January 18, 2022

Remember the Northwest League Seattle Rainiers, 1972-1976?

August 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A couple months ago I saw a comment on a post I’d done about the infamous Portland Mavericks. I came to learn that the commenter, Bruce Baskin, remembered the Mavs because he’d grown up cheering on the Seattle Rainiers, the Mavs’ counterpart in the Northwest League, playing from 1972 through 1976. Bruce acknowledged that “people didn’t care about the Rainiers even then and you’ll never see more than a one-line mention of them (if any) in any local baseball histories.”

The Rainiers “only drew about 16,000” fans in 1976, and their final game, the last at Sick’s Stadium, home of the Pilots, got covered in the leading local newspaper, the Times, with four dainty paragraphs from a newswire. But for Bruce, going through his early teen years in the early ’70s, the Rainiers were a “lifeline” of pro baseball extended at a time when Seattle was very remote from the hubs of the major leagues, and many fans must have thought the majors would never return to the city.

A few years ago Bruce, while realizing that the Rainiers weren’t the stars of Seattle baseball history, thought someone should at least formally chronicle how the team bridged the gap between the Pilots and the Mariners. The surest way to accomplish that task was to do it himself, so he did. He mailed me the book that resulted from his labor: nothing fancy, it’s a staple-bound production, 72 pages long, and primarily serves as a statistical almanac of the Rainiers’ five seasons at Sicks’ Stadium.

It leads off with capsule summaries of each season, followed by the season’s statistics and game-by-game results, and then a set of team records and cumulative statistics for the franchise. The three Rainiers who graduated to the majors get their own short profiles, including Manny Sarmiento, a 20-year-old reliever for the 1976 version of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, and Lynn Jones, a reserve for the 1985 Royals. Pictures and lists of Northwest League standings and leaders for ’72 through ’76 (Jeffrey “Hackman” Leonard was seventh in batting in ’74 with a .324 average, and Rickey Henderson was third in steals in ’76 with 29) complement the production.

The broadening reach of Baseball-Reference’s effort to cover the entirety of professional baseball includes information about these Rainiers, but it doesn’t come close to the comprehensive coverage of the team that closed down Sick’s Stadium that’s provided in this little handbook. If you remember the five seasons of Northwest League ball in Seattle and want to sharpen your memory of them, or just want to learn about a neglected nook of Northwest baseball history, Bruce Baskin’s book is the best place to find out about how Seattle filled the gap between its two major league teams. You can get it in the mail from Bruce for $5 by writing to him.

Arne Christensen runs Misc. Baseball, a blog assembling eclectic items about baseball’s history, and 1995 Mariners.

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