By Lee Cullison
I enjoyed reading Tom Likai’s recent Take 2 post about Sicks’ Stadium (“Baseball fans first memory of Sicks’ Stadium never fades”). It brought back a flood of my own memories I want to share. About the home ballpark of the Seattle Rainiers.
A chain-link fence extended over the dugouts, but the fence on the Seattle Rainiers’ side was permanently bent inward with enough room for a child. The ushers would allow kids to sit on top of the dugout between games of a doubleheader (almost every home Sunday). We were hoping to get an autograph from the first players to reappear for the second game. We could always find a willing kid to climb under the fence. We would hold his ankles while he looked into the dugout, pen and paper in hand, hoping for a favorite player. Alas, it seldom paid off with a signature.
In 1962, my best buddy Ron, his brother Boone, and myself were often driven to the park by his grandmother. She drove a car that was vintage 1930s, and traveled down Rainier Avenue at a top speed of 20 mph. The parade of honking cars and angry drivers was impressive. She also distinguished herself in another way. For the final game of the season, about 20 of us were outside the Rainiers locker room hoping for one last autograph. We all wanted to get the signature of infielder Chico Fernandez, the former major-league shortstop who had blown us off more than once. After a fruitless half hour, we heard someone ask, “Hey, who’s the old lady?” It was Ron’s grandma going as fast as her 70-year-old legs could take her, in hot pursuit – of the umpires.
My kids and grand kids find it hard to believe that Grandpa could go to a game with a total of $2 in his pocket. Here’s how it worked in 1964. Roundtrip on the bus from Queen Anne Hill, including a transfer downtown to the No. 7 to Rainier Valley and back again, cost 30 cents. A grandstand ticket about 20 rows behind home plate cost 65 cents for a 12-year-old. Between games of a Sunday doubleheader, you could get a pass out to walk across the street to McDonald’s. Their slogan then was “get change back from your dollar” For a buck, I got a bag full of burgers, fries and a pie to get me through Game 2.
My final memory is of my dad, who took me to my first game at age 5 in 1957. The vendor with the red hots was always nearby. My father had escorted 10 of my friends to the park for my birthday. Never being noted for his extravagance, he brought all the food we needed, including hot dogs kept warm in foil. But he forgot the mustard. So the guy with the red hots came by, Dad politely asked him if he could borrow some mustard. Much to the man’s amazement and chagrin, his mustard container disappeared down the row, only to reappear without a drop left.
The day of Safeco Field’s first open house, about a week before the first game in 1999, I sat in the new open-air ballpark, and all those memories came flooding back. Thanks for letting me share a few.
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