Last week we gave you 5 “unbreakable” Tacoma baseball records. Mostly pre-Watergate, it’s tough to find records set under the Tacoma Rainiers moniker (1995-present) that we can confidently say are perpetually protected. But what about those records that can be bested; dare we say, shattered?
Those “breakable” records are the ones that keep us on the edge of our seats, checking the box scores, and rooting for a player to do something that’s never been done before. But they aren’t easy to find. Cheney Stadium was built 61 years ago, and has been home to a slew of Hall of Famers, all-time record holders and perennial MLB superstars. Many of the sacred franchise bests were locked in decades ago.
But there are a few; Excaliburs waiting for the right player to rip them from the stone. Here are 5 Tacoma baseball records that are within reach for the next generation of Rainiers.
92 stolen bases (career) – Dell Alston, Tacoma Baseball 1978-80
Dell Alston tied Tacoma Giants outfielder José Cardenal’s 56 stolen bases in 1979. When Alston returned to the South Sound for a third season (1978 Tacoma Yankees, 1979 Tacoma Tugs, 1980 Tacoma Tigers), he needed to swipe just one bag to take sole possession of the franchise record. He stole 36 bases that season, blowing away Cardenal’s 1964 record. An ambush of Tacoma Tigers whizzed past Cardenal in the 80s, pushing him to 8th all-time.
Then in 2019, Rainiers outfielder Ian Miller raced his way to 75 career steals in a Tacoma uniform. Miller played 261 games with the Rainiers between 2017 and 2019 before he was traded to the Minnesota Twins. The Pennsylvania native led the Seattle Mariners organization with 33 steals in 2018 and recorded at least 30 steals for the 5th straight year in ’19.
Miller sprinted up the leaderboard and his 75 steals are now 3rd in franchise history. His 111 stolen bases over the last 3 seasons is 5th best in the minors. So 92 steals isn’t out of the question, and the next great Rainiers base thief could give Alston a run for his money.
Tacoma Baseball Career Stolen Bases Leaders
1. Dell Alston – 92
2. Mike Davis – 76
3. Ian Miller – 75
4. Luis Polonia – 71
5. Jamal Strong – 70
17 wins (season) – Eddie Fisher (1960) and Bill Hands (1965) Tacoma Giants
In 2016, Joe Wieland won 14 games, a benchmark reached by 16 Tacoma hurlers. Wieland went 6 or more innings in just 5 of those victories. He posted a 2.39 ERA in those 14 contests, but finished the year with a 5.43 ERA.
To win a game as a starting pitcher, he needs to go 5 innings. His team needs to have the lead when he leaves the game, and hang onto that lead for the remainder of the game.
That’s it. That’s the tweet.
A pitcher could, in theory, give up 20 runs in a game and still get the win as long as he pitches 5 innings and his team scores 21.
— Tacoma Rainiers (@RainiersLand) September 6, 2016
What’s the point? Sometimes things just go your way. Looking at the metrics, Wieland didn’t have a spectacular 2016 season, and didn’t go deep into many games. But he finished 3 wins shy of a record set 56 years earlier. A couple great outings, a bunch of good ones, and a handful of lucky days might just give a Rainiers pitcher that elusive 18th win.
Tacoma Baseball Single-Season Wins Leaders
T1. Eddie Fisher & Bill Hands – 17 (1960, ’65)
T3. Ron Herbel, Gaylord Perry & Gerry Thomas – 16 (1961, ’61, ’63)
T6. 4 players
43 home runs (1971 season) – Adrian Garrett, Tacoma Cubs 1971
Adrian Garrett appeared on our list of unbreakable records for his 16 intentional walks in ’71. The Cheney Stadium Hall of Famer clobbered a franchise-best 43 home runs the same year (the primary cause of his 16 intentional walks).
If you’ve listened to any baseball announcer in the last three years, you know that home run numbers look like a hedge fund short sold home run stock and a bunch of Reddit users short squeezed it, creating a— you get the point.
A “juiced” baseball, a launch angle trend, and increased pitching velocities have long ball numbers skyrocketing.
When Garrett set the pace in 1971, the 8 PCL teams hit 0.89 home runs per game. In 2019, the 16 PCL teams hit 3,312 big flies (1.48/game). That’s a 60 percent increase over the last half century. The Eugene Emeralds led the way with 161 bombs in ’71, nearly 100 behind El Paso’s 258 in 2019.
Still, it’s been 13 years since a PCL hitter blasted 40 or more homers. We described Garrett’s 16 intentional walks as the most breakable of the unbreakables. In the same vein, this could be the most unbreakable of the breakables. But we’re watching the home run figures soar, and we’re holding out hope for the next big bopper that comes roaring through R House.
Tacoma Baseball Single-Season Home Run Leaders
1. Adrian Garrett – 43 (1971)
2. Danny Walton – 35 (1974)
T3. Dan Rohrmeier & Greg Halman – 33 (1997, 2010)
5. Kelvin Moore – 31 (1981)
36 saves (career) – Jim Corsi, Tacoma Tigers 1988-90, 1992
Here’s the challenge with this one: Triple-A teams just don’t have “closers” these days. Heck, a couple Major League teams don’t even have a closer anymore. At the minor league level, unless you’ve got a Dude that you’re priming for the highest level, you either throw the guy whose turn it is in the bullpen rotation, or the one who needs work in specific game situations.
That being said, a healthy dose of save opportunities for a single player isn’t out of the question. For three-straight years from 2016-18, there was a Rainiers pitcher with 16 or more save chances. Like most minor league records, though, they hold strong because players don’t stick around long enough to break them.
‘So could a pitcher really save 37 games in the PCL anymore?’ That’s a great question. Yes! From 2015-19, five league pitchers saved 41 or more games. One of them was former Tacoma reliever Sam Tuivailala who notched 42 career saves with Triple-A Memphis. Brian Schlitter has – get this – 99 career saves in the PCL. He’s the active leader.
A bit like wins, saves are a result of being put in the right situation at the right time. The difference is, in most save situations, the offense can’t bail you out. You’re working the 9th inning with a slim lead, and every hitter is laser focused. That makes this record breakable, but far from easy.
Tacoma Baseball Career Saves Leaders
1. Jim Corsi – 36
2. Bruce Walton – 35
3. Todd Williams – 33
4. Logan Bawcom – 29
T5. 3 players – 27
Attendance: 378,518 (2011 season) – Fans, 1960-present
This one is on all of us to break, Tacoma. It’s been a decade since you set the standard for attendance, and we’re ready to shatter this record with you.
But some things have to change first. It starts with masks, social distancing, and getting those vaccines when you can. The sooner we beat this virus, the sooner we can beat 378,518.
We’re still waiting to know what the stands can hold in 2021. But we know you’re itching to get back to the ballpark. Believe us, we’re more than ready to welcome you home.
We R Tacoma
About the Tacoma Rainiers
The Tacoma Rainiers are the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Tacoma has been a member of the Pacific Coast League since Cheney Stadium opened in 1960. They have been a Mariners affiliate since establishing the Rainiers moniker in 1995.
The most up-to-date news and notes about the Tacoma Rainiers and Cheney Stadium can be found at WeRTacoma.com, or by following the Rainiers on Twitter (@RainiersLand), Instagram (@tacomarainiers) and liking the team on Facebook.
We R Tacoma Team Store
The We R Tacoma Team Store is currently open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is available online 24/7. Grab your Rainiers gear, your Defiance ‘fit, and follow the team store on Instagram and Twitter.