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Sick Saved Seattle With Beer

Pitchers of Beer: The Story of the Seattle Rainiers
Dan Raley
University of Nebraska Press (March 2011)

When most hear baseball and beer used together, they don’t think too much about it. Beer comes with the baseball territory. But for the Seattle Rainiers, it was part of the fabric of their 27-year-long existence.

Emil Sick bought the struggling Seattle Indians team of the Pacific Coast League in 1937 and renamed it the Rainiers after his beer company. The moniker had been around for decades, but the baseball team became as part of the landscape as the mountains that bear the same name.

The new owner made great hiring decision after great hiring decision, even giving the nod to Bill Skiff over the retired Bambino himself, Babe Ruth, because he was simply too late in acknowledging his interest in the position. Any team in modern day would have quickly dumped their new candidate for the better-known prospect.

In Pitchers of Beer, Dan Raley gives a deep and introspective look into the life of the Seattle Rainiers. At times, it is hard to remember the team plays in the minor leagues. With the torrents of successful players that stepped on the field to the great milestones they achieved, the team easily could have made it in the majors, which Sick pushed so hard to make happen.

The Rainiers constantly broke attendance records, boasted some of the best roster talent — before, during and after their peaks — and broadcasted some of the best voices over the airwaves. Pitchers of Beer is a tell-all book, taking the reader intimately through each season of the team’s existence on the field, and highlighting all the sometimes-subtle characteristics that made the team the Seattle icon it was.

TV was one of the first home runs that literally knocked fans out of the park and into their own homes. As attendance rates dipped and MLB absorbed the West Coast to such a degree it took away much of the Rainiers’ competition, Sick became overwhelmed with the franchise’s financial issues. He ended up not selling, but giving, the team to the Red Sox.

Sick brought something to a struggling team, to the city of Seattle. And while the city’s success seemed to be the team’s demise, the Rainiers gave something to the city it needed when there was nothing else there. And it was Sick and his beer business that made it all happen.

Sick passed away Nov. 10, ironically two months after the team’s last game, and the legacy of the team lived on along with his memory. Raley wrote:

“The papers said a civic leader, tycoon, and baseball patron had met his end. Mainly he was a man who had quenched the city’s thirst in many different ways; besides brewing a favorite beverage, he had made summers fun and people proud by giving them a team to rally around and championships to celebrate, in the process unifying the city like no other man after a decade of Depression-era hardships.”

So while most think “pitchers of beer” and plastic containers filled to the brim with foaming liquid, Seattle knows “pitchers of beer” are the many a player who stood on a Rainiers’ mound and threw for beer, Rainier beer.


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