Becoming Big League

Seattle, the Pilots, and Stadium Politics

Bill Mullins

  • Published: 2013. Paperback 2014
  • Subject Listing: History / Western History; Sports; Pacific Northwest/ History
  • Bibliographic information: 320 pp., 30 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Becoming Big League is the story of Seattle's relationship with major league baseball from the 1962 World's Fair to the completion of the Kingdome in 1976 and beyond. Bill Mullins focuses on the acquisition and loss, after only one year, of the Seattle Pilots and documents their on-the-field exploits in lively play-by-play sections.

The Pilots' underfunded ownership, led by Seattle's Dewey and Max Soriano and William Daley of Cleveland, struggled to make the team a success. They were savvy baseball men, but they made mistakes and wrangled with the city. By the end of the first season, the team was in bankruptcy. The Pilots were sold to a contingent from Milwaukee led by Bud Selig, who moved the franchise to Wisconsin and rechristened the team the Brewers.

Becoming Big League describes the character of Seattle in the 1960s and 1970s, explains how the operation of a major league baseball franchise fits into the life of a city, charts Seattle's long history of fraught stadium politics, and examines the business of baseball.

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Bill Mullins is professor emeritus of history at Oklahoma Baptist University. He lives in Federal Way, Washington.

"Becoming Big League is the story of much more than the ill-fated Seattle Pilots' 1969 season. Bill Mullins rekindles memories of the boys of that summer, including Tommy Davis, Ray Oyler, and Jim Bouton, and deftly explores an important moment in Seattle's history when a group of entrepreneurs and city leaders helped take the city from a small town to the big leagues."
-Dale Soden, Whitworth University

"Bill Mullins has taken a novel and very fresh approach to an important and fascinating chapter in Seattle sports history."
-David S. Eskenazi

"Becoming Big League is written with a verve and wit that makes the most of all the engaging and/or exasperating characters involved."
-Carl Abbott, Portland State University

Introduction: Going Over the Ground Rules

1. Seattle: City of Restraint
2. The Seattle Spirit and a World's Fair
3. For Want of a Stadium
4. Come, and They Will Build It
Play-by-Play: Spring Training 1969
Time Line of Pilots and Stadium Politics
5. Build It, and They Will Come
Play-by-Play: April and May
6. Setting the Course
7. Not Enough Seats, Not Enough Fans
Play-by-Play: June and July
8. "Storm Clouds Gather over Pilots' Port"
Play-by-Play: August and September
9. The Civic Leaders Strike Out
10. Dropping the Pilots
Play-by-Play: Spring Training 1970
11. A Stadium at Last
12. Out-of-Court Settlement: The Mariners
Epilogue: The Box Score

Abbreviations Used in Notes

"Mullins is able to keep the many threads of the story . . . from tangling . . . It cannot be overstated how difficult and important this task is: sports business is an impossible morass, so to tell the tale without leaving the reader dizzy is a real accomplishment."
-Jason Wojciechowski, Baseball Prospectus, April 2013

"The story of how major league sports finally came to Seattle-and then left after only one year. Stadium politics remain at the heart of Seattle's ongoing struggle with sports, even nearly fifty years later, as the city vies for an NBA team."
-Publishers Weekly, January 2013

"Any person going through the turnstiles, any person in an already established MLB city, and anyone who finds themselves in a potential city considered for expansion have an indelible resource for reference in Mullins' work."
-Matthew J. Bartkowiak, The Journal of Popular Culture

"Places the Pilots in baseball's broader historic context, but also brings the underlying subject matter home for the reader...a fascinating history and walk down memory lane."
-Katherine J. Ringsmuth, Pacific Northwest Quarterly

"Bill Mullins has covered all angles of this expansion club, delivering a book replete with details of the year-long effort to place a major-league team in the Pacific Northwest and of the team's swift decline that led to its transfer to Milwaukee on the eve of the 1970 American League season. . . . Mullins shows a most capable hand in developing the central characters of this drama."
-Paul Hensler, NINE Spring Training Conference