Spokane Indians baseball is the gift that keeps on giving for Inland Northwest sports fans.
Upwards of 200,000 fans attend Indians games annually at Avista Stadium. The teenagers and twenty-somethings on the Indians roster are faceless names to many fans during the summer or two they ply their trade in Spokane, but fans can later follow a handful of those players for years in the major leagues.
The Indians open the short-season Class A Northwest League season at home Friday, June 15 versus Vancouver, but fans still have time to bone up on Indians history.
- Five former Indians played for the Texas Rangers in the World Series last year: second baseman Ian Kinsler, outfielder Craig Gentry, first baseman-outfielder Mitch Moreland and pitchers Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz. The Rangers lost to St. Louis.
- Professional baseball has been played in Spokane, with periodic breaks (the last one coming in 1957), since 1890.
- All of the Indians are farmhands of the Texas Rangers, who pay the players’ salaries and many other club expenses. Players make about $900 per month during the season — the regular season ends Aug. 31 — and most live free of charge at the homes of local hosts.
- No matter how many times you’ve heard differently, former Indians outfielders and Los Angeles Dodgers all-stars Tommy Davis and Willie Davis are not related and never played together in Spokane. Tommy played in Spokane in 1959, Willie in 1960.
- Tommy Davis is one of three ex-Indians who won major league batting titles (all in the National League). Davis was crowned in 1962-63 with the Los Angeles Dodgers; infielder Bill Madlock led with the Chicago Cubs in 1975-76 and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1981; and Cubs first baseman-outfielder Bill Buckner was tops in 1980.
- Avista Stadium, under various names, has served as home of Spokane’s minor league baseball teams since 1958. The stadium was built to house the Pacific Coast League farm club of the Los Angeles Dodgers when the PCL’s Los Angeles Angels sought a new home after the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York (now San Francisco) Giants brought big league baseball west of the Mississippi for the first time in 1958.
- Five ex-Indians won major league home run titles. Ken Williams (1922 St. Louis Browns), Bob Meusel (1925 New York Yankees), Frank Howard (1968 and ’70 Washington Senators) and Gorman Thomas (1979 and ’82 Milwaukee Brewers) led the American League. George Kelly (New York Giants) led the National League in 1921.
- The only former Indians pitcher to lead one of the major leagues in wins was Don Newcombe, who wound up his professional pitching career with Spokane in 1961. An excellent hitter for a pitcher, Newcombe finished his pro career as a first baseman and outfielder in Japan in 1962. He led the National League with 27 wins (and just seven losses) for the 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers.
- Four members of the Baseball Hall of Fame played for the Indians, but only pitcher Stan Coveleski (1913-14) spent much time here. Coveleski was a 20-game winner for Cleveland from 1918-21. First baseman George Kelly, who was traded by Spokane to Victoria early in the 1914 season, drove in more than 100 runs for the New York Giants each season from 1921-24. Don Sutton, who won 324 games in the majors, went 1-1 in two games for Spokane in 1968. Hoyt Wilhelm, who pitched in 1,070 big league games, went 2 for 3 in eight games with Spokane in 1971.
- Other Hall of Famers include Indians managers Duke Snider (1965) and Tommy Lasorda (1969-71) and current part-owner George Brett.
Spokane Indians Season Opener • Fri, June 15 at 6:30 pm • Avista Stadium at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds • 602 N. Havana St. • Tickets start at $6 • spokaneindians.com (535-2922)