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Did the Seattle Pilots leave just in time?

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Offline  Did the Seattle Pilots leave just in time?
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Posted: September 02, 2016, 9:59 AM Post
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Interesting article about a piece of Seattle history that I was not aware of. With Boeing laying off 65,000 workers in the two years after the Pilots moved, you wonder how much attendance there would have been between 1970-1972. Would be interested to hear the thoughts of some of the folks who were around then (Briggs).

Another interesting fact - if the team was more than 10 days late in paying players (think of the effect of low attendance on mid-season payroll) the players could become free agents. Could the team have declared bankruptcy and moved mid-season? And what would have happened to the AL baseball season if they did declare bankruptcy mid-season, or if they couldn't and were more than 10 days late in paying the players?

https://gilmanpark.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/lights-out-in-seattle/


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Posted: September 02, 2016, 11:56 AM Post
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Sounds like a great idea for a what if story. I might tackle this.

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Offline  Re: Did the Seattle Pilots leave just in time?
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Posted: September 02, 2016, 12:38 PM Post
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I don't think it would have had that great of an effect. The Mariners came in as an expansion team for the 1977 season. That team planning would have had to been in the works for several years before. It was/is a viable city with the Pilots having owners that didn't have deep enough pockets.


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Posted: September 02, 2016, 4:07 PM Post
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Bill Mullin wrote a book a couple of years ago called Becoming Big League, and it's the story of Seattle stadiums and pro sports teams, and he described Boeing as not being outwardly civic minded as it related to sports franchises and other groups of public interest--and that was before they laid people off.

He says that prior to the Pilots, the local sports scene seemed to be quite satisfied by the U of Washington. The book is a good read, though I didn't really go much past the Pilots departure.

Max and Dewey Soriano were the Pilots owners, but they were bankrolled by William Daley, who owned the Indians. The team was underfunded to begin with, they played in a bad stadium with a bad concessions deal, no local radio deal, and a public that quickly lost interest.

I'm interested in the transition winter of 69-70. The whole Selig acquisition story is pretty interesting. Bud really really wanted baseball back in Milwaukee.


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Posted: September 02, 2016, 5:51 PM Post
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JimH5 said:
Bill Mullin wrote a book a couple of years ago called Becoming Big League, and it's the story of Seattle stadiums and pro sports teams, and he described Boeing as not being outwardly civic minded as it related to sports franchises and other groups of public interest--and that was before they laid people off.

He says that prior to the Pilots, the local sports scene seemed to be quite satisfied by the U of Washington. The book is a good read, though I didn't really go much past the Pilots departure.

Max and Dewey Soriano were the Pilots owners, but they were bankrolled by William Daley, who owned the Indians. The team was underfunded to begin with, they played in a bad stadium with a bad concessions deal, no local radio deal, and a public that quickly lost interest.

I'm interested in the transition winter of 69-70. The whole Selig acquisition story is pretty interesting. Bud really really wanted baseball back in Milwaukee.


Didn't Seattle get a team because the other owners didn't want Bill Veeck to get another team? Or am I confusing that with the Braves leaving Milwaukee?


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Posted: September 02, 2016, 7:48 PM Post
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Pretty sure the transition was late enough in the winter/spring that the Brewers didn't have enough time to order jerseys so they just used Seattle jerseys with the "Seattle/Pilots" lettering removed & replaced with "Milwaukee/Brewers".


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Posted: September 02, 2016, 8:14 PM Post
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I honestly don't know about a Veeck connection. There might be one. It's been a couple of years since I read the book.

The Pilots ownership group probably wasn't ready to own a major league club. But they REALLY weren't ready in 1969. When the KC Athletics moved to Oakland after the 1967 season, there were some angry people, so the AL owners quickly approved the 1969 expansion Royals. The league needed an even number of teams, so they also approved Seattle. The Soriano group wasn't influential enough in Seattle to fast track stadium improvements, parking, etc.

Then, when the franchise was failing, there was speculation that they could be moved to Dallas/Ft. Worth. The Senators made that move after the 1971 season.


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Posted: September 02, 2016, 11:43 PM Post
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I believe that expansion was originally supposed to occur in 1971. It was moved up to avoid a court case in Missouri. As Jim says, the Pilots and the city of Seattle weren't ready. Additionally, Seattle didn't ask for the team in the first place. The American League simply decided to go there. That meant that there wasn't much help from either the public or private sector.

That’s the only thing Chicago’s good for: to tell people where Wisconsin is.
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Posted: September 03, 2016, 5:43 AM Post
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Back then, the NL and AL were really two separate leagues, each trying to get into markets ahead of the other. Seattle represented a huge geographical region, which made it atractive to the two baseball leagues. Expansion was good for existing owners, so they wanted to expand.

Seattle had successfully hosted the Worlds Fair in 1962, the Seattle Rainiers had a long track record in the PCL, and so existing AL owners had reason to think it would work. But city leaders weren't enthusiastic about pro sports, so local ownership had a tough sell. Seattle couldn't decide where to put a new multisport facility (eventually the Kingdome), so they had to play at an expanded Sicks.


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Posted: September 03, 2016, 5:47 AM Post
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As an aside, a paraprofessional who worked with some of my students used to wear his vintage Pilots jersey (he was a Seattle born guy) on "jersey day" every year, and as a Brewer fan, I really coveted that jersey. Dude couldn't name a Brewer, but he could name the whole Pilots team.


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Posted: September 03, 2016, 10:04 AM Post
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Back then, the NL and AL were really two separate leagues, each trying to get into markets ahead of the other.

Yeah, they fought over Toronto circa 1976. When the NL lost that battle, they decided not to expand at all. The AL was forced to expand due to the Pilots leaving, similar to the situation in Kansas City during the previous expansion. It's interesting that Seattle didn't care when they first got the Pilots, but they definitely cared when the team left.

That’s the only thing Chicago’s good for: to tell people where Wisconsin is.
-- Sigmund Snopek


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Posted: September 03, 2016, 10:08 PM Post
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jerichoholicninja said:
JimH5 said:
Bill Mullin wrote a book a couple of years ago called Becoming Big League, and it's the story of Seattle stadiums and pro sports teams, and he described Boeing as not being outwardly civic minded as it related to sports franchises and other groups of public interest--and that was before they laid people off.

He says that prior to the Pilots, the local sports scene seemed to be quite satisfied by the U of Washington. The book is a good read, though I didn't really go much past the Pilots departure.

Max and Dewey Soriano were the Pilots owners, but they were bankrolled by William Daley, who owned the Indians. The team was underfunded to begin with, they played in a bad stadium with a bad concessions deal, no local radio deal, and a public that quickly lost interest.

I'm interested in the transition winter of 69-70. The whole Selig acquisition story is pretty interesting. Bud really really wanted baseball back in Milwaukee.


Didn't Seattle get a team because the other owners didn't want Bill Veeck to get another team? Or am I confusing that with the Braves leaving Milwaukee?


A quick Google search of Veeck and Seattle took me to a newspaper article from December, 1975 when John Allyn was surely selling the White Sox. Allyn was contemplating selling to Seattle interests who would move the team while Veeck was assembling his ownership group. Obviously, the Veeck group came through. The Mariners were born in 1976 when Seattle dropped a Pilots-related lawsuit against baseball. They were awarded an expansion club, and had their stadium in place.

So I think the Veeck connection may have been related to the Mariners birth and not the Pilots.


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Offline  Re: Did the Seattle Pilots leave just in time?
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Posted: September 03, 2016, 11:56 PM Post
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From what I've read, Sicks Stadium was a minor league park retrofitted into a larger stadium basically on the fly, but even when complete still had very low seating capacity relative to other MLB parks, which definitely hurt attendance. I'm guessing the attendance was far below projections and that really sunk the owners who were already operating on a shoestring budget. This was back in the days where attendance was a huge chunk of overall revenues. No big money TV and radio deals back then. Basically bad management by a couple of guys who had no business or working capital to own a MLB team. I think another local group came out of the woodwork in an attempt to acquire the team pretty late in the game, but assuming all of the debt put their finances in question as well. The bankruptcy was a finagled as part of the negotiations with Selig's group, and it is doubtful the move would have happened without it.

I see John Allyn mentioned above, and he and his brother played into this as well in 68/69. The White Sox were very close to moving to Milwaukee after playing 8-11 home games a year at County Stadium. I believe that the attendance at those games was nearly as high as the remaining 70 or so games at Comiskey for at least one of those years. The White Sox were also in a bad financial way, and I believe their flagship radio station at the time was a low-wattage Spanish speaking station. One of the Allyn brothers was ready to sell to Selig and it was almost a done deal until the other brother stepped in and put a kibosh on it. It's also interesting to note that Charlie Finley seriously considered moving the A's to Milwaukee when they were leaving Kansas City, which is something to think about considering the dynasty that they had going a few years later.


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Posted: September 06, 2016, 6:16 PM Post
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sveumrules said:
Pretty sure the transition was late enough in the winter/spring that the Brewers didn't have enough time to order jerseys so they just used Seattle jerseys with the "Seattle/Pilots" lettering removed & replaced with "Milwaukee/Brewers".

That's why our colors are blue and yellow. Didn't have time to get new ones. Selig wanted blue and red like the old minor league Brewers (same colors as my avatar).

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Last edited by recte44 on September 06, 2016, 6:18 PM, edited 1 time in total.

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Posted: September 06, 2016, 6:18 PM Post
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It's also crazy that Milwaukee was begging for a Team, ready and waiting with a big league park and established fan base, yet they chose to go to Seattle and just ignored Bud.

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Posted: September 06, 2016, 7:15 PM Post
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For whatever reason, I think the Brewers applied for a National League expansion team but not an American League team.

That’s the only thing Chicago’s good for: to tell people where Wisconsin is.
-- Sigmund Snopek


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Offline  Re: Did the Seattle Pilots leave just in time?
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Posted: September 06, 2016, 8:23 PM Post
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1992casey said:
For whatever reason, I think the Brewers applied for a National League expansion team but not an American League team.

Makes sense. Milwaukee was a National League city with the Braves.

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I blame Wang.


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Posted: September 06, 2016, 8:56 PM Post
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I was thinking that it would have been logical to apply to both leagues, but it's possible that logistics could have prevented that.

That’s the only thing Chicago’s good for: to tell people where Wisconsin is.
-- Sigmund Snopek


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Offline  Re: Did the Seattle Pilots leave just in time?
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Posted: September 06, 2016, 10:12 PM Post
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recte44 said:
It's also crazy that Milwaukee was begging for a Team, ready and waiting with a big league park and established fan base, yet they chose to go to Seattle and just ignored Bud.

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There were "interests" (owners) in MLB at that time that were angry about the lawsuit the state of Wisconsin brought as the Braves were leaving, and it was basically a "milwaukee will get another team over my dead body" type of thing. I'm thinking that O'Malley from the dodgers might have been one of the hard liners on this. Also, I doubt if Phil Wrigley wanted Milwaukee to get another team as the cubs were popular in this market. Had it not been a last minute situation with the US bankruptcy court interfering, there is a decent chance that most of us are cubs fans right now.


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Offline  Re: Did the Seattle Pilots leave just in time?
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Posted: September 07, 2016, 5:53 AM Post
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Milwaukee was "blackballed" after the county sued MLB in an effort to save the Braves. Walter O'Malley and Wrigley were behind denying Selig an NL team. There's never been a story about how Wrigley wanted the Milwaukee market for the Cubs. He was so behind the scenes. KC had lost the A's and they immediately got another team. Selig really wanted an NL team

Rumors of Pilots to Milwaukee were rampant early that spring training. Duane Dow on channel 6 was reporting Pilot spring scores as Brewers scores. It was all in place, just needing approval from the bankruptcy judge.


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