A ‘Sick Stadium’ and a lot of history

John Owen's last column
By John Owen | May 24, 2012

The Seattle Pilots barely made it to the starting line in 1969, their first and only season in the American League.

They rushed contractors to complete new seating sections to boost the capacity of their former minor league stadium on Rainier Avenue.

Carpenters were still hammering nails and painters were praying that new paint would dry on the outfield fences before the opening pitch.

Half an hour before gametime I was summoned to the radio booth. The broadcaster for the visiting Chicago White Sox wanted to interview somebody from Seattle who could answer an improbable question.

Looking around at the incomplete construction, he smiled broadly and then asked:

Is the official name of this ballpark actually "Sick Stadium."

I tried to explain that the official designation was Sicks' Stadium, created by  brewer Emil Sick who named his beer after a mountain.

I really needed Dan Raley to provide a more coherent response.

Because for a lot of years Sicks' Stadium was the home to heroes like Fred Hutchinson, Kewpie Dick Barrett, Jim Rivera and Rogers Hornsby.

Raley worked in the same Seattle Post-Intelligencer sports department with me for several years and he could easily have cited a dozen other hallowed names of men who played and starred at Sicks' Stadium.

Raley wrote a book about that golden era and he will be at the Edmonds Book Shop at noon Saturday (May 26) to meet with local baseball fans and to explain why the book he has on sale is called "Pitchers of Beer."

Dan was the unofficial  P-I sports department historian, interested in the background stories and fascinating legends of individuals and organizations from the Seattle Rainiers and Cheney Studs to the Garfield Bulldogs and Franklin Quakers.

He can recall endless stories about Hutch,  Edo Vanni, Jo Jo White and announcer Leo Lassen.

Dan could probably still recite the  batting average in the Pacific Coast League of catcher and columnist Emmett Watson.  (The answer is .500.  Em had one hit in two lifetime appearances at the plate.)

Raley's batting average as an author is 1.000.  But he may have a lot more home run swings, basketball jump shots and football field goals still to come in future historical recollections.

Check him out in Edmonds Saturday.  You'll hear about a lot of fascinating  individuals.

You'll only regret that you didn't have the opportunity to share a pitcher of beer and endless stories with all of them.

On a sad note, this marks the last column for  John Owen.

“I have written over 7,000 columns since my first newspaper job in 1954 and I have decided that's more than enough,” Owen said.

While I can’t dispute the numbers, I will feel a great loss at not being able to reach for the Beacon and read one of my all-time favorite columnists.

Thanks for your years of writing for the Beacon John, you’re leaving some big, empty shoes to fill. – Ed.

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