case 'Jesse Baker':
SPANAWAY BASEBALL CLUB
SPANAWAY-BASEBALL, THE WAY IT WAS!
How best to remember baseball in Spanaway? Lets try five words: Rediske to Bratlie to Loete (6-4-3 if you are scoring).
Or, how about writing a book? That might be the only way to properly document the history of the game as it was played on the rocky prairie southeast of Tacoma.
Unfortunately too many details have been lost. Too many old scorebooks have disappeared. Too many memories have faded away.
So, lets revive those we can and preserve some portion of that saga which deserves to be told and is worthy of remembrance.
Let's start with Rediske, Bratlie and Loete. In the late 40s and early to mid-50s they were some trio. They starred in college, starred in the Valley League and starred in the Tacoma City League. Won championships in all three.
Jim Rediske stayed close to his roots. He grew-up in Roy and played collegiality at PLC. A smoother short-stop there wasn't, and he could hit, particularly in the clutch.
Jack Bratlie was an all-star second base-man who came to PLC from Ridgefield high in Southwest Washington. He played most of his baseball in the Parkland/Spanaway/South Tacoma area and is worthy indeed of his induction into our Hail of Fame today.
Chuck Loete was a big guy who hit with power and handled his position like he was born at first base. He came from Kapowsin and looked like a Logger but he went to PLC and became a Lute.
If you had played against that trio, you
wouldn't forget them. They represented what baseball was all about
in that era. Competition, sure. Friendship, absolutely. Love of the
game, without question. They were stars but they weren't above
dragging the infield before games. Afterward, even if you played
your damndest against them, they treated you like a true friend and
invited you to loin them at the nearest watering-hole. Those were
We can trace baseball in Spanaway back to 1919 when Ocky Larson Sr. played for the Spanaway Merchants. He recently was inducted into the Tacoma-Pierce County Hall of Fame.
We know that Louie Bennett coached the Spanaway Athletic Club in the 30s when games were played at the Spanaway Grade School field and at Bresemann's. Little was recorded about the SAC. but community-based teams flourished in those periods and Sundays, in particular attracted crowds all over Pierce County to watch "the boys" play. Ray Brammer was a batboy for Spanaway in the late 30s and early 40s. He remembers those gray flannel uniforms and their red letters, and the red-sleeved uniforms which followed.
He recalls what "good teams" they had and some of the player's names stayed with him. Hank Matson was their ace pitcher, Mike Cummings was the catcher, Bill Moe played third base. Others on the team included Inky Olson, Andy Franich, Russ Neissan, and Marsh Meyers.
Ray would graduate from his batboy position to
play and to manage Spanaway teams in both the Tacoma City League and
the Valley League in the 40s and 50s.
Those were the days! Baseball fever was at a high pitch in Pierce County. Every small town you could name seemed to have a team in the Valley League and the rivalries were keen, community pride was at an all-time high, and player camaraderie (both friend and foe) may never be duplicated again. Not the way it was!
Okay, so Spanaway had teams. How good were they? Did they dominate the old Valley League? Is that what this is all about? Why so special?
Maybe Gary Justice will be eloquent enough to explain it better at today's banquet. You may remember him as one of the best TV news anchors to ever grace your screen from KIRO-TV in Seattle. You probably don't remember that he was a batboy for Spanaway when his father Jack played and coached, and he still carries fond memories of those teams and the place where he grew-up, Kapowsin.
Speaking of Kapowsin, Spanaway's teams had a genuine Kapowsin Konnection. Among the many players who called it home were Justice, Ted and Jack Harris, Les Boettner, Dave Garner, Dick Hansch, and Chuck and Don Loete. They probably had enough for a team of their own but what about a field?
Spanaway provided that. The parking lot for the Lake Spanaway Golf Course formerly served as a diamond in the rough for Spanaway teams. Stall #23 today was second-base back then. Some of us still can "remember" Bratlie turning a double-play there, like clockwork.
The team actually built the field. The Metropolitan Park District, which owned the land, gave them its blessing. Probably loaned them some equipment, too. Game day was a true community affair. The coach did more than make out his lineup card. He used his own car to drag the infield. The Spanaway Volunteer Fire Department brought a water tanker down to sprinkle the field and keep the dust down.
Local merchants donated dollars for team uniforms. They got their names on the back in recognition. The team sponsored an annual banquet at the Elk Plain Grange to raise funds for equipment and entry fees. Les Boettner and his Group provided the music (he played on the team and at the dance). Team members cleaned-up the hall afterward.
At the game a fan was selected to pass the hat
to pay the umpires. Many who attended didn't think they were worth
it but Lornie Merkle, Frank Morrone, Stan Naccarato and other former
players who called the games probably would have worked for free.
Oh yes, the games couldn't start unless the outfield was mowed. That only happened two or three times a season but when it did, Pacific Avenue would be backed up just like it is today That's because Neil Day, who lived at 138th in Brookdale, would drive his Wagner-mobile Tractor 10 miles an hour along Pacific to reach the field. His price? One six-pack, thank you.
Some of those Spanaway teams got a boost from Lincoln high school when Larry Rucker, Morry Beebe, and Paul Jacobson joined the Jack Justice/Bill Horn coached crews of 1946-47. That trio had played for the Abes and filled two starting outfield positions and an infield spot (Rucker). Lorry remembers well the Spanaway rivalry with Midland as the two battled for Valley League supremacy with the same neighborhood affection as the Hatfield's and McCoy's.
Memories? Too many for this story but former Spanaway players will tell you about games with Morton, Midland, Eatonville, Orting, Mineral, Edgewood. Puyallup, South Prairie, Rocky Ridge, Lacamas, Nisqually, Yelm, Graham, Bethel Enumclaw, Lakewood, McNeil Island, Western State Fern Hill, the USS Yorktown, and several Tacoma teams like the Kiwanis, Cammarano Bottlers, the Tangmen (Nalley's) and the Stanley's Shoemen.
Morton, Mineral, Midland, South Prairie and Edgewood were Spanaway's bitter rivals. Mineral and Morton, in particular, would raid the Spanaway roster by offering players beer, money and jobs (probably in that order).
Those were the best of times. For the players who wore Spanaway uniforms, it was baseball like it was meant to be played. From the heart.
FORMER SPANAWAY MANAGERS
Over the years there were more than seven managers who coached Spanaway teams in their quest for league honors. Those we have been able to identify are:
Too many players donned Spanaway uniforms from 1919 to 1962. It would be impossible to document all of their names. Here's the list we have been able to compile: