Seattle Rainiers, 1938-1964 -- A Slideshow

  • By David S. Eskanazi
  • Posted 11/06/2004
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7123

Baseball had its beginnings in Seattle in the 1870s, with the first professional franchise debuting in 1890: the "Seattles" of the Pacific Northwest League. Later, in the 1890s, former major leaguer and baseball visionary Daniel E. Dugdale migrated to Seattle, and did much to popularize high caliber professional baseball in Seattle and the Northwest. Indeed, Dugdale is recognized as the early father of Seattle baseball.

If D.E. Dugdale laid the groundwork for pro baseball in Seattle, Emil Sick brought it to true glory and mass popularity. In 1937, he purchased the struggling Pacific Coast League Seattle Indians franchise, built a state-of-the-art, sparkling new ballpark for his team and city, and christened his new team the Seattle Rainiers. This ushered in the first true glory days of baseball in Seattle. For the next 27 years, the Seattle Rainiers and Pacific Coast League baseball were the toast of the town...

All Images (c) 2001, David Eskenazi

1938

Local brewer Emil Sick purchases the team, heralding the beginning of the golden era of Seattle baseball. Changing the name of the team to the Rainiers, he builds a new ballpark on the site of the old Dugdale Field and draws record crowds. Fred Hutchinson wins 25 games and is named the minor league Player of the Year. He is sold to the Detroit Tigers for cash and four players. Jack Lelivelt leads the team to a second place finish.

Manager– J. Lelivelt
Record Wins 100; Losses 75
Finish– 2nd

1939

JoJo White makes his Seattle debut, electrifying crowds with his fielding and base running. Alan StrangeÂ’'s work on the field and at bat is a main factor in the teamÂ’'s pennant winning drive. Hal Turpin wins 23 games; Dick Barrett, 22. Mike Hunt retires after the season to join the State Patrol. He hits 15 homeruns in his final year. The Rainiers win the first of three consecutive Pacific Coast League championships.

Manager– J. Lelivelt
Record Wins 101; Losses 73
Finish 1st

1940

Arguably SeattleÂ’'s best minor league team ever, the Rainiers lead the league nearly all season, with a superb pitching staff and a good hitting team. First baseman George Archie is named League MVP, even though the L.A. Angels Lou Novikoff won the PCL triple crown. Edo Vanni leads the team in hitting, with a .333 average. Dick Barrett has one of his best seasons, with a 24-5 record and a 2.48 ERA. Beloved manager Jack Lelivelt dies of a heart attack during the off season.

Manager– J. Lelivelt
Record –Wins 112; Losses 66
Finish –1st

1941

A strong finish and a collapse by Sacramento gives Seattle its third straight pennant. Bill Skiff takes over as manager. Les Scarsella replaces George Archie at first base and does well, hitting a team leading .322. Hot prospect Edo Vanni is out for the season with a broken leg received in the first month. Turpin and Barrett each win 20 games. Hall of Famer Earl Averill finishes up his career playing in the RainiersÂ’' outfield.

Manager– B. Skiff
Record –Wins 104; Losses 70
Finish –1st

1942

Thwarted in their efforts to win their fourth straight flag, the team rebounds to win the post-season playoffs. Turpin and Barrett are again the mainstays of the pitching staff, combining for 50 wins –27 by Barrett, who leads the League with a 1.72 ERA en route to being named the Minor League Player of the Year. Earl Torgeson of Snohomish makes his debut, hitting .312. JoJo White and Dick Barrett are sold to the Majors.

Manager –B. Skiff
Record –Wins 96; Losses 82
Finish –3rd

1943

The War Era in baseball takes its toll on the Rainiers, with the absence of players affecting production. Joe Dobbins is purchased from Hollywood early in the season and leads the team with a .316 average. A lack of power is evident, with the team only hitting 15 homeruns. Spring training is held in Seattle due to wartime travel restrictions. Outfielder Ed Carnett, who also pitched, was drafted by the White Sox. This was the sixth straight year that a Rainiers player was drafted by the Majors, seventh of the past eight.

Manager –B. Skiff
Record –Wins 85; Losses 70
Finish –3rd

1944

The war continues to plague the Rainiers on the field and they fall to the second division. Yakima native Al Libke leads the team in hitting with a .307 average, and is sold to the Cincinnati Reds. Popular Dick Gyselman hits .305 and then is traded to San Diego after the season ends, causing an uproar among fans. Carl Fisher has 16 wins and a 1.86 ERA. Joe Demoran leads the staff with 18 victories. Ty Cobb is a special guest at the PCL Charity All Star game held in Seattle on July 17th.

Manager –B. Skiff
Record –Wins 84; Losses 85
Finish –5th

1945

George McDonald and Jack Whipple come to Seattle in the Norbert/Gyselman trade. McDonald leads the team in hitting at .332. Hard hitting Ted Norbert clouts 23 homeruns, the highest Rainiers total since 1937. After a battle with Portland all season, the team finishes second and then wins four straight from the Beavers in the first round of the playoffs, after losing the first three. In his bow-out year with the Rainiers, Hal Turpin leads the team with an 18-8 record and a 2.40 ERA. Sixteen-year-old Jack Meister is signed out of Queen Anne High School. Joe Demoran has 12 straight wins.

Manager –B. Skiff
Record –Wins 105; Losses 78
Finish –2nd

1946

After a long tenure as manager, Bill Skiff is released with the team in last place. He is replaced by popular JoJo White, named as player/manager. Players began returning from the Service all over baseball, with 59 players performing for the Rainiers during the season. The Pacific Coast League starts making its first demands for Major League status. Earl Torgeson, back from the Service, is dealt to the Braves and stays in Seattle in 1946. Popular Lou Novikoff, known as the Mad Russian, is bought from the Phillies midseason.

Manager –B. Skiff/J. White
Record –Wins 74; Losses 109
Finish –7th (Tie)

1947

Off-season purchase Hillis Layne wins the batting title with a .367 average. He is SeattleÂ’'s first batting champ in 10 years. Lou Novikoff leads team in homeruns with 21 and RBIÂ’s with 114. Earl Sheely takes over as Rainiers'Â’ general manager, serving the team well until his death in 1953. Dewey Soriano gets his major league chance and is dealt to the Pirates for two players. The JoJo Juniors Fan Club is organized and is a popular club for the kids.

Manager –J. White
Record –Wins 91; Losses 95
Finish –5th

1948

The Rainiers sign their first formal agreement with a major league team, hooking up with Detroit. The Tigers promise five players, but only three are delivered. The agreement is ended after the season ends. Dick Barrett pitches his memorable perfect game. The Rainiers challenge for the lead after winning 19 of 27 in the month of May, and end up fourth in a close race. Hillis Layne has another good season, finishing second in batting average with a .342 mark. Earl Rapp hits 27 homeruns. A record 77,000 fans attend crucial seven games in a 6-day series with San Francisco in early June.

Manager –J. White
Record –Wins 93; Losses 95
Finish –4th

1949

A sad chapter in Seattle'Â’s baseball history is marked when popular JoJo White resigns midseason. The Rainiers lead the minor leagues in attendance for the first of three straight years. Guy Fletcher wins 12 straight games and ends up with a 23-12 record. Al Lyons hits 23 homeruns. Hot catching prospect Sammy White is sold to the Red Sox in the middle of the year.

Manager –J. White/B. Lawrence
Record –Wins 95; Losses 93
Finish –5th

1950

Future major league manager Paul Richards is at the helm of a team that only wins seven of their first 44 games. Still, Seattle leads the minor leagues in attendance. Jim Wilson has a great year, wining 24 games. This includes 15 straight, one short of a league record. Frank Colman leads the team with a .319 batting average. Al Lyons again leads in homeruns with 22, including a mammoth shot over the centerfield fence at Sicks' Stadium.

Manager –P. Richards
Record –Wins 96; Losses 104
Finish –6th

1951

League MVP Jim Rivera electrifies crowds with his hustling style, leading the circuit in all categories, including a .352 batting average. Managed by immortal Rogers Hornsby, the Rainiers win their fourth pennant under Emil SickÂ’'s ownership. Marv Grissom and Hal Brown are the leading pitchers, with 20 and 16 wins respectively. While Jim Davis has the best ERA in the League with 2.44, Paul Calvert pitches a no-hitter early in the year.

Manager –R. Hornsby
Record –Wins 99; Losses 68
Finish –1st

1952

Bob Boyd and Artie Wilson are the first black players to play with the Rainiers. Boyd wins the batting title and steals 33 bases. Al Widmar and Vern Kindsfather are both 20-game winners. Attendance takes a drop with the coming of television and the rise in other summer activitiesÂ’' popularity. Veteran PCL manager Bill Sweeney skippers the team for the first of two seasons.

Manager –B. Sweeney
Record –Wins 96; Losses 84
Finish –3rd

1953

After leading the league for the first half of the season, the Rainiers finish second to a good Hollywood club. Catcher Ray Orteig hits 28 homeruns at Sicks' Stadium, which is the record until 1960. Popular Artie Wilson hits .332 with 14 triples. Al Widmar wins 20 games for the second straight year. Dewey Soriano is named general manager after the season ends.

Manager - Bill Sweeney
Record - Wins 98; Losses 82
Finish - 2nd

1954

A disappointing fifth place finish despite a 20-10 record by Tommy Byrne and another great season from Artie Wilson, hitting .336. The KTVW $10,000 knothole makes its debut in the right field fence. Popcorn trading cards make their first appearance. Player/manager Gerry Priddy breaks San Diego catcher Red MathisÂ’s's arm in a brawl at Sicks Stadium.

Manager –J. Priddy
Record –Wins 77; Losses 85
Finish –5th

1955

With Fred Hutchinson coming home to manage a completely revamped ball club, the team wins the pennant in a tight three-team race. Elmer Singleton wins 19 games, Joe Ginsberg is team MVP with a .296 batting average. Popular Bobby Balcena plays his first season with Seattle and hits .295. A late season experiment with softball ace Bob Fesler trying his skills at baseball fails. Reliever Bill Kennedy has a 1.92 ERA.

Manager –F. Hutchinson
Record –Wins 95; Losses 77
Finish –1st

1956

Signing their first full working agreement with a major league team, the Rainiers hook up with Cincinnati. Elmer Singleton has another good year with 18 wins. Art Schult hits .306, rising to the Majors. Joe Taylor hits 24 homeruns with 89 RBIÂ’s. After leading the league early in the season, the club finishes second to a great Los Angeles team.

Manager –L. Sewell/B. Brenner
Record –Wins 91; Losses 77
Finish –2nd

1957

Bill Kennedy has another great year, coming out of the bullpen 51 times for nine wins and a 1.16 ERA. Maury Wills steals 21 bases and hits .267. Charley Rabe and Duane Pillette each win 16 games. Joe Taylor hits 22 homeruns and has a batting average of .305. Hal Bevan debuts with the Rainiers with 23 round trippers. Lefty OÂ’'Doul makes Seattle his last stop on a 24-year PCL managerial career.

Manager– L. O’'Doul
Record –Wins 87; Losses 80
Finish 5th

1958

Vada Pinson takes the League by storm, hitting .343. A 21-inning game against Phoenix lasts seven hours, an organized baseball record until 1963. Future major league great Claude Osteen is on the roster. Plagued by call-ups from the major leagues, the team finishes in last place for the first time in 12 years. A Sicks' Stadium 20th anniversary party is held on the 4th of July weekend. Cincinnati plays an exhibition game against the Rainiers, wining 6-2.

Manager –C. Ryan
Record –Wins 68; Losses 86
Finish –8th

1959

Fred Hutchinson is brought back to the Rainiers in an attempt to revitalize interest. The team flounders near last place in a close race until August, when they win 11 straight games, getting into pennant contention. Hutch leaves to manage the Reds in July and is replaced by Coach Alan Strange. Vietnam War hero Ron Dodge plays four games for the Rainiers, signed out of Olympia High School. Mark Freeman pitches a no-hitter at Vancouver. Hal Bevan hits .322, earning team MVP honors.

Manager F. Hutchinson/A. Strange
Record –Wins 74; Losses 80
Finish –7th

1960

In their last year of Emil Sick ownership, the Rainiers finish tied for fourth place. Johnny OÂ’'Brien bows out of sports, serving as team captain and hitting .309. Joe Taylor sets a stadium record with 30 homeruns. Future major league executive Cedric Tallis serves as general manager. Sicks Stadium home plate is moved 15 feet closer to the fence. Don Rudolph has LeagueÂ’'s best ERA at 2.42. Ray Ripplemeyer wins 16 games.

Manager –D. Sisler
Record –Wins 77; Losses 75
Finish –4th

1961

A new era in SeattleÂ’s baseball history begins with the outright ownership of the team by the Boston Red Sox. The team leads the league by as much as six games throughout the first half of the season and then loses their three top pitchers to the Red Sox, and finishes in third place. Lou Clinton has 102 RBIÂ’s. Marlan Coughtry walks 151 times. Seattle hosts the All Star game in mid-July. Advertising the WorldÂ’'s Fair, the RainiersÂ’' uniforms bear the fair's insignia on their sleeves. An upcoming announcer named Keith Jackson takes over the broadcast microphone from Leo Lassen.

Manager –J. Pesky
Record –Wins 86; Losses 68
Finish –3rd

1962

Jim Rivera returns to the Rainiers in midseason, sparking a slumping team to a first division finish. Major league veteran Billy Harrell hits .294 with 17 homeruns. Dave Mann has his second great base stealing season. Roosevelt High School bonus player Stu MacDonald is rushed into AAA ball and has his career ended by a calcium deposit in his pitching arm. George Spencer has an 11-2 record coming out of the bullpen, with a 2.72 ERA.

Manager –J. Pesky
Record –Wins 76; Losses 74
Finish –4th

1963

In one of the saddest seasons in SeattleÂ’'s minor league history, the Rainiers end up 30 games out of first place. After the Red Sox pull their usual talent raiding, calling up SeattleÂ’'s three top starters to sit on their bench, major league prospect Dalton Jones plays well at second base. Veteran Stan Johnson leads the team with a .297 batting average. Bill Spanswick leads the league with 209 strikeouts. Longtime future Red Sox coach Rac Slider is a Rainiers infielder. Four Smiths and a Jones are on the opening day roster.

Manager –M. Parnell
Record –Wins 68; Losses 90
Finish –5th

1964

In another effort to bolster attendance, local favorite Edo Vanni is named manager. Edo pleases the crowds with his colorful antics and umpire baiting and brings the team into contention with two weeks left in the season, but then falters. Earl Averill Jr. comes down from the major leagues and leads the team in hitting at .316. Knuckle balling Wilbur Wood wins 15 games with 197 strikeouts. Rico Petrocelli makes his AAA debut with the Rainiers.

Manager –E. Vanni
Record –Wins 81; Losses 75
Finish –4th

In 1965, the Seattle PCL franchise began an affiliation with the major league California Angels, becoming the Seattle Angels.

Four years later, major league baseball made its debut in Seattle with the one-year wonders Seattle Pilots.

Rainiers baseball was no more, but a legacy of terrific baseball memories remain.

This slideshow on the Seattle Rainiers was written by Russ Dille and curated by David S. Eskenazi
All Images (c) 2001, David Eskenazi


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