A Fire That Altered Seattle’s Sports Landscape

From SABR member David Eskenazi at Sportspress Northwest on May 3:

[Robert Bruce] Driscoll further admitted burning down the Albers (Flapjack) Milling Co. plant, a $500,000 loss, and the Globe Feed Mills at 4915 Airport Way, where damage was estimated at $65,000. He had set fire to the Ehrlich-Harrison Harwood Lumber Company at 35 W. Hanford Street, where the loss was $80,000, and the Brace Lumber Company. He had also set fire to a railroad boxcar filled with new Buicks bound for Asia, and Seattle’s largest macaroni factory.

Driscoll drove with fire officials over all parts of Seattle, pointing out the residue of his pyromania. Driscoll told his custodians that setting blazes made him “feel better” after people “picked on him”, apparently a frequent occurrence. When Driscoll finally talked himself out, thunderstruck officials had in their custody the culprit behind 140 fires that had caused more than $1 million in losses.

One of Driscoll’s blazes changed the course of Seattle sports history, serving as ground zero for a series of events that ultimately led to the sale of the Pacific Coast League’s Seattle Indians to brewery magnate Emil Sick, the formation of the Seattle Rainiers, and the construction of Sick’s Seattle Stadium. That stadium eventually put Seattle into position to acquire its first Major League franchise in late 1968, 34 years after Driscoll got sore at the world one too many times.

Using discarded baseball programs and kindling wood he found near a ticket booth, Driscoll set this particular fire late on the night of July 4, 1932, focusing on the city’s professional baseball facility, Dugdale Park, lat South McClellan Street and Rainier Avenue South. The blaze started in the north grandstands and spread quickly. The first alarm came in at 12:33 a.m., the second at 12:39, the third at 12:47.

Read the full article here: http://sportspressnw.com/2011/05/wayback-machine-a-fire-that-changed-our-sports/

Originally published: May 4, 2011. Last Updated: May 4, 2011.