The Spokane Indians are a Minor League Baseball team in the northwest United States, located in Spokane, Washington. A member of the short-season Class A-Short Season Northwest League, they have been a farm team of the Texas Rangers since 2003. The Indians play home games at Avista Stadium, which opened in 1958 and has a seating capacity of 6,752. From 1958 through 1982, the Indians were in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, except in 1972. The Indians have won 12 league titles: four in the PCL and eight in the NWL. The city has over a century of history in minor league baseball, dating back to the 1890s.
When the Los Angeles Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to the west coast in 1958, they moved their PCL affiliate, the Los Angeles Angels, north to Spokane. While with the Dodgers for 14 seasons, the Indians won league titles in 1960 and 1970, and were runners-up in 1963, 1967, and 1968.
The 1970 Indians, managed by Tommy Lasorda; won 94 of 146 games (.644) in the regular season to win the northern division by 26 games, then swept the Hawaii Islanders in four games in the PCL playoffs. The team included Bill Buckner, Steve Garvey, Bobby Valentine (PCL MVP), Tom Paciorek, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Doyle Alexander.
Following the 1971 season, the club was moved south to New Mexico and became the Albuquerque Dukes. Spokane, which had been in the Northwest League for its first two seasons in 1955 and 1956, returned to the NWL in 1972 as a Dodger affiliate, but only for one season, as a new PCL franchise arrived in 1973 from Portland, and now the affiliate of the Texas Rangers. The 1973 team, which included Bill Madlock and Lenny Randle, won the west division by eleven games and swept Tucson in three games in the championship series. The following year's club successfully defended the title with another three-game sweep, this time over Albuquerque.
The Indians' second stint in Triple-A lasted ten seasons and included affiliations with the Rangers, which changed to the Milwaukee Brewers in 1976, Seattle Mariners in 1979, and California Angels in 1982. Taking their first division crown since 1974, the Indians defeated Tacoma in the first round, but fell to Albuquerque in the championship series in six games. Soon after that season, the team moved south to Las Vegas and became the Stars, now the 51s. The team's general manager was Larry Koentopp, the former head coach and athletic director at Gonzaga. He was the leader of a local ownership group that purchased the team after the 1978 season. The team was purchased for $259,000 in 1978 and was sold in 1993 for $6.1 million.
A new NWL franchise was awarded to Spokane for the 1983 season and the Indians have won eight league titles; the first four were consecutive, from 1987 through 1990. The Indians won their seventh NWL championship in 2005, despite a 37–39 (.487) record during the regular season. They became only the second team in league history (after the 1982 Salem Angels) to win the championship with a losing regular season record. Spokane won the east division, then beat league-leading Vancouver on the road in games four and five of the championship series to win the title.
In 2008, the Indians captured their eighth league title with a thrilling four-game series victory over the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. After dropping the first game, the Spokane rallied to a 11–10 win in 10 innings to even the series. In game three, the Indians fell behind 10–2 before then rallied for nine unanswered runs to win again 11–10. Spokane won the title with a 6–5 victory in 10 innings in the fourth game.
The Indians were featured in the "Spokane Alphabet" reverse glass painting by Washington (state) artist Melinda Curtin. They were the I in the alphabet, cementing their place as an important part of the city of Spokane.
Spokane's minor league history dates to 1892, when it fielded a team in the Pacific Northwest League. The nickname Indians dates to 1903, when Spokane joined the Pacific National League – a predecessor to the PCL and, at Class A, an elite minor league of the period, equivalent to Triple A today. The Indians lasted only two seasons at that higher level before dropping to the Class B Northwestern League, which folded during World War I.
In 1937, Spokane became a charter member of the Class B Western International League, the predecessor of the Northwest League. They played at Ferris Field from 1937 through 1942 and 1946 until folding during the 1954 season on June 21.
Spokane was a charter member of the Northwest League, which debuted in 1955 in Class B. These Indians also played at Ferris Field, but folded after just two seasons, and the city went without minor league baseball in 1957.
In 1946, the WIL Indians were victims of the worst transit accident in the history of American professional sport. On June 24, the team was on its way west to Bremerton by bus to play the Bluejackets. While crossing the Cascade Mountains on a rain-slickened Snoqualmie Pass Highway (then U.S. Route 10), the bus driver swerved to avoid an oncoming car. The Indians' vehicle veered off the road and down an embankment, then crashed and burst into flames.
Nine men died — six of them instantly — and seven were injured. The dead were catcher/manager Mel Cole, pitchers Bob Kinnaman and George Lyden, catcher Chris Hartje, infielders Fred Martinez, Vic Picetti and George Risk, and outfielders Bob James and Bob Paterson. Despite a severe head wound, infielder Ben Geraghty was able to struggle back up the mountainside to signal for help. Injured survivors also included pitchers Pete Barisoff, Gus Hallbourg and Dick Powers, catcher Irv Konopka, outfielder Levi McCormack, and bus driver Glen Berg.
One player from the 1946 team, future major league infielder Jack "Lucky" Lohrke, missed the tragedy because his contract was sold to the PCL San Diego Padres on June 24 and he departed the ill-fated bus during a late lunch stop in Ellensburg, not long before the accident, thus helping to earn his nickname. (Lohrke averted tragedy earlier when he was bumped from a military transport plane which later crashed.) Two Indians' pitchers, Milt Cadinha and Joe Faria, were making the trip to Bremerton by automobile and were not aboard the team bus when it crashed.
The Indians, relying on players loaned from other teams, managed to finish the season and placed seventh in the league. A special charity, the Spokane Baseball Benefit Association, donated $114,800 to the injured survivors and dependents of the nine players who died.
Beth Bollinger of Spokane wrote a novel titled Until the End of the Ninth, which is based on the true story of the 1946 bus crash and its aftermath.
Spokane Indians roster
7-day disabled list
In the 2006 offseason, the Indians began a process to redesign their logo and uniforms. As per tradition, they began by avoiding the use of any American Indian imagery, but early in the process of redesign, the Spokane Nation contacted the team about officially supporting the team. In the process, the tribe gave permission to the team to adopt subtle and tasteful imagery, in order to pay homage to the team's history and new connection with the tribe. The cooperation, called "historic" by the team, included the creation of a secondary logo written in Salish, the traditional language of the tribe. The team's colors are red, navy blue light blue, and beige.