Founded in 1890
|Minor league affiliations|
|Major league affiliations|
Kansas City Royals|
San Diego Padres
California Angels (1982)
Los Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia Phillies (1953)
Brooklyn Dodgers (1947)
|Minor league titles|
|League titles (12)||
|Division titles (17)||
|Colors||Navy, Red, Light Blue, Beige|
|Brett Sports & Entertainment|
|General Manager||Chris Duff|
The Spokane Indians are a minor league baseball team in the northwest United States, located in Spokane, Washington. A member of the short-season Class A-Short Season Northwest League, they have been a farm team of the Texas Rangers since 2003. The Indians play home games at Avista Stadium, which opened in 1958 and has a seating capacity of 6,752. From 1958 through 1982, the Indians were in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, except in 1972. The Indians have won twelve league titles, four in the PCL and eight in the NWL. The city has over a century of history in minor league baseball, dating back to the 1890s.
Pacific Coast League
When the Los Angeles Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to the west coast in 1958, they moved their PCL affiliate, the Los Angeles Angels, north to Spokane. While with the Dodgers for fourteen seasons, the Indians won league titles in 1960 and 1970, and were runners-up in 1963, 1967, and 1968.
In 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 would have been called out but a base hit would have been recorded for the batter. Pacific Coast League President Dewey Soriano, who was in attendance that night on July 7, notified the press box that final out was to be credited to the first baseman and that Palys' conduct constituted "unsportsmanlike play". (Apparently, no base hit was credited on this play.)
The 1970 Indians, managed by Tommy Lasorda; won 94 of 146 games (.644) in the regular season to win the northern division by 26 games, then swept the Hawaii Islanders in four games in the PCL playoffs. The team included Bill Buckner, Steve Garvey, Bobby Valentine (PCL MVP), Tom Paciorek, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Doyle Alexander.
Following the 1971 season, the club was moved south to New Mexico and became the Albuquerque Dukes. Spokane, which had been in the Northwest League for its first two seasons in 1955 and 1956, returned to the NWL in 1972 as a Dodger affiliate, but only for one season, as a new PCL franchise arrived in 1973 from Portland, and now the affiliate of the Texas Rangers. The 1973 team, which included Bill Madlock and Lenny Randle, won the west division by eleven games and swept Tucson in three games in the championship series. The following year's club successfully defended the title with another three-game sweep, this time over Albuquerque.
The Indians' second stint in Triple-A lasted ten seasons and included affiliations with the Rangers, which changed to the Milwaukee Brewers in 1976, Seattle Mariners in 1979, and California Angels in 1982. Taking their first division crown since 1974, the Indians defeated Tacoma in the first round, but fell to Albuquerque in the championship series in six games. Soon after that season, the team moved south to Las Vegas and became the Stars, now the 51s. The team's general manager was Larry Koentopp, the former head coach and athletic director at Gonzaga. He was the leader of a local ownership group that purchased the team after the 1978 season. The team was purchased for $259,000 in 1978 and was sold in 1993 for $6.1 million.
A new NWL franchise was awarded to Spokane for the 1983 season and the Indians have won eight league titles; the first four were consecutive, from 1987 through 1990. The Indians won their seventh NWL championship in 2005, despite a 37–39 (.487) record during the regular season. They became only the second team in league history (after the 1982 Salem Angels) to win the championship with a losing regular season record. Spokane won the east division, then beat league-leading Vancouver on the road in games four and five of the championship series to win the title.
In 2008, the Indians captured their eighth league title with a thrilling four-game series victory over the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. After dropping the first game, the Spokane rallied to a 11–10 win in 10 innings to even the series. In game three, the Indians fell behind 10–2 before then rallied for nine unanswered runs to win again 11–10. Spokane won the title with a 6–5 victory in 10 innings in the fourth game.
The Indians were featured in the "Spokane Alphabet" reverse glass painting by Washington (state) artist Melinda Curtin. They were the I in the alphabet, cementing their place as an important part of the city of Spokane.
History before 1958
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 at Ferris Field from 1937 through 1942 and 1946 until folding during the 1954 season on June 21.
In 1954, four-year-old Memorial Stadium (now Joe Albi Stadium) was considered as a potential minor league baseball venue.
Spokane was a charter member of the Northwest League, which debuted in 1955 in Class B. These Indians also played at Ferris Field, but folded after just two seasons, and the city went without minor league baseball in 1957.
The 1946 Spokane bus tragedy
In 1946, the WIL Indians were victims of the worst transit accident in the history of American professional sport. On June 24, the team was on its way west to Bremerton by bus to play the Bluejackets. While crossing the Cascade Mountains on a rain-slickened Snoqualmie Pass Highway (then U.S. Route 10), the bus driver swerved to avoid an oncoming car. The Indians' vehicle veered off the road and down an embankment, then crashed and burst into flames.
Nine men died — six of them instantly — and seven 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. Injured survivors also included pitchers Pete Barisoff, Gus Hallbourg and Dick Powers, catcher Irv Konopka, outfielder Levi McCormack, and bus driver Glen Berg.
One player from the 1946 team, future major league infielder Jack "Lucky" Lohrke, missed the tragedy because 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, thus helping to earn his nickname. (Lohrke averted tragedy earlier when he was bumped from a military transport plane which later crashed.) Two Indians' pitchers, Milt Cadinha and Joe Faria, were making the trip to Bremerton by automobile and were not aboard the team bus when it crashed.
The Indians, relying on players loaned from other teams, managed to finish the season and placed seventh in the league. A special charity, the Spokane Baseball Benefit Association, donated $114,800 to the injured survivors and dependents of the nine players who died.
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.
- 1987: Defeated Everett 2-1 to win championship.
- 1988: Defeated Southern Oregon 2-1 to win championship.
- 1989: Defeated Southern Oregon 2-1 to win championship.
- 1990: Defeated Boise 2-1 to win championship.
- 1999: Defeated Portland 3-0 to win championship.
- 2003: Defeated Salem-Keizer 3-0 to win championship.
- 2005: Defeated Vancouver 3-2 to win championship.
- 2008: Defeated Salem-Keizer 3-1 to win championship.
- 2010: Defeated Yakima 2-0 in semifinals; lost to Everett 2-1 in finals.
- Carlos Beltrán, current All Star major league outfielder for the Texas Rangers.
- Sandy Alomar, Jr., 1990 MLB Rookie of the Year and six-time MLB All Star for the Cleveland Indians. He played 19 major league seasons, from 1988–2007.
- Joey Cora, former MLB All Star second baseman. Cora's MLB career spanned 11 years, from 1987–1998.
- Neftalí Feliz, current MLB All Star relief pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- Brad Gulden, former major league catcher with six MLB teams, most notably with the New York Yankees in 1979.
- Ian Kinsler, current MLB All Star second baseman for the Detroit Tigers.
- Chris Davis, 2013 MLB All Star first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles. Davis led the major leagues in home-runs in 2013 and 2015.
- Spokane Indians players
- Spokane Hawks players (1937–1939)
Spokane Indians roster
Logos and uniforms
- Indians former logo
- Indians primary
- Indians secondary, in Salish, the language of the Spokane Nation.
In the 2006 offseason, the Indians began a process to redesign their logo and uniforms. As per tradition, they began by avoiding the use of any American Indian imagery, but early in the process of redesign, the Spokane Nation contacted the team about officially supporting the team. In the process, the tribe gave permission to the team to adopt subtle and tasteful imagery, in order to pay homage to the team's history and new connection with the tribe. The cooperation, called "historic" by the team, included the creation of a secondary logo written in Salish, the traditional language of the tribe. The team's colors are red, navy blue light blue, and beige.
- Price, Jim (June 21, 2003). "Birth of the Indians". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. H2.
- May, Danny (July 8, 1963). "No-hitter highlights pair of wins by tribe". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 8.
- "Playoff-bound Indians dominate All-Star lineup". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. (photo). September 4, 1970. p. 1.
- "Pacific Coast League: final standings". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. September 4, 1970. p. 17.
- "Indians return to Spokane after sweep of Islanders". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. September 9, 1970. p. 12.
- "Bobby Valentine gets Coast MVP". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. September 4, 1970. p. 16.
- "1970 Spokane Indians". Baseball Reference. Retrieved November 5, 2015.
- Missildine, Harry (December 13, 1971). "Baseball set for Spokane". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 1.
- Lynch, Mike (February 3, 1972). "Ken Merkel heads club". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 15.
- "Ex-POW will toss 1st ball tomorrow". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. April 12, 1973. p. 29.
- "Celebration sedate one for PCL champ Indians". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. September 7, 1973. p. 13.
- Stewart, Chuck (September 7, 1974). "Spokane captures PCL flag; busy Dunning hurls victory". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. p. 10.
- Washington (September 2, 1982). "PCL: final standings". Spokane Chronicle. p. 32.
- Blanchette, John (September 2, 1982). "Tribe ready to put up Dukes". Spokane Chronicle. Washington. p. 17.
- Blanchette, John (September 13, 1982). "Indians make it difficult, but Dukes win PCL again". Spokane Chronicle. Washington. p. 20.
- Blanchette, John (September 14, 1982). "Indians gambling on Vegas". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 23.
- "Spokane team move okayed". Ellensburg Daily Record. Washington. UPI. September 15, 1982. p. 15.
- Jordan, Jeff (May 10, 1977). "Koentopp quits Gonzaga baseball position". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 15.
- Washington (September 30, 1978). "Tribe purchased by local group". Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 11.
- Stewart, Chuck (January 24, 1983). "'Fun' subsided fast". Spokane Chronicle. Washington. p. 18.
- "Koentopp family hires detective in search of missing woman". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. August 29, 1996. p. C5.
- Stalwick, Howie (September 8, 1990). "Indians win record fourth straight title". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. B1.
- Larson, J.D. (September 8, 2005). "Somehow, some way, Indians make playoffs". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. C1.
- "NWL: final standings". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. September 8, 2005. p. C4.
- Larson, J.D. (September 12, 2005). "It's only appropriate: Indians win". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. C1.
- Larson, J.D. (September 13, 2005). "Indians win NWL pennant". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. C1.
- Price, Jim (June 21, 2003). "Beginnings and sad endings". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. H4.
- May, Danny (June 13, 1939). "What the outfielders saw of Spokane's largest crowd at Ferris Field". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. (photo). p. 1.
- "WI loop to carry on with 8 teams". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. June 22, 1954. p. 19.
- "Indians return home but not to play tilts". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. June 23, 1954. p. 16.
- "Memorial Stadium may be used for pro baseball". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. June 15, 1954. p. 19.
- May, Danny (May 1, 1955). "Chiefs nip Tribe in opener, 8-7". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 1, sports.
- May, Danny (September 8, 1956). "Tribe drops finale at Ferris Field, 8-5". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 12.
- May, Danny (February 16, 1957). "Spokane Indians fold; need $75,000 miracle". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 8.
- "8 Spokane baseball players dead in crash of their bus". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. June 25, 1946. p. 1.
- "Hartje, driver still in danger". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. June 26, 1946. p. 1.
- "WIL resumes play, Tigers move up". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. June 27, 1946. p. 12.
- J. G. Taylor Spink, ed., 1947 Baseball Guide and Record Book. St. Louis, Missouri: The Sporting News, 1947, p. 207
- Colford, Ann M. (September 23, 2006). "Spokane Indians baseball team bus crash kills nine on Snoqualmie Pass on June 24, 1946". HistoryLink.org. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
- Spokane Indians official site, Minor League Baseball.com
- Official website
- Baseball Reference – Spokane teams
- Until the End of the Ninth
- The Last Survivor – Interview with Gus Hallbourg about the 1946 bus crash