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 First Game at Seattle’s Sick’s Stadium

Some months back I looked up the last baseball game at Sick’s Stadium, mostly because I was interested in finding out what happened to it after the Pilots left Seattle. I’ve since gone back and looked up the first baseball game at Sick’s Stadium, which is maybe too arcane to be of much interest: an awful lot of minor league stadiums were built and torn down in the 1900s, and it seems that Sick’s was not especially unique. But, since I got some pictures from Seattle newspapers about the game, which was on June 15, 1938, and featured the Rainiers vs. the Portland Beavers, I’m presenting them here. A preview feature:

The sports section cover and illustration:

A vantage from the left-field stands:

And the game’s hard-to-make-out box score: the Beavers won, 3-1:

The construction of Sick’s cost $500,000, with 13,000 in attendance, and a couple hundred more sitting on “Tightwad Hill” outside the leftfield fence.

Published in: on May 6, 2011 at 1:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Last Baseball Game at Sicks’ Stadium

Here is the full text of the Seattle Times’ coverage of the Seattle Rainiers’ final game at Sicks’, on Wednesday, September 1, 1976. Rather than use one of its reporters, the Times thought the United Press International wire story was sufficient:

George Meyring pitched a one-hitter as the Seattle Rainiers wound up their Northwest League baseball season with a 2-0 victory over Portland’s Mavericks last night at Sicks’ Stadium.

In other games, Walla Walla downed Eugene, 2-0, and Grays Harbor drubbed Boise, 12-4.

The Rainiers still have a slim mathematical chance to tie for the league’s North Division title. Seattle is 1 1/2 games behind leading Portland, which moves to Bellingham for its final three games.

The Rainiers scored one run in the fourth inning on a squeeze bunt by Ken Peters. They scored their final run in the seventh when Doug Peterson singled home Rob Craft.

In the picture below, the wire story is up at the top middle of the page, obscured by the days’ results at the Longacres race track:

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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