Aerial view in 1967, looking west
|Location||2700 Rainier Avenue South, Seattle, Washington 98144|
|Opened||June 15, 1938|
|Owner||Emil Sick (1938-1964)
Sick family (1964-1965)
City of Seattle (1965-1979)
($5.8 million in 2013 dollars)
18,000 (April, 1969)
25,420 (June, 1969)
Left field - 325 ft
Center field - 400 ft
Right field - 325 ft
|Seattle Rainiers (later Seattle Angels) (PCL) (1938-1968)
Seattle Steelheads (Negro Leagues) (1946)
Seattle Pilots (MLB) (1969)
Washington Huskies baseball (NCAA DI Pac-8)
Seattle Rainiers (NWL) (1972-1976)
Sick's Stadium, also known as Sick's Seattle Stadium and later as Sicks' Stadium, was a baseball stadium in Seattle, Washington, located in Rainier Valley, at the corner of S. McClellan Street and Rainier Avenue S. It was the longtime home of the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League, and was the home of the Seattle Pilots during their only major league season in 1969.
The site was previously the location of Dugdale Park, a 1913 ballpark that was the home of the Rainiers' forerunners, the Seattle Indians. That park burned down in an Independence Day arson fire in 1932, and until a new stadium could be built on the Dugdale site, the team played at Civic Field, a converted football stadium at the current location of Seattle Center's Memorial Stadium.
Minor league years
Sick's Stadium first opened on June 15, 1938 as the home field of the Pacific Coast League's Seattle Rainiers (the renamed Seattle Indians). It was named after Emil Sick, owner of the team and of the Rainier Brewing Company. The Rainiers played at the stadium through 1964, after which they were renamed the Seattle Angels, but continued to play at Sick's through 1968. In 1946, the stadium was briefly the home of the Seattle Steelheads of the short-lived West Coast Baseball Association Negro League, who played at the stadium while the Rainiers were on the road.
After Emil Sick died in 1964, and various members of his family shared ownership, the name of the park was changed to reflect that fact, from the singular possessive form "Sick's Stadium" to the plural possessive form "Sicks' Stadium".
On April 11, 1969, Major League Baseball came to Seattle with the American League expansion Seattle Pilots debuting at Sick's Stadium. Seattle had been mentioned several times as a prospective major league city. The Cleveland Indians almost moved there in the early 1960s, but owner William Daley decided against it because he did not think that Sick's Stadium was suitable for a major league team. The stadium had once been reckoned as the best in the minors, but by the 1960s was seen as being behind the times. Charlie Finley considered moving the Kansas City Athletics to Seattle in 1967, but when he came to scout out Sick's Stadium, he quipped that it was aptly named. He advised Seattle officials to get a new stadium if it wanted a major league team. When the American League granted the franchise, it explicitly stated that Sick's Stadium was not suitable as a major league facility, and was only to be used on a temporary basis until a domed stadium could be completed.
It soon became obvious why Daley (who bought a stake in the Pilots) and Finley were wary about Sick's. The franchise agreement required the Pilots to expand Sick's Stadium to 30,000 seats by the start of the 1969 season. However, due to cost overruns, poor weather and other delays, only 17,000 seats were ready by opening day. Several of the 17,150 people who showed up had to wait three innings to take their seats because workers were still putting them together by the time of the first pitch. In the Pilots' defense, original plans called for them to begin play in 1971. However, the date was moved up two years when U.S. Senator Stuart Symington demanded that the Pilots' expansion brethren, the Kansas City Royals, be ready for play in 1969. Professional baseball had been played in Kansas City in one form or another from 1883 until the A's left for Oakland after the 1967 season, and Symington would not accept the prospect of Kansas City having to wait three years for baseball to return. This forced Seattle to start play in 1969 as well in order to balance the schedule.
The stadium expanded to 25,000 seats by June, but many of those seats had obstructed views. There were no field-level camera pits, so photographers had to set up their equipment atop the grandstand roof. The clubhouse facilities were second-class. Also, no upgrades were made to the stadium's piping, resulting in almost nonexistent water pressure after the seventh inning, especially when crowds exceeded 10,000. This forced players to shower in their hotel rooms or at home after the game. The visiting team's announcers couldn't see any plays along third base or left field. The Pilots had to place a mirror in the press box, and the visiting announcers had to look into it and "refract" plays in those areas. By the middle of the season, it was obvious that Sick's Stadium was completely inadequate even for temporary use.
Under the circumstances, only 678,000 fans came to see the Pilots, 20th out of 24 teams — a major reason why the team was forced into bankruptcy after only one season. Despite the poor stadium conditions, the ticket prices were among the highest in the major leagues. The bankruptcy sale of the team was approved by a federal court in Seattle on March 31, and the team moved to Milwaukee at the end of spring training for the 1970 season and became the Milwaukee Brewers. Milwaukee had lost the Braves to Atlanta after the 1965 season.
Concerts and other events
Though Sick's Stadium was primarily a baseball venue, it also occasionally held other events, including rock concerts — most famously, an Elvis Presley concert on September 1, 1957 (one of the first concerts to be held at a major outdoor stadium), which was attended by a young Jimi Hendrix. The Sunday night concert followed an afternoon ball game during the Labor Day weekend. Hendrix himself later performed at the stadium in the rain on July 26, 1970, as did Janis Joplin, just months before their respective deaths.
In boxing, Floyd Patterson knocked out Olympic gold medalist Pete Rademacher in six rounds on August 22, 1957. Future heavyweight champion Sonny Liston defeated Portland's Eddie Machen in a 12-round decision at Sick's on September 7, 1960.
After the Pilots
From 1972 to 1976, a new Seattle Rainiers team, in the short-season Class A Northwest League, played at Sicks' to sparse audiences. The major leagues returned in 1977 with the expansion Seattle Mariners at the new Kingdome (originally approved by area voters as a condition of getting the Pilots).
In 1979 Sicks' Stadium was demolished, and an Eagle Hardware & Garden store opened there in 1992, which became a Lowe's home improvement store in 1999. The stadium site is currently marked by a sign (on the corner of Rainier and McClellan) and a replica of home plate (near the store's exit) as well as markings inside the store where the bases were. Sixty feet and six inches from home plate, near the cash registers, is a circle where the mound and pitching rubber were. The store has a glass display case containing momentos of the Pilots, Rainiers, and Angels.
Most of the primary assets of Sick's were bought for $60,000 in 1978 by Harry Ornest, the owner of the new Vancouver Canadians for use at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia. Another purchaser was Washington State University in Pullman, which bought bleachers, fencing, and the foul poles in 1979 to construct the new Buck Bailey Field. The bleachers didn't fit well and were later sold.
- Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2013. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved March 31, 2013.
- "Seattle to buy ball stadium". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Associated Press. August 12, 1965. p. 20.
- "Good ol' Sicks' for sale – works". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. May 23, 1978. p. 18.
- "Seattle OK's ballpark construction at Sicks". Ellensburg Daily Record. Associated Press. September 24, 1968. p. 5.
- Seattle Times, 19 October 1967
- "1969 Major League Baseball Attendance & Miscellaneous". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
- "Financially stricken Seattle owners still courting move". Toledp Blade. Associated Press. March 1970. p. 29.
- "Seattle Story: Downhill Run". Milwaukee Journal. April 1, 1970. p. 15.
- "We're Big League Again! Court OKs sale of Pilots". Milwaukee Journal. April 1, 1970. p. 1.
- "P-I archive: The day Elvis Presley stormed Seattle". Seattle PI.com. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- "Presley shares billing with Seattle, Angels". Prescott Evening Courier. Associated Press. September 2, 1957. p. 5.
- Carson, Jerry (September 22, 1970). "Hendrix' life said full". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press, (Seattle Times). p. 7.
- Boni, Bill (August 23, 1957). "Patterson pounds Pete; all over in 6th round". Spokesman-Review. p. 1.
- "Cold-eyed Liston decisions Eddie Machen in Seattle go". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. September 8, 1960. p. 14.
- Manders, Jim (August 18, 1972). "Not quite the same". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 17.
- "Huskies to use Sicks' Stadium". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Associated Press. April 12, 1973. p. 31.
- Healy, Time (November 22, 1991). "Chains find sound reasons to grow". Seattle Times. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- Lowry, Philip (2006). Green Cathedrals. Walker & Company. p. 217. ISBN 978-0-8027-1608-8.
- Goodwin, Dale (April 22, 1979). "Bobo: From 'hitcher' to legend". Spokesman-Review. p. C6.
- Blanchette, John (January 23, 2000). "All the right tools". Spokesman-Review. p. C1.
- Ballparks.com: Sick's Stadium page
- "From Reds to Ruth to Rainiers: City's history has its hits, misses": an article on the history of Seattle's ballparks, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
- "All Shook Up: Elvis Rocks Sicks' Stadium" at HistoryLink
- "Sick's Stadium" Ibid.
- A Short History of Seattle Baseball
- Ballpark Digest article on Sick's Stadium
- Clem's Baseball:Sick's Stadium page with stadium diagram and statistics
- UW Library photo: Sick's Stadium, 1969
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