Published on April 13th, 2015 | by Katy Evans2
I really like our local baseball team, the Tacoma Rainiers — initially and mostly because they combine my love of Tacoma with my love of our mountain. See, I have spent nearly all my life hating baseball, and not just a little. But I’m ok with clinging tightly to two conflicting opinions so, despite my aggressive dislike for the sport, in researching this story, it turns out there are more, actual baseball-based reasons to love the Rainiers.
Tacoma’s century-old love of baseball
A little historical perspective: In 1904, Tacoma hosted their first Pacific Coast League team, the Tacoma Tigers, who moved up from Sacramento only to spend one and a half seasons in Tacoma before moving back. The Tigers operated as a franchise of a different minor league, the Western International League, through the 30s and 40s, and then from 1951 through 1960, Tacoma was without a Triple-A team.
In 1959, local business leaders Ben Cheney and Clay Huntington worked together with the City to convince the San Francisco Giants to relocate their Triple-A club from Phoenix to Tacoma. The Giants agreed, on the condition that a new stadium be built.
The original Cheney Stadium went up in a scant 100 days and became home to a rotation of Pacific Coast Teams whose names mirrored those of its parent major league club: the Tacoma Giants (1960–1965), Cubs (1966–1971), Twins (1972–1977), Yankees (1978), Tugs (1979) and, once more, the Tacoma Tigers (1980–1994).
For more than 50 years, Cheney Stadium stood nearly unchanged until 2010 when it underwent significant and (in my opinion) pretty gorgeous renovations. The 6,800-capacity stadium is now much fancier than before, and all its upgrades were conscientious, honoring both its Northwest location and it’s history.
Cheney Stadium is the best stadium (no offense, Stadium Bowl)
From the stands of Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium baseball can be regularly pleasant, endearing, and convenient. An afternoon at Cheney Stadium is undeniably a delight; not only is it aesthetically satisfying and accented by beer and snacks, but the games are good. And the games are good because minor league players are hungry and they care, resulting in reliably lively, competitive play. Thus, the crowd is engaged and excited and team spirit is high.
Now, other than knowing that I enjoy watching a game at Cheney Stadium, I don’t know much else about how baseball works or about our Rainiers. But it turns out the Rainiers even have an answer for my willful ignorance: the more I explore Mike Curto’s blog, the harder it is to not care.
Meet Mike Curto
Mike Curto has been the Tacoma Rainiers’ radio announcer since 1999 and since 2010 he’s been blogging about the Rainiers and the Pacific Coast League at Booth, Justice, and the American Pastime, where he shares previews, roster moves, prospect reports, starting rotations, game analysis, and more. Mike’s personable, knowledgeable, and engaging writing is a near perfect antidote to my decades-old baseball disdain.
Perhaps I am just trying to fill the Seahawks-shaped hole in my heart during football’s off season, but a big part of me is ready for another local team to root for, and the Rainiers in their beautiful Tacoma home may just be the succor I seek.
You can keep your major league drama, Seattle. Here in Tacoma we get to regularly enjoy America’s pastime at its Northwest best.
All contemporary images from the Tacoma Rainiers Facebook page, all historic photos from the Tacoma Public Library Image Archives. This article was originally published in March of 2014. Additions and edits made in April 2015.