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CRICKET IN SEATTLE: A BRIEF HISTORY

by Deb K. Das, ex-Managing Editor, CRICKETER International (North American Edition)
NOTE: All opinions expressed in this article are my personal views, and mine alone. They are not intended to reflect any official viewpoint, or the opinions of anyone else in or outside the Seattle Cricket Club. DKD


TABLE OF CONTENTS

[Click on any era below, to go directly to the report on that era.
Clicking on "Back to Table of Contents" will bring you back here, to the top of the page.]

150 years of Seattle Cricket?
This short report attempts to cover the nearly 150 years since cricket was first played in Seattle, using what records are available. It is a saga that needs to be recorded before all information is irretrievably lost.


The Earliest Records(1850-1925)

The earliest references to cricket in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest come from about 1850. The beginning of league cricket in Western Canada goes back to the 1880s, which is when the first cricket leagues were developed in Vancouver and Victoria. In Victoria, there were Pacific Northwest invitational tournaments involving cricket teams from Seattle, Portland and Olympia from 1900 to 1910.

The best references to US cricket in the Pacific Northwest in the mid-1880s come from Portland (Oregon), where a treasure trove of early records have been unearthed by Kerry Jeffries of the Multnomah Cricket Club. A privately owned cricket ground had been established long before 1880, and records exist of cricket matches played with Seattle, Olympia and British Columbia. Photographs of Oregon cricketers have been found dating back to the 1880s; a 90-year-old eyewitness attests to the strange rituals performed by strange men in white in the fields during her early childhood; and there is even a fascinating relic--a cricket bat dating back to 1910 which is used for presentations for match performances.

All this came to an end after the First World War, when many British immigrants volunteered to fight and the ranks of potential cricketers was decimated. The remaining (mainly older) cricketers tried to keep the traditions going, but after the 1920s, the effort proved to be too great and the grounds were sold off.

Where the cricket ground stood, there now stands a a correctional facility--could the white-flannelled ghosts of yeasteryear be roaming the jailhouse grounds, recalling their halcyon past?

There are no such concrete 19th-century cricket artifacts in Seattle, but there are enough references in the Portland records to suggest that a parallel history must exist for Seattle from 1850 onwards. We do know that cricket was being played in Seattle until 1924, because a City of Seattle ordinance in 1923 explicitly forbids "the playing of cricket in Seattle parks without the express permission of the City Council".

This ordinance may have had to do with what the Canadians were doing with their public parks. Canada had proclaimed in the 1880s that cricket was the "national sport", and Vancouver and Victoria cricketers seem to have made the most of that declaration by getting their public parks to accomodate cricket. The Seattle City fathers may have felt a particular fear of being "Canadianized" by this foreign recreation.

Whatever the reason, the city parks were effectively closed to cricket, closing a promising chapter in Seattle cricket history.
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The "Social Phase" (1926-45)

Some Seattle cricket did survive beyond the so-called "ban" of 1923. There are records in Vancouver BC, kindly provided by Jack Kyle of the Canadian Cricket Association, listing occasional visits between 1928 and 1939 by teams such as the Vancouver Juniors to Seattle, and corresponding trips by Seattle cricketers to British Columbia.

The only Seattle record from this era is a copy of what purports to be the constitution of the Club from those times. From this, it seems that the Seattle Cricket Club was then a primarily social organization consisting of British expatriates, playing occasional "friendly" matches to enliven the proceedings.

Perhaps the City Fathers of the time were practicing a form of "benign neglect", allowing occasional displays of this quaint sport from a prehistoric era, much as Native American "potlatches" once banned as subversive gatherings were later allowed to be performed as harmless exercises of "ethnic display". However, recall that the 1923 ordinance was passed at a xenophobic time in Seattle... the Ku Klux Klan was parading in Eastern Washington, "colored" people were systematically excluded from restaurants and similar facilities in the City, street battles were going on in Seattle between the "revolutionary" IWW (the "Wobblies") and the US National Guard, and Asians were not allowed to own property. This indifference may well have been the best that cricket could have hoped for.
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Cricket’s Post-War Rebirth (1946-1964)

Just as World War One had effectively ended early cricket in the US Pacific Northwest, World War Two marked the start of the modern cricket era in the region. It did this by serving as a catharsis for the Seattle area. It swept away many of the circumstances that had produced tensions and conflicts in the inter-war years, and set the stage for a decisive break with Seattle's seamier past.

Shortly after the war ended, a senior cricketer from Ontario, Donald Bury , arrived in Seattle.

Bury was well-known to Vancouver cricket officials, and was able to arrange full-season matches with the top teams in Vancouver on a regular basis. The Seattle Cricket Club added a few University of Washington faculty and students to its "social" roster, and played to a high standard from 1946 to 1950, using University grounds and facilities instead of city parks. It was considered "one of the top three or four teams" in the Pacific Northwest, according to the few persons who recall the cricket of that era.

Archival fragments of those halcyon days of Seattle cricket can be found in (of all places) the old files of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. There are some remarkable photographs of the cricketers of those days....but not many facts, or hard data.

In 1951, Don Bury returned to Canada. Serious cricket in Seattle languished once more. (Mr. Bury came back to Seattle in his twilight years, and spent the rest of his life as a silent spectator at Seattle cricket matches, dying with his cricket books at his bedside...but that is another story.)

In the late 1950’s, Mohan Nayudu, then a professor at the University of Washington, took over where Bury had left off. He dusted off the old constitution of the inter-war years, and re-established contacts with the Vancouver clubs. With expert diplomacy and some arm-twisting, Nayudu was also able to secure some city facilities...Magnolia Playfield in West Seattle... on a regular basis. Cricket was again being played seriously in Seattle, and unofficial seasons of 10 to 12 games (home and away) became the norm.

However, playing only friendly games was proving to be insufficient to satisfy the appetities of the keener cricketers, many of them students from India, Pakistan and the Commonwealth countries. Accordingly, the Club constitution was revised to reflect the new emphasis, and the reorganized Seattle Cricket Club applied for official membership in the oldest and probably largest cricket league in North America at the time, the British Columbia Mainland Cricket League (BCMCL), in 1964.

Seattle was admitted the same year it applied, becoming the only US team to play regularly in a major Canadian league.

The "official" era had dawned for Seattle Cricket.

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The "Official" Era Begins----a One-Team Club (1965-1978)

For the first fourteen years of its history, Seattle Cricket Club functioned as a single-team club. It moved from University of Washington grounds to the Magnolia Playfield in the West Seattle area, and then to Dahl Playfield in North Seattle.

The Club had begun its "official" era in fine style, capturing the First Division league title of the BCMCL for the only time in its history under the leadership of Dr. John Savory . Then its fortunes slipped....it hung on in the First Division for a few years, slipped down to the Second Division, and at one point barely escaped relegation into the Third.

Looking back, a major reason for this was precisely its one-team structure. The core of the club was constant and aging over the years, while the BCMCL was rapidly expanding in talent and youthfulness.

In occasional years, a few stars would join or be recruited, and would lift Seattle Cricket Club’s fortunes. Then they would leave, and the problems would re-surface.

One team was simply not enough to accomodate all who wanted to play.
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The Two-Team Years (1979-1983)

In the earliest years, Seattle's "extra" and "new" players had played in the 30-over Shield competition (in those days the 8-ball Australian over was used in the BCMCL), while their "regular" players played in the (then) unlimited-over League matches. This was because Shield and League points were separately calculated, and only League points were counted for Division standings.

However after the mid-70s, the BCMCL switched to the 6-ball over and also started aggregating League and Shield points for team standings. This meant that each club, including Seattle, was forced to play both competitions with their best players.

The idea of a second team had been floated by Colin Daly and Mel Brady in the mid 1970s, as a way to accomodate more players and provide a better selection base for top talent. This became a reality in the late 1970s....first an unofficial second team, then an official entry into the BCMCL.

Almost immediately, the second team showed its colors...it moved up the promotion rungs, and ended up in the middle of the BCMCL in 3 years. And Seattle’s first team, true to predictions, was able to capitalize on second team successes and stay in the top Divisions. The Club’s survival as a playing team, which itself had been questioned at one time, was now assured.

Seattle Cricket Club, however, was facing pressure from another quarter...parents and community activists in North Seattle who wanted to use "their" park for local pastimes like Little League baseball and kids' soccer, and resented the space and weekend time occupied by the cricketers. So the club moved towards the end of its two-team era, from Dahl Playfield to its current quarters at Fort Dent Park. "Banished" from the city parks, by ordinance in 1924 and de facto in the 1980s, it has found its home outside Seattle....in a county park, in Tukwila!

With the larger number of players in Seattle, the composition of the club changed...and changed again, several times.

The expatriate English who had dominated the early years of Seattle cricket were gradually replaced by Indian and Pakistani students, engineers and other professionals.

Then came a wave of "island" Caribbeans, at one point making up 10 of 11 players in the First team !

This was followed by the Guyanese, then the East Africans.

The flip side to all this increased participation was a rise in inter-ethnic animosities, and charges and counter-charges of factionalism, which has (at times) affected the spirit of the game as well as the administration of the Club.

But Seattle Cricket Club has survived, and it is hoped that these disputes will be viewed in the future as inevitable growing pains.

The newest players have been young Indians and Pakistanis, but the Seattle teams are now an eclectic mix of many nationalities.
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And Now Three Teams (1984-1994)

Seattle’s third team came about for very different reasons. It was proposed by Geoff Haigh, to allow the youngest players to play and develop their skills.

The experiment was short-lived, because many of the original "young stars" moved, gave up cricket, or graduated into senior playing positions. Then, for a while, the third team functioned as a broad-based recreational team, allowing those without the time or energy to commit to a full-time season to participate in Club cricket. Even this has been partly abandoned, although the third team still serves as an outlet for such players....League competition, with its performance pressures, has taken its inevitable toll.

After nearly 10 years of three-team cricket, Seattle Cricket Club could boast of a much higher level of participation than ever before.
And this was signified by Seattle’s victory, led by Vipul Shah, over Brockton Point (then First Division champions) in the Fyfe-Smith shield in 1984....a victory to equal that first League championship twenty years before.
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The US Cricket scene emerges: Seattle CC adds Fourth, Fifth Teams(1995-1999)

The last few years has seen the emergence of cricket south of the border.

A bit of history, first.

Although Seattle Cricket Club was the only official cricket club in the US Northwest for many years, there WERE cricketers elswhere in the area.

Players from Tacoma, Portland (in Oregon) and even Pullman (WA) would commute to Seattle to play. Clubs were organized at Washington State University, and Portland State College in the 1970s, but folded when not enough local support could be maintained. There were attempts in Seattle as well, to organize cricket clubs....in Bellevue, and at Boeing Co., but they all came up against an important obstacle; the absence of cricket grounds or facilities for serious cricket.

Finally, several cricket teams formed around Portland in the early 1990s, and were able to secure local grounds for playing cricket. Then Pullman also managed to secure playing grounds, three new cricket clubs were organized in Seattle, and recently a new park in the Seattle area (Marymoor Park) has also become available for future cricket action. Around the same time, under the leadership of Sajjad Rasheed and others, the Northwest Cricket League (NWCL) was formally established. And a fourth (NWCL) team was added to the SCC rolls, captained by John Wainwright. Seattle Cricket Club became a two-league club, maintaining contacts with Canada as well as USA.

In 1999, a further expansion of the Club has occurred, and it will take the rest of the year to see if the experiment succeeds.
There will now be FIVE teams playing under the Seattle Cricket Club banner....three teams in the BCMCL as before, but two teams playing in the US-based NWCL. If this works, Seattle Cricket Club will be entering the 21st century with the largest number of teams of ANY cricket club in Western USA and Canada, and possibly the whole USA.


No longer is Seattle the single cricket team, and the only official cricket club, in the US Northwest.

In the Greater Seattle area alone, there is now the Indo-Pak Cricket Club, United C C , and notably Microsoft Cricket Club across the waters...FOUR clubs, where there had only been one.

The contrast would be glaring to those, who, like me, remember the lean years when a single team was all that existed in the US Northwest, south of the Canadian border....and it was often difficult to get eleven persons together to travel to Canada to play.

Now there are seven cricket teams in the Greater Seattle area. There has been a quadrupling of the number of matches played every year, a ten-fold increase in player participation in the US Pacific Northwest.

More people showing are up for cricket every year.

Cricket has really arrived in the US Northwest. And that is the best possible news of all.

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For Information and Suggestions ..Contact the following...
Deb.k.Das
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