Baseball history remembered

// First ever Fan Go-Round a success

Hundreds of fans turned out on May 1 for the first ever Fan Go-Round, an event that brought back several players from different eras of Tacoma baseball and softball.

“It’s beyond amazing,” event organizer Marc Blau said of the turnout. “I think it’s a great event for the community. It promotes the sport, it promotes the stadium, I don’t know what more you could ask for.”

The event included a museum of memorabilia from past Tacoma teams up in the Summit Club.  Pennant flags from the 1961 PCL champion Tacoma Giants and 1969 champion Tacoma Cubs were displayed over the railing of the second deck behind home plate. The day also featured a video documentary, and introductions of former players by longtime announcer Bob Robertson, Doug McArthur, manager of the 1956 Stanley Shoemen, and columnist Art Thiel.  

Blau’s motivation for Fan Go-Round came after writing his recent book, “Baseball in Tacoma Pierce-County.”

“To make the book come alive, you get the people in the book,” Blau said.

Dick Estelle, who is the only Tacoma pitcher to ever toss two no-hitters, was one of several former players who enjoyed connecting with fans and teammates.

“I couldn’t wait to get here,” Estelle said. “I just talked to my old catcher, who caught my first no-hitter in the Northwest League. It was good to see him, I haven’t seen him in 50 years.”

Stan Naccarato, who is known for saving Tacoma baseball in 1971, called the event “one of the nicest things I can ever recall doing. To see this many people come out, it’s like a dream come true.”

By Jeremy Helling

 

OTHER PLAYERS REMINISCE

Another Fan Go-Round attendee, Bill Krueger played at Cheney Stadium for both the Tigers (Oakland As’ affiliate, 1984-87) and the Rainiers (Mariners’ affiliate, 1995). In those five seasons he compiled a 20-15 record, although he was in Tacoma for only parts of them. He currently serves as the senior baseball analyst for Root Sports, covering the Seattle Mariners.

“I have great memories of playing here,” Krueger said. “I’m a Northwest guy and my wife’s family is from here. I loved pitching here, it was always fun. There were great players on all the teams I was with. This was a great part of my life.”

A.J. Zapp returned to Cheney Stadium for the Fan Go-Round from his home in Indiana. Zapp was with the Rainiers for just one season, 2004, but during that time he left his mark on local baseball history. On Sept. 1 he hit the longest documented home run ever out of the park. It went over the 29-foot high centerfield wall and came down 505 feet away. It is considered to be the first home run hit over the centerfield wall during a game.

“I knew it had a really good chance (to get out) because it was a good night with the wind and the weather (just right),” Zapp said. “I knew the guy that was pitching (Joe Blanton) was throwing very hard that night. The pitch was right over the plate the way I liked it and I hit it right on the screws.” About a week later Zapp had another memorable game, when he drove in nine runs, including a walk-off grand slam. That game-winner was hit against Mariners’ closer and current Rainier David Aardsma. Zapp hit a total of 29 home runs that year, while knocking in 101 runs (both personal bests) and batting .291.

In 2005 he played with the Reds’ organization, then moved on to the Dodgers’ minor-league system in 2006. Zapp retired from baseball in the spring of 2007 at the age of 29. He is now a Nike sales representative in Indiana.

By Karen Westeen

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