first baseball game on April 16, 1960.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/25/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5119
On April 16, 1960, the new Cheney Stadium hosts its first baseball game as the Tacoma Giants play their first home game. The new stadium replaces Cheney Field, which was purchased for the city of Tacoma by local businessman Ben Cheney in 1952. Heavy rains turn the playing field into a quagmire and Fort Lewis helicopters are used to help dry it out. The Giants split a double header with the Portland Beavers.

The baseball park was named for Benjamin Bradbury "Ben" Cheney (1905-1971). Cheney was a Tacoma lumber dealer who figured out that by standardizing lumber in eight-foot lengths, he could save -- and make -- lots of money. He built mills in Tacoma and Medford, and in Greenville, Pondosa, and Arcadia, California. In each town he sponsored sports leagues, and he became an 11 percent owner of the San Francisco Giants. In 1952, Cheney had exercised his option to purchase the former home of the Western International league baseball club, Tiger Ball Park in Tacoma, from the San Diego Padres. This became the original Cheney Field and was home to the Tacoma Brewers of the city league, and the Washington Cheney Studs, an amateur team owned by Cheney and made up of the most talented collegiate and high school baseball players in the Seattle-Tacoma area, played there often.

In 1960, Tacoma had an opportunity to obtain a Pacific Coast League baseball team. Cheney arranged for a new stadium to be built for $870,000 in three months at 2502 S Tyler Street, Tacoma. Never one to throw anything away, Cheney used seats and light towers from the San Francisco Seals Stadium, which had been demolished. "He also left a more personal mark on the stadium that bears his name. [At] row 10 of section F. Under seat 1, on the aisle, Ben B. Cheney etched his name and the date 3-24-60, apparently using a stick in the wet cement just days before the first game was played at his park. As with many other things, Cheney never told anyone, not his friends or his son, what he did" (Ripp).

Cheney died in 1971 and bequeathed $10 million to the Ben Cheney Foundation. In 1996, a life-sized bronze statue of Cheney was installed in his favorite seat at the stadium, complete with an opening day program and spent peanut shells.

Since 1960, the Cheney Stadium has been home to the Tacoma Giants, the Tacoma Cubs, the Tacoma Twins, the Tacoma Yankees, the Tacoma Tugs, the Tacoma Timbers, the Tacoma Tigers, the Cheney Studs, and the Tacoma Rainiers.


Sources: Bart Ripp, "Big Ben's Seat," The News Tribune, (Tacoma), April 6, 1995, SL-3; Bart Ripp, "Ticket To History At Cheney," Ibid., April 13, 1996, A-1; Tacoma Rainiers Website (www.tacomarainiers.com/cheney); "Image Archives," Tacoma Public Library website accessed April 17, 2012 (http://search.tacomapubliclibrary.org/images/dt6n.asp?krequest=subjects+contains+Cheney%20Field%20and%20Tacoma).
Note: This essay was revised on April 17, 2012, to include mention of the original Cheney Field.

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