Civic Field in Seattle had unconventional dimensions.
Visiting players hated it.
Civic Field was originally meant to be something like a fairground for visiting circuses, but was repurposed into a baseball field. The diamond’s irregular dimensions meant that a left-handed batter never knew if a pop fly would shake out into a home run.
Civic Field was all dirt. Any ground ball rolled indefinitely. Sliding base-stealers scraped their calves on hardpan. The whole place turned to mud when it rained.
All of these challenges were built into the field and could fluster visiting teams.
Civic Field earned a reputation throughout the Pacific League as being a difficult venue in which to score runs.
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The field was home to the Seattle Indians, a team that played in the Emerald City between 1910 and the 1930s. This was an era before stadiums started using lights to illuminate after-dark play.
It was Indians player Edo Vanni who first realized that the darkened field might give his team an advantage. He noticed that visiting teams from lower latitudes struggled to see the baseball in motion at dusk.
Vanni encouraged the Indians to start practicing in the semi-dark. He trained the fielders and batters to hone their eyes in on the ghostly baseball.
The Indians’ strategy was to become the #1 nocturnal baseball team in the league.
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Here’s what the Indians’ strategy looked like in practice.
The games began in the afternoons. The Indians players would delay the game as much as possible: taking their time to warm up on deck, pitching slow balls outside of the strike zone, calling frequent time outs.
Visiting teams, already somewhat discombobulated by the bizarre structure and muddiness of Civic Field, were further disoriented by the languid pace of the innings.
As the field got dark the Seattle Indians would step up their game. In later innings they suddenly surged ahead, racking up points and stealing consecutive bases in the twilight.
The psychological effect worked wonders. It seemed as if Vanni and the Indians had been born to play after dark.
These tactics earned the Indians of Civic Field a reputation as a cunning team, a group of players who used their brains to outwit the competition.
The best plays in baseball are rightly said to be a combination of physical stamina and intellectual prowess.
Seattle has always been a place that comes alive after dark.
Footnote: The field is long gone now. The place where it once stood is now the Seattle Center.
This story is one of many delightful, lesser-told, Pacific Northwest centric stories inspired by our coffee blend names. We hope you enjoy reading them over a cup of great coffee.