Still rootin' for the home team - Lifelong fans recall the roots of Seattle baseball and are still watching 60 years later

Long before Seattle had an American League baseball team, before players like Edgar and Ichiro became household names and before Safeco Field - and even the Kingdome - housed fans from around the nation, Seattle baseball enthusiasts enjoyed the sport as a simple, summer pastime.

When Seattle baseball was young, watching the game meant sitting on wooden bleachers at Dugdale Field singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and watching players like Bill Lane help the Seattle Indians win their first Pacific Coast League pennant in 1924.

Baseball back then

For seasoned fans like Ida Culver House Ravenna resident Margaret Eriks, watching Seattle baseball in the 1920s, '30s and '40s fueled the fire for a lifelong love affair with Seattle's favorite sport.

Eriks, now in her 80s, remembers cheering for the Indians at Dugdale Field in the 1920s and '30s and even watched the 15,000-seat wooden ballpark burn to the ground on the Fourth of July in 1932.

"I lived in Mount Baker at the time, and I could see it burning from my front porch," Eriks said.

After the team was renamed the Seattle Rainiers in 1938 and Sicks' Seattle Stadium was built on the old site of Dugdale Field, at Rainier Avenue and McClellan Street, Eriks regularly attended ballgames there with her brother.

"I always enjoyed going to the games at Sicks Stadium," she recalled. "Admission was so cheap, I used to go to get in free on Ladies Night, and my brother only paid 25 cents to see the game."

Another North Seattle resident and lifelong baseball fan, Virginia Dunn, remembers watching the games at Sicks Stadium with her father, a former sports editor for The Seattle Times.

"On summer nights, we would be at home, and he would say, 'Come on. Let's go out to the ballgame,'" Dunn said. "If we didn't go to the games, we would listen to [former announcer] Leo Lassen on the radio. He didn't attend the away games, so all that he could broadcast was a re-enactment of maybe one or two plays. But, by the way he retold them, you'd never know that he wasn't there!"

Wallingford resident Jane Lauritsen, 84, watched the Rainiers play on opening day at Sicks Stadium.

"The team played two games that day, and I watched the afternoon game. The opening was a big event, but true to Seattle weather, we got rained on," Lauritsen recalled.

Even during World War II, she trooped to the ballpark from her home in Rainier Vista.

"During the war, I didn't have a car, and neither did my neighbors," she said. "But we all wanted to see the games, so the whole neighborhood would get together and walk down to the stadium together."

Supporting today's team

Today, all of these ladies cheer on the Mariners and are still enthusiastic about Seattle baseball.

Margaret Eriks watches most of the games on TV in her apartment at Ida Culver House Ravenna and loves to catch up with other lifelong Ms fans like fellow Ida Culver House resident, Dorothy Olson, on game nights.

"We always chat about what's going on with the team: the score, the plays. We like to stay on top of the game," Eriks said.

Olson celebrated her 94th-birthday party in style at Safeco Field earlier this month, when her family treated her with great seats, a cake and a bag of fun Mariners memorabilia they knew she'd love.

"It was a complete surprise," Olson said. "I had a great time watching my favorite team and being treated like a queen."

Virginia Dunn still watches the games on TV at her cottage across town at Ida Culver House Broadview. "I just love baseball," she said. "It's still one of my favorite sports."

Jane Lauritsen watches every game on TV, when she can't attend the games in person with friends and neighbors from her University House at Wallingford retirement community: "I still think it's more fun to grab a hot dog and Crackerjacks and watch the game from the bleachers at Safeco."

Forever fans

These ladies' team spirit has stood the test of time, and their loyalties to Seattle baseball remain strong, even after 80 years. Whether having birthday parties in box seats or watching the games on TV, Seattle's senior baseball fans haven't lost the spirit that they developed years ago.

"I'll always root for the home team," Olson said. "Win or lose, the Mariners are first in my book!"

Colleen Kiser works for ERA Care retirement communities.

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