Steelheads

Tonight’s Mariners/Rays game will feature a different look for the team, one that’s been on display twice prior to this season. To celebrate Juneteenth, the team will honor the Seattle Steelheads of the short-lived West Coast Negro League by wearing throwback uniforms.

For those who’ve never heard of the league or the team, the Steelheads played in the West Coast Negro League during the 1946 season and was owned by WCNL creator Abe Saperstein, who is best known as the man who founded the Harlem Globetrotters. Saperstein recruited track star Jesse Owens and other investors in October of 1945 and hurriedly organized the league, which held its first meeting in January, 1946 and began an 18-week, 110 game season in May of 1946. Unfortunately, the season was cut short due to financial problems among most of the six teams.

Seattle would open its season on May 12, playing the Portland Rosebuds in El Paso, TX and would host its first home game in Seattle on June 2, when it attracted 2500 fans to Sick’s Stadiums. The team would also play home games in Bellingham, Bremerton, Spokane and Tacoma during its short life and averaged 1500 fans per home date. Though the league disbanded in early July, the Steelheads, along with the Oakland Larks, began a barnstorming tour of the midwest that included games in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. A July 19th column in the Seattle Times announced that “the Steelheads…will play here no more for a while as they found Middle Western exhibition games more profitable.”

A few months later, the team would drop the Seattle Steelheads name and revert back to their original name, the Harlem Globetrotters. 

The Mariners first paid tribute to their long-lost brethren on September 9, 1995, donning what was believed to be a replica of the Steelies uniform. Kansas City, their opponent that night, honored the Kansas City Monarchs team of the Negro American League.

The M’s most recent tribute came on May 16, 2015 against the Boston Red Sox Royal Giants. And from this game we got the photos for today’s cards. Bill Withers, the late singer/songwriter best known for the hits “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me”, threw out the first pitch that night.

2 thoughts on “Steelheads

    • I wasn’t either until a couple years ago. I really wish I had more time to pursue the study of west coast baseball. There’s a great, rich history of the sport out here and I’m shamefully not that knowledgable about it.

      Like

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