Thursday, May 28, 2009

Playfair And Spokane Indians Baseball

There's an item in today's newspaper, that the city of Spokane may have made a mistake a few years ago when it bought an old race track called Playfair, hoping to sell the land for development. Apparently the city now is stuck with selling the property for a loss. Looks like the property will be sold to a company making steel products (with a part of the property staying with the city for a storm water storage project). "Weeds grow in what remains of the former Playfair race track" as decisions slowly get made.

Seeing the article brought me back to my own journey with Playfair. It was next to Playfair that the Spokane Indians' minor league baseball team built its Ferris Field so many years ago, in the 1930s. That was the home of the Indians team into the 1950s (though the stands burnt down in 1948 and no permanent replacement stands were ever built).

And it was in 1946, right after World War II, and on Ferris Field, that the Spokane Indians played stellar ball - until a bus crash midway through the season took the life of nine of those players. That team, and that bus crash, are the subject of my baseball novel, "Until The End Of The Ninth."

Back in 2004 (or 2005), when I knew that the city had bought Playfair and was getting ready to demolish the track, I went out to the site to imagine what it must have been like, to have baseball played out that way, next to the track. I walked around the half-demolished remains, trying to imagine it. Playfair is only a few blocks west of Avista Stadium (the current ball field), so the view isn't too terribly different (a beautiful view of mountains off in the distance). But the land of the Avista Stadium is not the land of Ferris Field, where the 1946 team played and where their fans walked to come see them. That tangible land was next to Playfair. So I went to Playfair before it was fully demolished, before it would become impossible to even imagine where Ferris Field used to be.

It made me sad, to be out there, to know that there was nothing I could do to stop this - not that there was much to be done anyway. Baseball was still alive and thriving just a few blocks to the east. And at Playfair? Baseball had been gone from there for decades. Still - a plaque would be nice, would be a way to mark the place forever as a reminder of a great team that played there once - great teams, plural, since it was not just the 1946 team that gave Spokane memories.

One thing about Spokane - it has very little awareness of history. We lose historical buildings to development projects all the time. The city council and county board of commissioners seem to have an uncanny ability to look the other way when developers want to destroy buildings that have stood the test of time for 100 years or so. The treatment of Playfair is along those lines (and I know lots of people have memories of the racetrack that they hold dear).

And now - to know a project likely is actually underway... Time marches on, yes. But maybe something can be done - even something small - that can ensure that we all can remember what took place on that land, not so long ago.

from the April 27, 1946 edition of the Spokesman Review
(don't you love the hats?)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article. I too feel sad about Playfair and Ferris Field. There needs to be at least a monument or plaque to remember what took place there.