With just 69 days left until Opening Day, we look back today at the 1969 Seattle Pilots. Milwaukee felt a bit empty at the time as there was no baseball going on as the Milwaukee Braves had recently left the city after their last season in 1965. Fans had to say goodbye to Hank Aaron and his big bat and wonder if there would ever be another pro team to come back to the city. Meanwhile, in 1969 the Pilots started their first season, but it wouldn’t last so long. Going just 64-98, not a whole lot of fans even came to the games (or should I say find some seats!).
So, how did the Pilots only end up in Seattle for one season? First off, their owner, Dewey Soriano, had to ask for some extra cash from a friend, ex-Cleveland Indians owner, Bill Daley, to even afford the team. Second, only 18,000 seats were ready Opening Day and wouldn’t expand until June to 25,000. No wonder why it had the name, “Sicks Stadium.” And third, even though the team had the city’s support at the start, their slump towards the end of the year caused for a lack of attendance and television revenue beyond a number of other issues. With a lack of money, the owners were not able to get out of the temporary stadium, so a familiar name stepped in and purchased the team.
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But before the obvious name is stated, there are a few notes to make about the ’69 Seattle Pilots. The great manager, Lou Piniella, (although, he’d soon be traded in April before the season began!) was a part of the team being drafted from the Cleveland Indians. Don Mincher, the only Pilot to ever appear in an All-Star game, lead in AVG (.246) and HRs (25). Tommy Davis, the well-known Dodger, lead in RBIs (80). Gene Brabender, a Wisconsin native, lead the team in mostly all the pitching categories with 13-14 W/L, 4.36 ERA, and 139 Ks. Diego Seguí (David Seguí’s pops!) lead the team in SVs with 12. Finally, Tommy Harper, who had the first 30-30 in the history of the American League for the Brewers in 1971, lead the AL with 73 SBs.
But, the familiar name that purchased the Pilots that all Milwaukee natives will recognize is the great Bud Selig. As many MLB fans know him for the changes he made as commissioner, Wisconsinites will remember him for bringing back the joy of the game to Milwaukee. So, with only 69 days left until Opening Day, Brewers fans have to give a small thank you to Bud Selig and the ’69 Seattle Pilots for bringing the game of baseball back to our home state.