Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Brief History of the Seattle Pilots

Seattle Pilots, 1969
Some nice sportswriting here.  

Matt Blitz, writing at The Smart Set, tells the story of the Seattle Pilots and the history of baseball in Seattle.  This Major League Baseball team made their debut on April 11, 1969.  They finished the 1969 season in last place in the American League.  

On April 1, 1970 (just days before the start of the team's second season) the team moved to Milwaukee and became the Milwaukee Brewers.  There was no time for new uniforms so the word "Pilots" was ripped off the current uniforms and replaced with "Brewers."  (Milwaukee's team--the Braves--had moved to Atlanta).

Here is a taste:


As the season wore on, it became evident the team was losing money, though not millions like some pessimistic projections showed, but closer to the half million dollar range. Still, money is money and losing it is never a good thing. It became evident more money was going to be needed in order for the team to stay afloat and the Soriano brothers had to turn to William Daley. In a 1979 interview with the Associated Press, Max Soriano said, “Sure, he had the money to do so, but I don’t think he was a careless person with his dollars. I think he looked at it as the odds being too much against Seattle being a viable franchise until a new stadium was built...I’ve never told anybody this, but Daly wanted to leave Seattle as soon as the first game ended.” In early September, William Daley took to grandstanding and told the Pilots fans that if they didn’t come to games, he would be forced to sell the team. Mayor Floyd Miller (who was actually an interim mayor and never elected) responded by saying he would evict the team if they didn’t put up a bond guaranteeing they would pay the rent on Sick’s, for the Pilots had refused to pay in June. National news reports started coming out that the Pilots were moving at the end of season, most likely to Dallas. In the final month of the season, attendance plummeted to only about 4,500 fans on average a game.

Around this time, a Milwaukee ownership group led by a young, millionaire, car salesman named Bud Selig (yes, current commissioner of Major League Baseball) was looking to buy a team and move them back to the cheese state of Wisconsin. In 1966, the Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta, despite Bud Selig arguing against this by saying “a baseball team owed it to its community to remain loyal, and not seek new homes, because the loss of a baseball team meant the loss identity.” So, when the Pilots own financial troubles arose, Selig jumped on the chance to move the team from Seattle to Milwaukee, in a twist of irony. After secret negotiations, a deal was struck during game one of the World Series in Baltimore. An ownership group led by Bud Selig was going to buy the Pilots for 10.8 million dollars.