Published on July 16, 2013 by Amy
The Spokane Indians are a minor league baseball team located in Spokane, Washington, United States. They are a Short-Season A classification team in the Northwest League and have been a farm team of the Texas Rangers since 2003. The Indians play home games at Avista Stadium. Opened in 1958, Avista Stadium seats 7,202 fans.
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Spokane was home of one of the charter teams of the Northwest League in 1955, but the team folded in 1956. Between 1958 and 1971, the Indians were a Triple-A Pacific Coast League baseball club affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers, before the club was moved to Albuquerque in 1971, and later Portland. The 1970 team, managed by Tommy Lasorda, won 94 of 146 games and swept the Hawaii Islanders in the PCL playoffs.
On July 7, 1963, Spokane Pitcher Bob Radovich threw a no-hitter against the Hawaii Islanders that ended on a bizarre note. With two out in the ninth inning, an Islander player drew a walk. Stan Palys came in to run for the batter. The next batter hit a grounder to first and Palys danced up and down till the ball hit him in the leg. Under baseball rules, Palys is called out but a basehit is recorded for the batter. Pacific Coast League President Dewey Soriano who was in attendance that night, notified the press box that final out was to be credited to the first baseman and Palys’ conduct constituted “unsportsmanlike play”.
Spokane returned to the NWL in 1972, but a new PCL franchise arrived from Portland, where it lasted until 1982 when it moved to Las Vegas to become the Las Vegas Stars and later the Las Vegas 51s.
The Indians won the 2005 Northwest League championship despite having a record of 37-39 during the regular season, becoming only the second team in NWL history (the Salem Angels of 1982 were the first) to win the championship crown with a losing regular season record.
In 2008 the Indians captured the Northwest League Title with a thrilling 3-1 series victory over the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. After dropping game one, the Indians rallied to capture game two by a score of 11-10 in 10 innings. In game three, the Indians fell behind 10-2 before rallying for nine unanswered runs winning by an 11-10 margin once again. The Indians won the 2008 title in game four by securing a 6-5 victory in 10 innings.
Spokane’s minor league history dates to 1892, when it fielded a team in the Pacific Northwest League. The nickname Indians dates to 1903, when Spokane joined the Pacific National League – a predecessor to the PCL and, at Class A, an elite minor league of the period, equivalent to Triple A today. The Indians lasted only two seasons at that higher level before dropping to the Class B Northwestern League, which folded during World War I.
In 1937, Spokane became a charter member of the Class B Western International League, the predecessor of the Northwest League, which played from 1937 through 1942 and 1946 through 1954.
On June 24, 1946, the WIL Indians were victims of the worst transit accident in the history of American professional sport. The team was on its way to Bremerton by bus to play the Bluejackets. On a rain-slicked Snoqualmie Pass Highway (then U.S. Route 10) in the Cascade Mountains, the bus driver swerved to avoid an oncoming car and the Indians’ vehicle veered off the road and down an embankment before crashing and bursting into flames. Nine men died — six of them instantly — and six were injured. The dead were catcher/manager Mel Cole, pitchers Bob Kinnaman and George Lyden, catcher Chris Hartje, infielders Fred Martinez, Vic Picetti, and George Risk, and outfielders Bob James and Bob Paterson. Despite a severe head wound, infielder Ben Geraghty was able to struggle back up the mountainside to signal for help. The Indians, relying on players loaned from other teams, managed to finish the season and placed seventh in the league. One player from the 1946 team, future major league infielder Jack “Lucky” Lohrke, earned his nickname when his contract was sold to the PCL San Diego Padres on June 24 and he departed the ill-fated bus during a late lunch stop in Ellensburg, not long before the accident. (Lohrke averted tragedy earlier when he was bumped from a military transport plane which later crashed.)
Beth Bollinger of Spokane wrote a novel titled Until the End of the Ninth, which is based on the true story of the 1946 bus crash and its aftermath.