SEATTLE – Opening Day at Safeco Field is Monday, but before you look to the future, Bill Mullins believes you must look to the past. Specifically, the corner at Rainier Avenue South and South McClellan.
There, you will see a sign that covers the roots of the present.
“This (was) a big city that doesn’t know it’s a big city,” said Mullins, about the year he moved to Seattle. It was 1968. A year later, a new Major League Baseball expansion franchise called the Pilots would begin play at city owned Sick’s Stadium on Rainier.
The city was growing, but the stadium couldn’t grow fast enough.
“The expectation of the American League was 30,000 seats,” said Mullins, who recalls that workers were still trying to install bleachers on opening day. “Not everything was well during the season. The water pressure was low if there was a crowd of 8,000 or more.”
By 1970, the team was gone, relocated to Milwaukee and renamed the Brewers. Current MLB Commissioner Bud Selig purchased the franchise and took the team from spring training and to Wisconsin.
It prompted a lawsuit which dragged out for years and led to a settlement with the American League, which spawned the Mariners franchise.
Mullins detailed the whole nexus of sport, big business and politics in his new book, "Becoming Big League: Seattle, The Pilots, and Stadium Politics." The book was published by University of Washington Press.
Mullins believes there are parallels with the current Sonics stadium debate.
“It takes deep pockets to have sports in a city,” said Mullins.
Photos and Audio in Chris Daniels' report used with the permission of Mike Fuller at SeattlePilots.com