1970 PCL Championship Team
- Baseball America, 1993
1970 Pacific Coast League Champions
Record 94-52, swept Hawaii in the PCL Championship
The Team That Almost Wasn't
"This sounds like a good idea. We've just got to find a way to bring this thing about." - W.H Crowles Jr., Spokesman-Review publisher 1957
The Spokane Indians 1970 Championship team will always be known as one of the greatest teams in minor league baseball history. Chance would have it though that the team that would go down as one of the winningest teams ever almost didn't happen.
In 1956, the Spokane Indians were in trouble. Failure to pay off debts and the condition of Ferris Field left Spokane with out a team in 1957. That was also the same season the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants announced that they would make the move to the other side of the country to Los Angeles and San Francisco. This move caused a shake up in the Pacific Coast League. The Angels, L.A.'s PCL team for more that half a century, became the property of the Dodgers. The team needed to move, and Spokane came calling.
In November of 1957, Dodgers executive Dick Walsh sat down in the Spokane Club with a committee of Spokane businessmen and discussed why Spokane deserved a team. Then County Commissioner W.O. "Bill" Allen, the leader of the group, developed plans to update Ferris Field and get the Triple A team here in Spokane.
The Dodgers said yes on December 2nd. Three days later, the city of Spokane and Spokane County announced that they would build a new ballpark, which would become Avista Stadium; this was the detail that sealed the deal with the Dodgers.
So on January 9, 1958 construction began and less than four months later the Indians began their journey in Triple A baseball.
The team had success and failure between 1958 and 1969, acquiring six winning season, playing in the PCL Championship four times, but only winning one PCL Championship Title.
In 1968, Manager Roy Hartsfield left Spokane opening the door for Tom Lasorda, a former Dodgers player, that led the Ogden Dodgers to three consecutive Pioneer League Championship.
WHERE THE PROS COME TO PLAY
"That's a Major League Team" - Hawaii Manager Chuck Tanner, 1970
In 1969, Tommy Lasorda took over as the manager for the Spokane Indians. That first season was up and down for the first year manager, as the Indians finished in second place with a record of 71-73. Lasorda had the talent, with 20 future major leaguers on the roster, but the final record didn't show it.
When the start of the 1970 season came, the roster looked drastically different then it did in 1969. The Dodgers pulled many of the players up to the majors, and Lasorda had a new set of players, with only 12 returners from the 1969 team.
This new roster consisted of some top prospects in the Dodgers organization including Charlie Hough, Tom Hutton, Bob O' Brien and a hard hitting third baseman named Steve Garvey.
Also, some prospects that were to young for the PCL in 1969 blossomed into outstanding players in 1970. Shortstop Bobby Valentine, the top prospect in the Dodgers organization in 1970, had been known as an error machine, committing 93 errors in two seasons with Spokane. However in 1970 he was able to fix the problem and won the 1970 PCL MVP Award.
Steve Garvey joined the team a third of the way into the season and had an immediate impact on the team, hitting .319 with 15 home runs in just 95 games.
Pitcher Charlie Hough, who was just beginning to master his signature knuckle ball, had an amazing year. Coming out of the bullpen for the majority of the season, he totaled 12 wins, and 18 saves with just a 1.95 ERA.
The 1970 team also boasted left-handed hitting outfielder Bill Buckner. He hit .335 with 74 RBIs during the regular season, a strong mark that helped him move up to the Major Leagues in 1971.
Spokane needed no help winning the 1970 Northern Division, winning by a whopping 26 games. Garvey once was quoted saying that they could lose 9 out of 10 and still gain a half a game lead in the league. The team won the 1970 championship easily as well, outscoring the Islanders 36-9 in the 4-0 sweep.
The '70 team also had it's setbacks, but that's what made the magical year even more special. Indians starting outfielder Bill Buckner broke his jaw in early May and played with his mouth wired shut for a month. First baseman Tommy Hutton broke his hand in a head-on collision at first base on June 11. That didn't stop the Indians who in mid-June had a six game lead on second place Portland, and promptly won the next nine games to extend their advantage.
Starting third baseman Bill Russell was called up for military service in July, but Garvey filled in for him and showed the Dodgers that he was more than ready to be a Major League player.
The majority of the players came from the 1968 draft which is still considered by many baseball pundits as one of the best draft classes of all time.
"There were a group of us, who were just destined to be Dodgers," Garvey would say a few years after that season. Garvey, Russell, and Davey Lopes would go on to make 75 percent of the Dodgers' infield for the next decade.
The 1970 Spokane Indians were destined for greatness. In total the players would go on to account for 23 World Series appearances, 21 All-Star selections, and one League Most Valuable Player - Garvey's in 1974.