Even by standards 50 years ago it was a modest match day program. Yet it matched the surroundings and, some might say, the fare that was on display that afternoon.
Still, it was a start. Turning the page, maybe spectators took pause from watching the stocky, commanding figure standing astride of the benches, to let the significance of the day soak in.
In a simple font, probably prepared on someone’s personal typewriter, flow the words: “We are sure that this game will be a milestone in the history of soccer in our state.” It goes on: “It is with pleasure and a feeling of satisfaction we are able to act as hosts to the first all-professional soccer game held in our state.”
It’s actually easy to picture the setting today. West Seattle Stadium sits virtually untouched, not only in the 50 years since but the 80 since being erected. The main stand, wooden and covered, could serve as a stunt double for a mid-20th Century British ground. The weather on that February 11, 1968 was practically spring-like: Bright sunshine and mild temperatures after a cold, soggy start to the new year. The grass is a bit long and ungroomed while the ground itself is soft from repeated rains.
If your idea of a perfect winter holiday is to while away the hours watching live top-class soccer, you best not live near Seattle.
Among native Puget Sounders, perhaps only octogenarians can speak of such an experience in their lifetime. As we take a view to scores of frigid, rain-swept Premier League matches pressed into a cramped calendar, we can only surmise that long ago someone came to their senses and simply said, No more.
Who knows, someday MLS may conform to the FIFA time table. But a look back at the last century or so illustrates why playing through the winter is problematic in Cascadia and downright impossible in the majority of MLS markets. New Year’s Day 2018 forecasts 12 of those cities mired in sub-freezing temperatures. Montreal’s high is predicted to reach minus-6 degrees F.
But enough about MLS. This is more a story of the hardened souls (masochists, some might say) in Seattle’s long-ago past who truly played for the love of the game and the sense of community it fosters, and did so in some of the most trying of circumstances. This is a tale of how and why our forefathers once tread the less-than-firma terra during the short, bleak and, yes, festive days of winter.
It’s now been two years since I began my blog and returned to writing about soccer, mostly in a Washington-centric, historical context.
Sure, there could be a compendium of such abstract topics published in a book someday. But why not share some of it soon, not later. Here, then, are XV pieces that appeared either on my blog or other digital outlets during 2016. I enjoyed researching and writing them, and hopefully you enjoy them as well.
Once you’ve lived through an epic turnaround, your faith becomes stronger. And for reasons illustrated in this Seattle Times feature, I always held out hope the Sounders would overcome all the adversity and play for a championship. As it turned out, they did their predecessors one better by winning the final.
Note: This article was first published in 2008, shortly after the closing of Sports Specialties. Denzil Miskell passed away in October 2016.
All too quietly, a tiny jewel of Seattle’s sporting history has slipped into the past.
Officially it was Sports Specialties, yet for 33 years the cramped, quaint soccer shop in Belltown was simply synonymous with the name of its distinctive owner, Denzil.
Know this: Denzil Miskell is alive and doing well, but behind the nondescript storefront on Second Avenue sits an empty vessel. All that remains of this everyman’s gem is the generic player painted on the plate glass front, and a brief note on the door from Denzil explaining the absence.
For those who have grown to appreciate the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for its history, gritty displays and penchant for upsets, the Washington chapter can deliver on all those counts and more.
When Sounders FC pulls into the StubHub Center’s track venue for the quarterfinal date with the Galaxy, it will almost be like old, old times. Like when a Seattle side first ventured into southern California for a quarterfinal that, incidentally, was 50 years ago. Spoiler alert: Seattle did OK. That day, anyway. But more on that later.
At the ripe old age of 90, Mr. Lipton stands up straight, and though he shows signs of obvious wear there is a gleam to his appearance. Women with flowing hair, goddesses perhaps, flank him on either side.
Lipton’s got it pretty good. Folks take care of him, and he’s got a room with a view. Unlike his prime, he no longer gets out much, if at all, and the notion of young people picking him up and jubilantly hoisting him skyward is certainly out of the question. Still, with proper care and attention, there’s no reason to think Lipton won’t outlive us all.
Such is life for the stately Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy, likely among the oldest surviving artifacts of a rich soccer history that reaches back to the days before Washington’s statehood. Lipton and other sterling relics of their kind are hiding around the Seattle area, some of them in plain sight.
While the brightly-lighted Sounders FC trophy case on Occidental displays our biggest, brightest and most recent plunder–a Supporters’ Shield plus four Open Cups–the bulk of Washington’s historical treasures reside in a couple ordinary offices.
Soccer’s history is glutted with millions of matches where one, two or three goals are scored. So when perusing a local club’s all-time results, it reads much like binary code, with a few crooked numbers thrown in. But just when the eyelids are feeling very heavy, out of nowhere a whopper of a score line appears.
This is the story behind one such score line which, given contemporary conditions, seems inexplicable. Ah, but context is everything.
For the region, it’s about two intra-city rivals vying for a chance to make history. For Washington state’s most established men’s collegiate program, it’s a story of how a proud program can reach it’s then-zenith and nadir, all in the span of some 20 hours.
It’s the tale of a shotgun playoff, bending the rules between friends, a critical yet costly play and the extenuating circumstances surrounding not only the University of Washington’s first excursion outside the Northwest, but also their initial invitation to the NCAA tournament.
In a perfect world, America’s soccer history would have a permanent home, with an engaging strategy of telling the story of our long and often difficult path to reach this point in time. Hopefully Frisco can become that place, but in the meantime the thousands of National Soccer Hall of Fame artifacts are locked away in a rural North Carolina warehouse.
In a near-perfect world, U.S. Soccer would choose to take the Hall of Fame party on the road, particularly when two of the three inductees currently hail from the same city, and that’s exactly what’s in store for Kasey Keller and Sigi Schmid.
Saturday promises idyllic weather in Seattle, where by the shores of Lake Union, inside the Museum of History and Industry, the Sounders’ iconic keeper and coach will be honored that evening. The late Glenn Myernick (incidentally, teammate to Alan Hinton and coach to both Marcus Hahnemann and Chris Henderson) will be inducted posthumously.
We all know the story of Ralphie and his craving of a Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas in 1930s Cleveland. It’s fun and fiction and ends, albeit after some plot twists and turns, with the 10-year-old boy blissful, laying in bed beside his new BB gun.
Now picture this: Same era in Seattle. Preteen boy in Mount Baker awakes on Boxing Day, hoping his Christmas present was just a bad dream. But no, there it is, on the floor. A misshapen skin of leather wrapped around a rubber bladder. A new ball, all right. Yet Robert’s parents had got it all wrong.
Alexander MacDonald, Robert’s father, must have meant well. The then-fiftysomething Scot had grown up in the outskirts of Glasgow, learned the shipbuilding trade on the River Clyde and later built ships for the Australian navy on the Duwamish. He was described as a stern, humorless man, but not mean-spirited.
No, Alexander MacDonald was raised on association football and even in his adopted city, many of the industrial workers played in state league matches on the Woodland Park pitch each weekend.