‘Pitchers of Beer’ author Dan Raley to appear at Edmonds Bookshop Saturday

Former Seattle Post-Intelligencer sportswriter Dan Raley will be at the Edmonds Bookshop at noon this Saturday, May 26, signing copies of his book, “Pitchers of Beer.” The book tells the history of Seattle’s best-known minor league baseball team, the Seattle Rainiers.

My Edmonds News had a chance to interview Raley via email, but first, here’s the storyline, from the University of Nebraska Press website:
In 1937, when local beer baron Emil Sick stepped in, the Seattle Indians were a struggling minor-league baseball team teetering on collapse. Moved to mix baseball and beer by his good friend and fellow brewer, New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, Sick built a new stadium (now a Lowe’s on Rainier Avenue South) and turned the team into a civic treasure. The Rainiers (newly named after the beer) set attendance records and won Pacific Coast League titles in 1939, ’40, ’41, ’51, and ’55.
The story of the Rainiers spans the end of the Great Depression, World War II, the rise of the airline industry, and the incursion of Major League Baseball into the West Coast (which ultimately spelled doom for the club). It features well-known personalities such as Babe Ruth, who made an unsuccessful bid to manage the team; Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, who did manage the Rainiers; and Ron Santo, a batboy who went on to a storied career with the Chicago Cubs.

Dan Raley

My Edmonds News: You covered many different sports during your three decades with the Seattle P-I. What inspired you to write “Pitchers of Beer”? Why a baseball book?

Raley: A friend, Dave Eskenazi, talked me into writing the book. We’ve shared a mutual love for baseball, Seattle and its long-ago history, and the Rainiers had all of that.  He was very persistent that I should do this. He provided photos, programs, letters, poems, all sorts resources for the book. On a more personal note, which is mentioned in the introduction, the last thing I did with my dad, William Raley, was go to a Rainiers exhibition game. He was killed the next morning in an auto accident. I subsequently spent a lot of my childhood going to Rainiers, Angels and Pilots games as a way of coping without a father.

My Edmonds News: What were the biggest surprises for you when researching the book?

Raley: I really had no idea how important the Rainiers were to Seattle, that they were this civic treasure. As a kid, I caught the Rainiers at the tail end of their existence, and Seattle’s interest was lukewarm in the team by then as it tried hard to become a big-league city in every way — commerce, the arts, sports. Yet in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, the Rainiers were kings, treated like rock stars, and a great source of pride for Seattle. I also had no idea of how deep the Babe Ruth connection was to Seattle. That remains mesmerizing to me. … I knew he had visited the city multiple times, but I wasn’t aware at all that he easily could have managed the team and that he could have died here. … Ah, the historical possibilities. …

My Edmonds News: What influence did the Indians/Rainiers/Pilots have on the development of Seattle’s baseball culture? Do you think that our long history of minor league baseball in Seattle influenced how we support our major league franchise?

Raley: The Rainiers were indeed a rallying force for baseball in Seattle, providing a natural springboard to the Major Leagues. The Rainiers were the most successful minor-league team in the nation at times, often drawing more fans than several big-league teams, giving people reason to dream bigger.

Raley notes that he’s glad to be living in the Seattle area again after spending two years in Atlanta, where he worked as an editor for the Journal-Constitution after the Post-Intelligencer stopped its print publication in 2009. He now serves as a homepage editor for MSN.com in Bellevue.

“While I was gone, I missed the mountains, the mild temperatures and simple things like riding the ferry out of Edmonds,” Raley said. “Most of all, as a Seattle native, I missed running into people everywhere I went; I was somewhat anonymous walking around Atlanta, which never seemed like home.

Raley attended Roosevelt High School where he took journalism classes and played on the football, basketball and baseball teams, “hence my interest in sportswriting grew out of that.” A Western Washington University journalism grad, Raley spent 29 years at the P-I, working mainly as a sportswriter but also serving as a design editor and police reporter.

The Edmonds Bookshop is located at 111 5th Ave. S, in downtown Edmonds.

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