Greg Goossen on Sick’s Stadium and Life as a Seattle Pilot

These questions for Greg Goossen of the 1969 Seattle Pilots were posed by Steve Cox and Brad Powers as they prepared to make their documentary about the team, The Seattle Pilots: Short Flight Into History, which is available for purchase at Amazon.com. You can also read up about the film.

Here is part of the exchange between “SC/BP” and Goossen, who died early in 2011. You can read the whole interview at Hardball Times.

SC/BP: How did you feel about Sick’s?

GG: Loved it. When I was a kid we watched old Hollywood movies about baseball, they weren’t these luxurious ballyards – they were ballyards like Sick’s. Nothing better than the advertisements on the walls and they were all different. There isn’t a ballpark like Sick’s Stadium. There isn’t a ballpark like Wrigley Field. There isn’t a ballpark like Fenway. I loved those parks. The lighting could have been better. I loved it. Of course I did very well there. I hit double-digit home runs there in very few games. Loved it.

SC/BP: What did you do after the 1969 season?

GG: That was a journey that broke my heart. I used to say, “well I played and they got rid of me.” To me, Joe Schultz who managed Seattle was the smartest manager I ever met in my life. You know why? He played me! It’s the truth. I deemed him a genius. And not knowing whether we were going to leave Seattle, well, we were there in spring training on the last day and had no idea. I thought if we stayed in Seattle and Joe was still there I would have been the starting first baseman. No doubt. I hit .309 in Seattle. Ten home runs, 24 RBI’s in 57 times at bat which is…I should have played even more when I was with Seattle.

Dave Bristol was the manager in Milwaukee – or Seattle at the time. We didn’t get along well at all. I damn near didn’t make the club, much less start. I broke camp with them and ended up with Milwaukee. Not for long though, about a month and Bristol got rid of me.

SC/BP: Besides his tactical abilities, what did you think of Joe Schultz?

GG: He was great with the players. I mean, by the time they get to the big leagues, what are you going to tell them? Their path is sort of marked. The human element like in football or any other sport means so much. You really want to go out and win for them. I wanted to go out and win for Joe so badly. He was a good man. A good man to play for.

SC/BP: What did you think about the crowds in Seattle?

GG: There is not a thing about Seattle that I didn’t love. I mean if we had stayed here and I played 20 years here and the Dodgers wanted me or Chicago – I wouldn’t take any money. I was the happiest guy in the world and part of it was my teammates. A lot of it was my teammates. There was not an ego on the team.

There were guys who were up and coming down. Or guys who never got a chance. There were guys who had been on World Series teams like Ray Oyler for Detroit. They were the greatest bunch of guys I’d ever been around in my life.

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.)

The Seattle Pilots’ First Game

The Seattle Times’ coverage of the Pilots’ first game, on April 8, 1969, against the California Angels at Anaheim Stadium, was oddly quiet and short. The headline of the sports section read: It’s Up to Mike: Marshall Makes Bid to Stretch Pilots’ 4-3 Victory Into Streak. That meant the Pilots had won their first game ever, and Mike Marshall, the pitcher now famous for his rubber arm qualities as a reliever and his theories about how to train pitchers, was due to start their second game. And, the Times used the Tacoma News Tribune’s Earl Luebker to cover the game because its own Hy Zimmerman had a “mild” heart attack in Anaheim before the game.  Luebker didn’t add a great deal that can’t be seen from looking at the game box score (the Pilots’ four-run first inning, highlighted by a two-run Mike Hegan homer, led the way for a Marty Pattin victory over the Angels’ Jim McGlothlin), but he did quote manager Joe Schultz saying his strategy was “Stay close, then go to the bullpen.”  And, right fielder Mike Hegan nearly made a “spectacular catch” of a liner by Bobby Knoop, but “crashed into the fence,” letting the ball drop from his glove, and had to leave the game with “a bruised hip and wrist, and a cut lip.”

The Times’ front page of the sports section:

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The Pilots’ win gave all four 1969 expansion teams–the Pilots, the Expos, the Padres, and the Royals–wins in their debuts in major league baseball. Read about the Pilots’ first game in Seattle.

Published in: on October 12, 2009 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Memories of Your Seattle Pilots

In the spirit of the posts of Red Sox players recounting their favorite baseball memories, and my site about the ’95 Mariners, here’s one selection from a set of memories of the Seattle Pilots. It’s a story about Joe Schultz and his Budweiser:

I had just finished my junior year at the University of Washington, and Sportservice, the company that ran the concessions, needed someone 21 years old to help with the beer sales. An ex-tavern owner named Spin was in charge of the operation, and my principal duty was to help him lift the heavy beer kegs and cart away the empties.

Before each game, I wheeled cases of beer to the two clubhouses and the press box. I was instructed to give them the cheapest beer, locally produced Olympia and Rainier, and save the more expensive Budweiser for the people who actually paid for the beer.

On my second day, this instruction was modified — I was told that when I delivered the three cases of beer to the Seattle Pilots clubhouse, one of the cases had to be Budweiser.

That was for Pilots manager Joe Schultz, whose “pound the old Budweiser” quotes can be found all over “Ball Four.” Let it be forever known, it was I, Bruce Kitts, who brought the old Budweiser to Joe Schultz each day.

— Bruce Kitts, Bothell

Published in: on May 10, 2009 at 3:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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