Team Recognition

K Street Baseball Team One For The Ages!
By Doug McArthur

They were the "New York Yankees" of Tacoma. That was 60 years ago, but longtime baseball fans in the City of Destiny will not soon forget the domination of the K Street entry in the old City League. It was a time when the "bush leagues" of America enjoyed great crowds and fan support.

In 1949 when Lincoln Bowl was home to teams from South Tacoma, McKinley Hill, 26th and Procter, Sixth Avenue, 38th Street, and K Street, every good athlete in town spent the summer months under the watchful eye of legendary umpire Clarence Stave and hundreds of neighborhood admirers who found the "big time" is where you are.

Teams were loaded with high school and college stars, former professional players, and "baseball wannabees" by the dozens, all aspiring to climb the ladder to distant American League and National League opportunities in the grand old game.

The best of the best represented K Street. It was a time when the Tacoma News Tribune's biggest sports stories were local, and the City League was "king". Crowds exceeding 2,000 were not uncommon, and the games were exciting and competitive. The rivalries were keen indeed.

There were several seasons when the K Street "gang" dominated local play but the 1949 campaign was a summer of success at a time when other teams in the league boasted of top talent as well. The "Kays", as they were dubbed, won both the first half and second half championships. The anticipated City League playoff never materialized.

With 1,500 fans on hand for the season opener, southpaw pitcher Pete Sabutis set the stage for K Street's championship "run" with a one-hitter in a 7-1 victory over South Tacoma. He retired 21 of the first 22 hitters he faced with an error allowing the only So-Tac runner. It would be typical of the Sabutis season. He had 13 complete games in league play with a 12-1 record and he followed his initial start with another one-hitter, downing 38th Street 3-0. In his 7th start of the year he whiffed 21 6th Avenue players for his 7th victory.

The K Street offense was paced by second-sacker Cliff Schiez who batted .375. Frank Morrone had a .337 average, Dave Minnitti batted .333, Fred Rickert hit .330, Earl Birnel sported a .328 average, Vic Martineau came in at .313, Sabutis batted .304, Larry Rask at .286 and Dick Salatino at .278 led the championship attack.

The champs finished the first half of the season with a record of 11-1, winning their first 10 games without defeat. After a slow start in the second half, the K street squad compiled a 9-3 record to claim that title.

Sabutis struck out 10 in a 6-1 decision over 38th Street while Schiesz socked an inside the park homer at Lincoln Bowl and Birnel had three singles and a triple. That win propelled them to the 2nd-half's top spot.
The pitching of Sabutis was not the only mound success experienced by K Street. Vic Martineau was unbeaten in four starts on the hill and a young Art (the Arm) Viafore had a 3-1 record.

In the hitting highlight department, infielders Morrone and Minnitti had consistent years. They would go on to be two of the best umpires in local baseball circles but their steady play for years in the City and Valley leagues was the talk of the town. Morrone was 4-for-4 in a late season win over 38th Street and 3-for-5 against South Tacoma a week earlier. Minnitti was 4-for-4 in K Street's 9th straight first half win over 38th Street.

Schiesz supplied much of the power with four homers and 16 rbis. His 39 hits and 29 runs led the league. Birnel, who is still playing the sport in the slow pitch ranks (in his 80s), had 14 rbis and 21 hits in league play, and was outstanding in the infield at shortstop.

Hal Schimling was the catcher and one of the league veterans who sparked winning teams for several seasons. Gus Paine, who played in semi-pro circles for years, managed the team and backed-up at catcher. Frank Bonaro, Frank Cey, Pete Mello, Eddie Yusko, Dick and Joe Salatino were other contributors to the K Street success story.

At a time when City League baseball featured several former major league players and numerous grads from the Tacoma Tigers of the Western International League, K Street ruled the roost.

Earl Birnel (SS) Born in Tacoma in 1926, Earl learned baseball as a youth at Tacoma's Jefferson Park. He was an accomplished infielder at Stadium High School, graduating from the school in 1944. Later, he played four years of baseball, including two seasons as team captain, at College of Puget Sound. During his college years, he played summer baseball for K Street in the City League. After CPS, Earl played five seasons for Chicago Cubs minor league affiliates. He was team MVP at Visalia in 1951 and at Cedar Rapids in 1952. More recently, Earl has been a terrific performer on the senior softball circuit. In 2001, he helped Emerald City win the 70 & over national championship and in 2004, with Earl as player-manager, the team won the national and world titles in the 75 & over category. Throughout his softball career he has earned numerous tournament all-star and MVP awards and he is now playing in an 80 & over slowpitch league.

Frank Bonaro (OC) "Bananas" was a three sport star at Stadium High before playing in the infield and the outfield for the Valley League champions of Edgewood and the City League champions of K Street. Always superb defensively, Bonaro also ranked among the top hitters in high school and semi-pro/amateur competition. When Frank was finished playing he continued to work the diamond as an umpire for 15 years.

Frank Cey (C) Frank is an Ohio native who came to Tacoma when we was stationed at Fort Lewis as a 20-year-old in 1946. Mostly a catcher, Frank played for many teams in the old City League and Valley League, including the K Street squad in 1949. He operated Cey's Union 76 Service Station in Lakewood from 1954-1996. Frank sponsored youth and adult teams for well over 35 years. He is also known as the coach of the Tacoma Fuelerettes, a women's fastpitch team that started in 1949. His other contribution to baseball? Son, Ron Cey!!!

Vic Martineau (P) Vic was a pitcher and outfielder on the '49 K Street squad. He graduated from Bellarmine in 1942. His football and baseball career at the College of Puget Sound was interrupted by World War II. After returning from the war, and to CPS, Vic spent the summers of 1947 and ���48 touring the West ��� from Canada to Mexico with dozens of stops in between ��� playing baseball for the House of David. In 1949, he joined the K Street team in the Tacoma City League and also played for Phil's Place of Edgewood in the Valley League.

Pete Mello (OF) Born April 13, 1920 in Little Squaw Creek, AK, Pete's family moved to Fife where he graduated from Fife HS in 1940. At Fife he was a standout in baseball, football basketball and track. .... in Arm in Pete worked for Casten's Meat Packing, Hygrades and West Coast Grocery and when he wasn't working he could be found coaching basketball and playing baseball. Pete played several years for the K Street team starting in 1949 and later on played for the Hygrade ball club as well. He was a mainstay on the area's Oldtimer teams that would get together every summer to play the inmates on McNeil Island and Pete competed into the late 50s with Al Pentecost, Sonny Bailey, Hank Semmern and other diamond stalwarts.

Dave Minnitti (1B, OF) Dave was an outstanding hitter, once batting .426 in the City League. A 1938 Bellarmine graduate, Dave played on several teams in the City and Valley leagues from 1946-60. He was primarily an outfielder and first baseman. Dave also earned a brief shot at pro ball, playing for the Tacoma Tigers of the Western International League in 1939, the year they won the Shaughnessy Playoffs. He also had a tryout with the Cincinnati Reds. Later, he became one of the most respected umpires in the area, calling high school, recreation, college, and semi-pro games for 15 years.

Frank Morrone (3B) Frank was the third baseman and a key player in the heart of the lineup for K Street. He had been a centerfielder on Lincoln High's 1941 state championship team and while playing for championship teams in the Navy. More people may know Frank for nearly three decades of service as a local baseball and softball umpire. He was a respected ump and worked many state championship games. He retired after 30 years as an employee of the City of Tacoma and opened his own plumbing business.

Al Otto (P)

Gus Paine (C, Team Manager) Gus's role as manager of the K Street team was just a small piece of his long history of involvement with the Tacoma baseball scene. He graduated from Bellarmine in 1930 and continued to play in various leagues for another 20 years. For two years in the 1930s, he played for the House of David barnstorming team that toured the West Coast playing against the Satchel Paige Negro League All-Stars. When the All-Stars' catcher got hurt, Gus donned a Kansas City Monarchs uniform and caught Paige for three games. Gus was a catcher and manager for the Cammarano Brothers teams that were the best in the area from 1936-41. When the Tacoma Cubs suddenly left town in 1971, Gus was one of the 20 original investors that were part of Baseball Tacoma Inc, formed to keep a baseball team in Tacoma.

Joe Paine (batboy)

Larry Rask (P) Larry earned 10 varsity letters at Bellarmine Prep, graduating in 1943. He spent four years in the Navy before returning to Tacoma and playing for K Street as one of the main hurlers on the team. Larry also had a successful fastpitch softball career and was instrumental in the development of youth sports leagues. In 1992 he started the "Sports Card for Kids" program that donated four million cards to youth groups and charitable organizations. His ongoing project is searching for lost balls of all kinds at fields and courts around his home in Bellevue. He donates them to senior centers and other organizations. He has sent more than 300 baseballs to U.S. military troops stationed in Iraq.

Gene Ribar (Utility)

Fred Rickert (OF) An outfielder for the most part, he also pitched an occasion but it was Rickert's hitting which established him as one of the area's finest players. Brother Marv was a big-league performer and Fred played with the Ogden Reds for Manager Pip Koehler along with Stan Naccarato, and for the Tacoma Tigers in 1946. Centerfield was his domain and pitchers around the Tacoma area learned very early that it was impossible to get him out on a "bad" pitch. Rickert hit it no matter where it crossed the plate. He was one of the leading hitters (a near .400 batting average) in City League play for years with K Street's perennial champions, the Tacoma Bafflers, Criswells, and Olde Pilsner and he starred in Valley League play with Edgewood, Madigan and Phil's.

Pete Sabutis (P)

Pete was the premier left-handed pitcher in the Tacoma area from the late 1930s into the 1950s. The K Street club was one of many local teams Pete played for after his return from World War II and the Army. He was honored with a Purple Heart for his war time heroics. He returned and played for the 1947 Tacoma Tigers in the Western International League. Pete, who was born in Tacoma and graduated from Lincoln High, was also an accomplished handball player.

Dick Salatino (OF) Played baseball at Stadium high and College of Puget Sound.

Joe Salatino (OF and Coach) A three-sport standout at Bellarmine Prep, Salatino enjoyed a Hall of Fame career as a member of the Santa Clara football team which earned him a spot in the annual game between the Chicago Bears and the College All-Stars. Joe also played basketball for the 1937-38 Pacific Northwest champion Alt Heidelberg team. His diamond prowess was equally sterling and he was a key member of the 1937 Johnson Paint team which took fifth place at the National Semi-Pro Tournament in Wichita. He later played for the Shipbuilders Athletic Club in 1944, the K Street team of 1949 and made occasional appearances with the Oldtimers clubs of the 50s.

Cliff Schiesz Cliff was an infielder who played a bit in the professional Western International League and with the national barnstorming House of David squad as well as in the local leagues. A 1942 Bellarmine graduate, Cliff remembers earning $400 per month with the House of David team. That was double what he earned while playing for Wenatchee in the WIL. He is a retired firefighter.

Hal Schimling (C) Hal was a catcher. He played seven years of professional ball in various leagues before he got involved in the City and Valley leagues. Four-plus years in the Army during World War II interrupted his professional career but he did sign with the St. Louis Browns in 1945 and play in their minor league system. The 1935 Puyallup High graduate returned to Tacoma and managed semi-pro clubs for over 20 years while also working as a detective for the Tacoma Police Department

Art Viafore (P) A 1949 graduate of Lincoln High, Art played for the K Street team in the City League before he went on to the College of Puget Sound. Art was also the quarterback of Lincoln's 1948 state football poll championship team. He later became a baseball umpire and football official.

Ed Yusko (SS) Ed was born in Tacoma in 1925 and died in 1991. He was a pitcher and shortstop on the K Street team, one of many he played for in the city and shipyard leagues. Ed was invited to a tryout with the Seattle Rainiers in 1946 but a bad-hop grounder injured three fingers and his chance to play shortstop for the Rainiers. Ed had the privilege of playing with Joe DiMaggio and Whitey Ford while serving in the 8th Army Headquarters in the Philippines.