The Seattle Pilots’ First Game at Sicks Stadium

After a last-minute rush to install as many seats in the new right-field bleachers at Sicks Stadium as the Pilots could, opening day at the stadium happened on Friday, April 11, 1969. Lew Matlin, head of stadium operations for the Pilots: “Work here should have been started a month earlier, that’s all. But things are going well now; we are going to be ready.” The seat installation went on day and night, and so did work on the roof for the grandstand.

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When opening day vs. the Chicago White Sox happened, the Seattle Times called it “a Perfect Day, for Weather and Score”: around 60 degrees, sunny, breezy. Attendance was 17, 150, and they saw Don Mincher hit the Pilots’ first Seattle homer, launching it into “concrete footings for nonexistent seats.”  The Times’ Georg N. Meyers continued: “The joy of a 7-0 shutout will make quaint and precious the memories of an Opening Day in a park whose Star-Spangled Banner, for want of a flagpole, fluttered from a light-pole yardarm–at half-staff, of course, in honor of a departed ex-President (Eisenhower had died on March 28.)”

Very Rev. John A. Fitterer gave a prayer blessing the Pilots’ undertaking, Rod Belcher sang the “Go, Go, You Pilots” song he’d written himself, Warren Magnuson threw three bad opening pitches to fellow senator Henry Jackson, Governor Dan Evans caught another opening pitch, and Bob McGrath, a teacher at Franklin High School, across the street from Sicks, sang the National Anthem.

Meyers summarized: “For Opening Day, Seattle had a domed stadium–blue and infinite, so warmly illumined that baseball fans quaffed 1,000 cases of beer, swept through the inadequate concession stands like locusts and loaded the young with blue Pilot caps, pennants and bobble-headed dolls. Traffic jammed but did not clot, and all the nearby parking lots were not filled.”

Pitcher Gary Bell and his teammates leaving the field victorious:
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Here’s the Pilots’ theme song, “Go, Go You Pilots” (or listen to the song and watch images of Sicks Stadium here):

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The Pilots’ pitchers:
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And Jim Bouton:
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Finally, the front of the Times sports section for Thursday April 10, with pictures of the right-field bleachers, Mike Hegan’s wife Nancy getting his uniform ready, and a stockpile of Pilots pennants:
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(If you’re curious about Seattle MLB debuts, there’s also this post on the Mariners’ first game, in the Kingdome in April 1977 and this one on the Pilots’ first game ever. Or, check out the website celebrating the Pilots. Or, watch a promotional 17-minute video the Pilots produced about their season-including footage of opening day at Sicks.)

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