Through the Decades: A Look Back at Indians Teams of 10, 20, 30, 40 & 50 Years Ago

By Spokane Indians | August 5, 2019 12:11 PM


Record: 37-39 (2nd in Eastern Division) 

MLB Affiliate: Texas Rangers

Notable Alumni: Robbie Ross and Justin Miller

Notes: Manager Tim Hulett led the Spokane Indians to a Northwest League title in 2008, but couldn't manage to repeat the feat in 2009 with a team bereft of future big league talent. In fact, only four players the '09 squad reached the majors, compared to seven in '08 and nine from the '10 squad. It was a balanced squad that finished third in the league in batting (.267) and ERA (3.94) but still ended the year 10 games back of the Dust Devils in the Eastern Division. Offensively, the squad was led Jason Ogata (.366/.430/.534) and Miguel Velasquez (10 HR, 40 RBI), while Robbie Ross (2.66 ERA, 76 strikeouts in 74.1 IP) and Trevor Hurley (7-2, 3.36 ERA) anchored the pitching staff. 



Record: 44-32 (NWL Champions) 

MLB Affiliate: Kansas City Royals

Notable Alumni: Mark Ellis, Ken Harvey and Mike McDougal 

Notes: The 1999 Spokane Indians featured two future MLB All-Stars in Ken Harvey and Mike McDougal, although Mark Ellis had the best big-league career of the bunch. The scrappy second baseman stuck around the majors for 12 years with the Athletics, Rockies, Dodgers and Cardinals, and his 33.6 WAR at the position ranks 57th all-time among second baseman. Despite leading this time to a NWL title, Kevin Long would never manage again, as he found his true calling as a hitting coach for the Yankees, Mets and Nationals. Ken Harvey had a season for the ages at the plate with a .397 average, 25 extra-base hits and 41 RBIs, and the team as a whole hit an amazing .283 for the year. Shockingly, Harvey wasn't named the NWL MVP, as Boise's Robb Quinlan and his 77 RBIs nabbed the award. 


Record: 41-34 (NWL Champions) 

MLB Affiliate: San Diego Padres

Notable Alumni: Bruce Bochy (manager) and Kevin Towers (General Manager)

Notes: 1989 was the third of four straight NWL titles for the Spokane Indians during a fruitful affiliation with the San Diego Padres. Despite the team's success on the field, only five players from the team reached the majors, and none of them spent any meaningful time in MLB. The biggest successes from the team can be found in manager Bruce Bochy, who went on to win three World Series titles with San Francisco, and pitcher Kevin Towers, who would go on to serve as General Manager of the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks. Third baseman Dave Staton won the league's MVP award and he certainly deserved it, finishing the year with a .366 average, 17 home runs and 72 RBI. Rick Davis had one of the greatest seasons ever for an Indians pitcher, posting a 9-2 record, 1.35 ERA, and 106 strikeouts in 93 innings, but it proved to be the high-point of the right-hander's career as he peaked at Triple-A and never reached the majors. 


Record: 68-79 (5th in PCL North Division) 

MLB Affiliate: Seattle Mariners

Notable Alumni: Rene Lachemann (Manager) 

Notes: 1979 was the first year of a mostly forgettable three-year affiliation with the Seattle Mariners (the Indians went a combined 184-243 during that span). Since they were a Triple-A team at the time, 22 players from this squad reached the majors, but none had any real impact at the big league level. Rene Lachemann had the most MLB success of anyone on the team, going on to manage the Seattle Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers in the '80s before taking over for the expansion Florida Marlins from 1993-96. Catcher Bill Plummer, who spent 21 seasons as a minor league skipper, would return to Spokane as manager of the now-defunct Yakima Bears in 2004-05. Gary Lance (10-8, 2.94 ERA) and Jim Lewis (13-11, 3.69 ERA) were the stars of the pitching staff, while Steve Stroughter (.300, 12 HR, 43 RBI) and Reggie Walton (.322, 11 HR, 76 RBI) served as the offensive stalwarts. 



Record: 71-73 (2nd in PCL North Division) 

MLB Affiliate: Los Angeles Dodgers

Notable Alumni: Tommy Lasorda, Bill Buckner, Bobby Valentine and Fred Norman 

Notes: Can you believe it's been a half-century since Tommy Lasorda first arrived in Spokane? The 1969 squad helped lay the foundation for the following year's PCL Champions; a team that is considered by many to be one of MiLB's greatest teams ever. This team certainly wasn't short on talent either, as they led the league in hitting with strong seasons from future big leaguers Jim Barbieri, Cleo James and Von Joshua. Bobby Valentine held his own as a 19-year-old (.259 average, 34 steals) while Bill Buckner (.315 average in 36 games) did nothing but hit before being promoted to the Dodgers. Fred Norman, who would go on to win 104 games in a 16-year MLB career, was the rock of the pitching staff with a 13-6 record and 2.62 ERA. 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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