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Stealing is a big part of baseball tradition.

beaver 2


The air fills with electricity when great base runners threaten to take off.

The crowd cheers and history books get rewritten with a speedy runner standing on first.

Pitchers get nervous. Right-handers peek over their left shoulder for a pick-off. Lefties have a stare-down.

Catchers check their stance between pitches to ready a throw to second base.

The names Maury Wills, Lou Brock, and Ricky Henderson stand as a who’s who of base stealers as each topped the other from era to era.

We celebrate the effort of great athletes, or as Ricky Henderson might say, “Ricky Henderson is the base stealing king. Ricky Henderson wears that crown.”

There’s not as much noise when one city steals another’s team, or when a city abandons their team like Portland did their Beavers.

Portland Beavers? Who were they?” new residents might ask.

Other cities from the old Pacific Coast League might get the same question. Who were the Hawaii Islanders, the Hollywood Stars, Los Angeles Angels, Mission Reds (from San Francisco’s Mission District?)

Who were the Oakland Oaks, the Phoenix Giants, Sacramento Solons, Salt Lake Bees, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Seals? Who were the Seattle Rainiers, Spokane Indians, Vancouver Canadians, and Vernon Tigers (then Tacoma Tigers?)

Sports history buffs and collectors know who there were, but does anyone else care?

The Beavers had up and down seasons since the turn of the last century. Some years in last place, some in first, but consistently good enough to move to bigger and better stadiums in town.

Then it all stopped.

Dreams of major league baseball still burns bright in many Portland sports fans. Without the Beavers, desire might dim, but they still feel the heat with each trip to Seattle for a Mariner game. On the drive back home they must ask each other, “Why not Portland? Where’s our team?”

At the time of the Beaver’s demise, Portland had the biggest market for Triple A teams. With a population of over 600,000 it was bigger than some major league cities. Bigger than Pittsburgh at just over 300,00, bigger than Cincinnati at just under 300,00.

Bigger than even Kansas City at over 450,000, but Portland still takes a backseat. They all have Major League teams with the Pirates, the Reds, and the Royals. Portland is even bigger than Milwaukee with their Brewers.

What happened to baseball in Portland? Look north to Seattle for answers. Their history timeline is similar to Portland, except toward the end.

The Seattle Rainiers of the old Pacific Coast League morphed into the Seattle Pilots in 1969. During the same year, the AAA Portland Beavers went 57 – 89.

In 1970 Seattle lost the Pilots who became the Milwaukee Brewers. In ’77 Seattle got the current Mariners. Wiki says the Mariners have had losing seasons twenty six times in their thirty-seven year major league history. Do you hear any talk of a move from Seattle?

This is a city with experience losing teams at a major league level. They move up the sports food chain, not out of town. Most of the time.

Portland has seen teams come and go from fringe league owners who see potential, but no exciting offers from the National Hockey League, National Football League, or Major League Baseball. Have any of the other big leagues besides the NBA seen Portland as an expansion partner?

After the Pilots left Seattle it took an existing lawsuit with big league baseball to force a new team into town. They went from big to bigger with both the Mariners and Seahawks. Sure they lost the Sonics, but they seemed close to luring the Sacramento Kings north recently. How close? Not close enough, but it will happen for Seattle.

If the money people are watching the Blazers and the Timber sell out their games, they must figure there’s even more entertainment dollars in play out there. Their job is finding where the money is spent and redirecting the flow toward a lifestyle change.

Red Socks fans are all about lifestyle. So are Yankee rooters. It’s their team as much as it was their parents’ and grandparents’ team. That’s a feeling hard to replicate in an expansion market, or with a transplanted team. Still, the first step in securing a team.

The Oakland A’s? Florida Marlins? Why not raid a city with a well known team instead?

Baltimore lost the NFL Colts, but gained the Cleveland Browns and changed the name to the Ravens. The Colts were as much a part of Baltimore as the Packers are part of Green Bay. Luring the Orioles west would set up Baltimore for the Marlins or Athletics (who began in Philadelphia.)

Pulling a team from the east coast would follow the migration trail laid down by the New York Giants move to San Francisco and the Brooklyn Dodgers move to Los Angeles.

Say “the Portland Orioles” a few times. It has a nice roll. Besides, isn’t there room for another bird in the Northwest?

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About David Gillaspie


  1. […] Portland had had a better big league connection, we’d still be talking about baseball here. The Triple A Beavers left town when fan excitement focused on the Timbers, but should that mean the end of Portland […]

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