Rainier Reminiscences: M's To Honor Pcl Team

THE RAINIERS were baseball in Seattle when the sport was more innocent, more intimate and even played outdoors, and Saturday's Mariner home game offers fans a chance to remember.

Seattleites were buying two-pant suits at Tatt's for $58.50, 32-pound "portable" television sets at Poole Electric for $99.95 and one-pound cantaloupes at Safeway for less than a nickel.

They were buying tickets - 49,000 of them - for an exhibition football game between the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants in Husky Stadium. They were buying houses at Lake Hills, described as "a new kind of development" featuring "paved streets and sewers."

It was the summer of 1955. And the Seattle Rainiers, managed by Fred Hutchinson, were driving toward what would be the last pennant ever won by the Pacific Coast League team of that name.

The event will be recalled Saturday night, during a "Salute to the Rainiers" in the Kingdome, when the Seattle Mariners honor what was the city's only professional baseball franchise for 27 seasons - from 1938 until 1964.

For the occasion, the M's will be attired in replica 1955 Rainier uniforms for their game against the Oakland Athletics, who will wear Oakland Oaks uniforms of similar PCL vintage. A total of 20,000 Rainier caps will be given away.

Sure to be remembered is Hutchinson, a city idol out of Franklin High School who was between major-league managerial jobs when he blended a team of veterans into a winning combination despite the absence of a .300 hitter. Hutchinson died of cancer in 1964.

"At the start of spring training in Palm Springs, `Hutch' walked in, took a look around the room and said, `We're going to have one rule on this club - give me nine good innings when you're on the field. You guys have all been around long enough so you know what to do,' " recalled Art Schult, 65, a Rainier outfielder in 1955 who now lives near Lake Worth on the southeast coast of Florida.

First baseman Bill Glynn, who lives in San Diego, mentioned Hutchinson first when recalling the team.

"He was the type of manager that if you went out there and played hard and you booted a ball, no problem," Glynn said. "But if you made a dumb mistake you'd hate to come back to the dugout."

Schult's outfield mates in 1955 included Bobby Balcena, Carmen Mauro and Jerry Zuvela. Among the infielders were Glynn, shortstop Leo Righetti, third baseman Vern Stephens and second basemen Monte Basgall, Gene Verble and the previous year's manager, Gerry Priddy. The catcher was Joe Ginsberg.

The pitching staff included Lou Kretlow, who won his first 12 decisions after coming down from Baltimore; Elmer Singleton, who threw nine shutouts in going 19-11; Ewell "The Whip" Blackwell, Howie Judson and Larry Jansen.

`We'd all been around'

The veteran nature of the team was typical of PCL teams of that era.

"It wasn't a team of a bunch of rookies," Schult said. "We'd all been around."

Schult had been in the New York Yankee organization for eight years before coming to Seattle, where he spent 1955 and 1956.

"Back then you were a side of beef," Schult said. "If you got traded or sold they handed you a ticket when you got to the ballpark. In fact, you usually heard about it on the radio on the way to the ballpark."

Schult has fond memories of Seattle.

"I can remember going over that hill and down to the lake and catching a 7 1/2-pound cutthroat trout," Schult said. "They had a rain delay that night so they showed a picture of that trout on TV and Jeff Heath interviewed me."

Heath asked Schult what bait he had used to catch such a large fish.

"I wouldn't tell anyone what I caught it on," Schult said, "so I told him it was a `red-breasted heeney hawk.'

"The next night I had people from 20 sports stores coming out to the ballpark wanting to know what a `red-breasted heeney hawk' was."

Roving careers

Schult said he loved Seattle so much that he got an offseason job with Seattle Packing (Bar-S Meats) after the 1955 season. He was making plans to buy a house on Mercer Island while playing for the Rainiers in 1956 when he was sold to the Cincinnati Reds.

From the Reds he went to the Washington Senators and then the Chicago Cubs before retiring in 1960.

Glynn had been with the Cleveland Indians for three years before joining the Rainiers in 1955.

While still with Seattle in 1956, he was sent to PCL rival San Diego, which eventually sold him to Birmingham.

But Glynn was suspended from baseball after informing the Birmingham general manager that he needed a couple of days off before he could report because of a back injury. Unaware that his new acquisition had a back injury, the Birmingham GM told Glynn to tell the Padre GM, Ralph Kiner, that the deal was off.

"And Kiner told me, `You're finished,' " Glynn said.

Glynn went into the milk delivery business in San Diego on a route that, ironically, included Kiner.

"He started taking milk from me and we became good friends," Glynn said.

`Like being on vacation'

Kretlow's route to Seattle began after he was sent down by Baltimore and included a week's stay in Cutbank, Mont., because of car trouble. In Cutbank, he and his wife, June, and their daughters, who were 11, 7 and 2, waited for the arrival of a suitable transmission.

Once in Seattle, Kretlow became an instant success, hurling four straight shutouts and winning his first 12 decisions.

"They were in fifth place when I got there," he said. "I kind of pitched them into a pennant."

From Seattle, Kretlow returned to the American League with Kansas City in 1956. He was back in Seattle in 1957 before finishing in Buffalo, which sold him to Little Rock.

"I didn't want to go to Little Rock so I just kind of quit," Kretlow said. "The family was kind of tired of it all.

"But after a year, you know who missed it the most? The family. For them it was like being on vacation and they hadn't realized it when it was happening."

Kretlow, 72, and his wife of 50 years live in Enid, Okla.

More than 40 former Rainiers, including Glynn, have told the Mariners that they plan to attend Saturday's tribute. Schult and Kretlow won't be able to be among them.