Baseball has been a staple of summer entertainment in Spokane since the 1890s. Spokane baseball teams carried names like the Hawks, Bunchgrassers, Blue Stockings and Smoke Eaters. But in 1940, the name Indians, used in the aughts and teens, returned to stay.
Over the years, the team has played at every level from AAA to F, racking up an impressive list of division and league championships. But the mid-1950s were tough for Spokane’s baseball team. While in the Western International League in 1954, Spokane lost their team in June because of money woes. The organization, with no major league team affiliation, was deep in debt for the land and buildings at Ferris Field next to Playfair Race Course. Mayor Arthur Meehan led a group trying to raise the $40,000 shortfall to keep the team in the league. “We just couldn’t get any interest stirred up,” Meehan told WIL President Robert B. Abel, who ordered the team to disband.
The team played in the new Northwest League for a couple of years. But in 1957, Spokane was without a team again.
The Brooklyn Dodgers were planning their move to Los Angeles the next year and looking to place their AAA team. Spokane got the invitation in December of 1957. In January, Spokane County broke ground on a new ballpark. It took only three months to create the new facility, dubbed Fairgrounds Recreation Park. There were 8,400 fans on hand for opening day, April 29, and the Indians beat Seattle 6-5.
The Dodgers affiliation lasted 14 seasons, but 1970 stands out. That was the second year for manager Tommy Lasorda, and he assembled a team that included Steve Garvey, Bill Buckner, Bobby Valentine, Davey Lopes and Charlie Hough, and won 94 of 146 games.
Since the 1958 baseball revival in Spokane, the Indians have been affiliated with the Rangers, Royals, Padres, Angels, Mariners and Brewers. And many big leaguers played in Spokane, including Carlos Beltrán, Chris Davis, Sandy Alomar and Rougned Odor.
Since the team was purchased by owners Bobby Brett and his brothers in 1985, the stadium has been updated and reconfigured with features such as skyboxes, a press box, upgraded seats, new concession buildings, a children’s play area and whiffle ball field.
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