Play Ball! A Slideshow of the History of Early Baseball in Washington

  • By David Eskenazi
  • Posted 1/01/2003
  • Essay 7074

Pearl Murray, Chehalis Proteges Baseball Club, Washington State League, 1911.

Walter Cartwright, 3rd baseman, Spokane Indians Baseball Club, Northwestern League, ca. 1910-1912.

Heine Jensen, North Yakima Braves Baseball Club, Western Tri-State League, 1913.

Karl Junk" Walters, Walla Walla Bears Baseball Club, Western Tri-State League, August 1, 1914. Walters enjoyed a 20-year-plus professional playing career, much of which was spent as a member of various teams in Washington state.

C. D. Wineholt, Manager/Catcher, Raymond Cougars Baseball Club, pennant winners of the Washington State League, 1910. Wineholt attended T. T. Minor grade school in Seattle, and played baseball professionally in and around the Northwest and Canada in the aughts and teens.

Fasleywine, "getting a high one," Bellingham Baseball Club, town team, ca. 1908-1915.

1922 Snohomish, Washington, baseball team. This "town" team featured 20-year-old future Hall-of-Famer Earl Averill (fifth from left). Averill was the only Hall-of-Famer born in Washington state until the second, Ryne Sandberg, was so honored in 2005. A third native Washingtonian, Ron Santo of Seattle, entered the Hall posthumously in 2011.

Seven-year-old Dale Noyd, ca. 1938, dressed as a Wenatchee Chief, Western International League. Young Noyd would travel to various W. I. League franchise cities, such as Spokane, Tacoma, and Yakima, and please the crowds with his precocious baseball skills. He also traveled to Seattle in 1938 and wowed the inaugural-year crowd of Rainiers fans at Sicks' Stadium.

Sicks' Stadium, ca. 1939. Sicks' Stadium was home to professional baseball in Seattle from 1938 to 1976 (with the exception of 1970 and 1971). The venerable ballpark was razed in 1979.

1914 Tacoma Tigers Baseball Club, Northwestern League. This Team featured former major league stalwart and future Hall of Famer, 43-year-old "Iron Man" Joe McGinnity.

1916 Spokane Indians Baseball Club, Northwestern League. This pennant-winning powerhouse featured future major league stars Ken Williams, Dutch Ruether, and Earl Sheely. A number of other Northwest notables also played on this talented team.

Joe Martial, longtime groundskeeper at Sicks’ Stadium.

Seattle Rainiers training camp, El Centro, CA, 1938. Left to right: Mike Hunt, Bill Lawrence, Bob Hagerty, Len Gabrielson, Dick Gyselman, and Herman Michael. All six were over 6’2”... quite tall for the time. The Seattle Indian uniforms would soon be replaced with the livery of the newly christened Seattle Rainiers.

Emerson School Baseball Team, ca. 1932. Two members of this grade school team would later have a profound influence on professional baseball in Seattle: Dewey Soriano (back row, far left), and Fred Hutchinson (middle row, far right).

Baseball game at Tenino, Washington, ca. 1915.

Montesano Ballpark, 1910, home of the Washington State League Montesano Farmers Baseball Club.

Three Washington state baseball greats: Dewey Soriano, Edo Vanni, and Ray Orteig. Though they were are most well known for their Seattle baseball exploits, the trio are pictured here as members of the 1949 Western International League Yakima Bears. Soriano served double duty as team owner and pitcher. Speedster Vanni and slugger Orteig led the team to the 1949 W. I. League pennant.

July 22, 1931 "Old Timers," Montesano, Washington. This aggregation includes three former major leaguers with Northwest ties: Marty O'Toole (1st row, far left), Roy Grover (1st row, 2nd from left), and Ham Hyatt (1st row, 4th from left). The Grays Harbor County corridor of Southwest Washington was a hotbed for baseball, both professional and amateur, from 1900 through the 1930s.

Levi McCormack, Seattle Rainiers, spring training, El Centro, California, 1938. McCormack, a Native American from the Nez Perce nation, is a baseball legend in Eastern Washington. He played for the Western International League Spokane Indians for many years, including before and after the tragic 1946 bus crash which claimed the lives of nine of his teammates.

Baseball game at Granite Falls, Washington, 1911.

Baseball game at Marysville, Washington, ca. 1912, Everett vs. Marysville.

Jack Lelivelt, Seattle Rainiers, 1940. The much beloved Lelivelt managed the Rainiers from 1938 to 1940, guiding them to Pacific Coast League pennants in 1939 and 1940. He died of a heart attack while attending a basketball game in Seattle in the fall of 1940, a keenly felt loss for the Seattle Rainiers and their many followers.

Hal Turpin, Seattle Rainiers, 1943. "Farmer Hal" Turpin was a mainstay on the Seattle Indians and Rainiers pitching staff from 1937 to 1945, winning 20-plus games four times, and leading the Rainiers to three straight P.C.L. pennants form 1939 to 1941.

Electric Park, Aberdeen, Washington, home of the Aberdeen Black Cats, Northwestern League. Opening game: Aberdeen vs. Tacoma Tigers, 1908. The Black Cats were managed by Clarence "Pants" Rowland. In 1917, Rowland became the youngest manager in a World Series, piloting the Shoeless Joe Jackson-led Chicago White Sox to World Series triumph. Rowland stayed in baseball for many years, including a stint as President of the Pacific Coast League.

1915 Seattle Giants, Schmutz and Rose, Dugdale Park, Northwestern League. Seven years earlier, Schmutz was the ace pitcher for the vaunted 1908 Seattle High School baseball team which toured the country. Schmutz and two other players from this high school team later played major league ball, and a number of others played in the high minors in the Northwest.

Old Woody souvenir contest card, 1942. The Seattle Times Old Woodenface pitching contest ran continuously from 1920 to 1969. This card features Seattle Rainier pitcher Dewey Soriano, a former Woody contestant, and future Seattle Rainiers General Manager, PCL president, and Seattle Pilots owner. Participant Bob White threw 21 "strikes" in 27 tries, as evidenced by the punch holes on the card.

Black Diamond, Washington, Baseball Club, 1913.

1938 Bellingham Chinooks Baseball Club, Western International League. This team, featuring a number of former and future Major Leaguers and Pacific Coast Leaguers, played their home games at Battersby Park in Bellingham. They were affiliated with the PCL Hollywood Stars.

Vean Gregg, Seattle Indians, 1923. Sylveanus Augustus Gregg Jr. was born in Chehalis, Washington, in 1885. After playing amateur, semi-pro, and pro-ball in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, he won 32 games for the 1910 PCL champion Portland Beavers, prompting his move to the major league Cleveland Naps for the 1911 season. Gregg won 20 or more games in each of his first three seasons in the big leagues, and was on a fast track for a hall of fame career. Arm trouble cut his major league career short, but the 39-year-old Gregg later led the Seattle Indians to their first Pacific Coast League championship in 1924, winning 25 games. GreggÂ’s major league teammates included Shoeless Joe Jackson, Walter Johnson, and a youthful Red Sox pitcher named Babe Ruth. No less of an authority than Ty Cobb called him the greatest left handed pitcher ever. Gregg ran "The Home Plate," a restaurant/bar/sporting goods/card room in Hoquiam, Washington, and pitched in the Washington state Timber League well into his 40s. He passed away in 1964.

Bobby Morris, Seattle Cubs, Timber League, 1928. Bobby Morris was a prominent figure in Seattle sports circles for many years, and in many capacities. He was a baseball player, Rose Bowl referee, coach, and a trusted advisor to young players. He later served as King County Auditor. There is a playfield named in his honor on Capitol Hill.

1908 Spokane City League program cover. This was a "fast" semi-pro league, and a number of future prominent professionals passed through the league, including Northwest notables Vean Gregg and Joe Seaton. Another player in the 1908 season was future Seattle Times sports editor George Varnell.

1914 Seattle Nippon Baseball Club souvenir pinback button, 1914.

Omak, Washington, Baseball Club, 1913

This is a HistoryLink Baseball Memories slideshow by Seattle Baseball historian David Eskenazi, recounting early baseball in Washington. Written and curated by David Eskenazi. All images copyright 2003, David Eskenazi. Produced by Alyssa Burrows.

Eighteen ninety was the first year of professional baseball in Washington state. Three of the four franchise cities in the 1890 Pacific Northwest League were Washington-based: Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane, with a Portland, Oregon, team rounding out the league.

Amateur, town team, and semi-professional baseball in Washington state pre-dated pro baseball by several decades. As in other states, development and expansion of baseball in Washington reflected the social and economic growth of the state itself. Town teams and city leagues sprung up in cities and regions of every size, and were often sponsored and supported by the dominant industries of their particular region. From the 1890s forward, professional, semi-pro, and amateur teams and leagues abounded across the entire state. Until air travel became common, most professional teams in Washington State competed with same-state franchises, along with teams from California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Western Canada.

A number of prominent major leaguers were Washington-born and played in the state, including Snohomish-born Hall of Famer Earl Averill, Chehalis-born early century star pitcher Vean Gregg, and Seattle-born Mariner’s star John Olerud. John Olerud Sr. was a member of Seattle’s last professional championship baseball team -- the 1966 Pacific Coast League Seattle Angels. A year earlier, Earl Averill, Jr. donned a Seattle Angels uniform to cap off his professional career, which included seven years in the major leagues.

Colorful team nicknames were the order of the day in the early part of the century. Consider the franchises in the 1903 Class D Southwest Washington League: the Aberdeen Pippins, the Hoquiam Perfect Gentlemen, the Centralia Midgets, and the Olympia Senators. Other team nicknames included the Seattle Clamdiggers, Siwashes, Purple Sox and Indians, Everett Smokestackers, Grays Harbor Lumberman, Chehalis Gophers, Raymond Venetians, North Yakima Braves, and the Spokane Hawks.

The longest tenured and highest level professional leagues with Washington state franchises include the:

  • Pacific Coast League (1903-1906, 1919-1968)
  • Northwestern League (1906-1917)
  • Western International League (1937-1954)
  • Northwest League (1955-present)
  • American League (1969, 1977-present)

Popular semi-professional and city leagues also flourished, particularly in the first 40 years of the twentieth century. The Timber League, Puget Sound League, Northwest League, and Tacoma and Spokane City Leagues were amongst the fastest and most entertaining, and cultivated many future pro stars.

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