YanksFan vs. BeavsFan?

Some jerk in an YFSF shirt at SafeCo
It is 2,901 miles from my front door to Yankee Stadium.  That’s a rough commute for a Yankee fan.  Fortunately, SafeCo Field is only 174 miles from my front door, and a few times a year I get to see my favorite team in the friendly yet oddly sterile confines of the Mariners’ home park.  Carping about stinky-feet garlic fries and barely supermarket grade sushi aside, believe me when I tell you it’s a vast improvement over the craptacular cavern that was the King Dome.  But even then, four hours on I-5 can wear a bit thin when the gerbil feels the itch to take in the sights and sounds of the diamond.

Boomer the beaver with kids from the Boys and Girls ClubThe Portland Beavers, AAA PCL affiliate of the San Diego Padres, is a great team to follow, especially with the success of many of the players one would track through the system that are now up in the bigs.  Watching Khalil Greene up close was amazing.  And there are brilliant promotions that embrace the rich tapestry of American culture such as Mullet Night; combine that with dollar beer night and look out.

The original Beavers were a charter member of the PCL, founded in 1903.  The team left for Spokane after drawing only 92,000 fans for the entire 1972 season.  The second incarnation of the Beavers joined the PCL in 1978 and moved to Salt Lake after the 1993 season, where they are currently known as the Bees.  The single-A Bend Rockies moved to Portland in 1994 and served as the bridge to the next AAA team, which was the formerly Dodger-affiliated Albuquerque Dukes, who moved to Portland and became the third iteration of the Beavers and swapped affiliation to the Padres, while the Rockies moved to Pasco, Washington.

Along with the latest AAA franchise came a remodel of PGE Park, which was formerly called Civic Stadium, and Multnomah Stadium before that.  Built in 1926 as a football stadium, PGE Park also is home to the Portland Timbers Soccer Team, the Portland State Vikings Football Team and hosts state high school football championships.

So why am I yammering on about Portland?  Because there are a large number of baseball fans in the region who think the city is ready for a major-league franchise.  Though he has spent most of his life outside Portland, Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky agrees.  Now 87 years old, Pesky was born in Portland and grew up watching the Beavers.  In an article titled “Relocating a Team To Portland Makes Sense” by Phil Rogers on ESPN.com, Pesky tells Rogers that “what Portland always had was good fans.” As long as you ignore 1972, but hey, I’m right there with Needle.

For years now, the thought of a west-coast Seattle-Portland-Oakland-Anaheim rivalry has had me salivating, and combined with the fact that the Yankees would come to town at least once a year, well I can’t even explain what that thought does to me.  The Portland regional population is anxious to have a major professional franchise to root for other than the TrailBlazers, whose ownership and management destroyed one of the most loyal fan bases in the country with several years of shoddy product and public relations disaesters.  There is a lot that would have to fall into place for this to come together, including the fact that Portland Mayor Tom Potter seems to have no understanding of, or want anything to do with, major-league baseball.

There also is the sobering idea that while people in Portland like to watch baseball on TV (Portland does well in Nielsen ratings for baseball), besides the gerbil (who already plans to put a third mortgage on the house for season tickets should a team land) and a few other crazies, perhaps Oregonians and Southern Washingtonians won’t actually shell out money to see the game in person. The Florida Marlins drew a pathetic 14,384 fans per game in 2006.  You would have to think that any market could do better than that.  Let’s check: hmm, the AAA Beavers drew 5,649 per game in 2006, which ranks 36th out of  minor league affiliates.  Portland Oregon didn’t outdraw the original Portland for which it is named.  However, I have to believe the fans are excited for new things to see.  The recently-formed professional lacrosse team, The Portland Lumberjax, averages more than 10,000 people per game.  Yes, it is spelled with an “X.”

Let’s ignore that you can prove anything that is even remotely true when you use facts.  Count me charmed and dazzled.  I already imagine opening day.  I’ll be wearing a big grin, soaking in the sights and soaking in my shirt as April showers douse the crowd and me, waiting for the grounds crew to roll up the tarp, and when the game is called in the sixth on account of rain with the Beavers (or whatever they are called) taking the win over the Mariners, I’ll walk back to my house, happy.

Addendum: This post is for Tom Charbonneau, my grandfather. He would certainly take me to task for the economics and common sense regarding the placing of a ball team in Portland, and with a hearty laugh and a sip from his gin martini or a pull from his high-life, or whatever beer was on sale, ask me “What the #@$& are you talking about?”. Today would be his birthday. Here’s to you, Tom.

6 comments… add one

  • I think looking at Beavers attendance only goes so far, you have to also factor in how many people make that drive to Seattle to watch whoever happens to be playing the Mariners. Okay, somebody might actually go up to watch the Mariners. I don’t have those numbers, but having made that drive myself, and seeing the Oregon plates parked around Safeco, this is not an insignificant number.
    Given the current landscape the most likely team at the moment would be the Marlins (Portland Marlins?). Anyway, as a NL team I could easily root for them and the Sox and hope for that World Series match up.
    ~Mark

    PNMarkW2 February 2, 2007, 5:28 pm
  • Mark, I agree regarding Beavers attendance figures, but I refrained from any more WAGging than I already did just because I don’t have the sources to back up any assertions. I have noticed what you have regarding Oregon plates in the lot, and I have _heard_ that as many as 30 percent of the fans at Mariners games are from southern Washington/Oregon.
    I would gladly accept an NL team; the NL West is short one team anyways. In the article, the author talks of realignment, which would be great for a franchise in Portland. An AL team to create a regional rivalry with Seattle would be a much better option. That, and when the Yanks/Sox traveling circuses come to town, automatic sellouts.
    Just so long as they don’t name the team after a fish. The Portland Salmon? Oregon Chinook? And just imagine the horrid pinkish red uniform. Ugh.

    attackgerbil February 2, 2007, 5:37 pm
  • ag- this years sox schedule offers some options to us left coasters. the sox will be in OAK june 4th -7th, and then they go to ARZ for the next three games. they’ll be in SD for the three games before the SEA series at the end of june. lucky for you the sox go to SEA twice this year. after the second trip to SEA in august they come down to ANH for a three game set. with some well planned travel arrangments you could see alot of sox games relatively cheap. i’m gonna have a busy june.

    sf rod February 2, 2007, 5:46 pm
  • it’s always amazed me how many people show up in pullman for WSU games. now that’s the middle of nowhere.

    sf rod February 2, 2007, 5:58 pm
  • sf rod – I went to a few games at SafeCo this last year. One was when the Yankees were in town in August. I’m positive that the YF/MF split was approaching 50-50. I’m betting it would be the same at a Sox visit. I was planning on catching at least one of the Sox games at SafeCo this year (I haven’t seen them since 02 in Seattle). I have a close friend who is a life-long A’s fan, and is trying to convince me to road trip to Oakland this year; it’s tough with the new kid. Also, I think the Yanks are coming to San Francisco this year, statistically projected to be right around the time when Bonds may well be threatening Aaron.
    Along what you were saying about WSU games, when I first moved to Oregon, I was amazed at what a “long drive” means. When I lived in New York, an I-90 drive to Buffalo to catch a Sabres game seemed like a chore. Out here it seems people will do six hours standing on their head to see a college game, and now I’m one of them. Weird, in how my perception has changed.

    attackgerbil February 2, 2007, 6:05 pm
  • Having lived in Yakima WA for a while I can feel for the hours passed on the interstate driving to see the sox play a few games in the old kingdom with my father and grandfather. the new safeco is nicer, but nicer in a way that the cold unfeeling new car is when you used to drive an old caddy that had a soul and feeling and history behind it, then you buy a new cavalier and it is sterile and dead inside. like George Steinbrenner.
    now that I live in Omaha Nebraska though I have it easy. I get 6-9 games a year less than a day drive from my place. 3 hours south I get opening weekend at the K in Kansas city…tickets never sold out because the royals suck. 6 hours north I have the series in Minneapolis, and the fun than encompasses good public transport, and cops who don’t care about open containers. from there you have the long haul…chicago, only 9 hours away. catch either the white sox, or if I get lucky I get the cubs day game VS some loser team, then the white sox night game V the sox.
    and yes….I travel to those games as often as possible, and when I show up at the K opening day with my seats behind the 3rd base dugout and my sox jersey on I will gladly be smiling ear to ear. because on that day even the royals have a shot…til May 1st when they will be mathematically eliminated.
    -Kevin

    TheTree1918 February 5, 2007, 11:33 am

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