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Opening Day Countdown: The 1969 Seattle Pilots

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The Brewers franchise began in 1969 all the way on the west coast as the Seattle Pilots.

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By now everyone knows the roots of the Milwaukee Brewers begin in Seattle with the Pilots. They, along with the Kansas City Royals, were expansion teams. As such, they did not have a built-in player base with which to construct their team. Instead each took play in a special kind of draft. What I didn't know until now is that the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres were also expansion teams created at the same time. But, they were part of a separate draft.

I had always thought the expansion draft covered all the other teams, but in fact it was limited to the teams in the league they were to be a part of. So the Pilots and Royals were allowed to select players from the other established major league teams in the American League--who were allowed to protect a certain number of players. This is a big reason why the early Pilots/Brewers teams were so bad. Their original player pool didn't include a lot of high caliber talent.

You can find the full results of each draft here. If you're only interested in the Pilots' draft picks, that can be found here. Perhaps their best selection was Tommy Harper, though he didn't start really performing until the following season. Still, he managed an astounding 73 stolen bases, a category in which he led major league baseball.

The best performers by fWAR in 1969 were position players Mike Hegan (2.6 WAR), Don Mincher (2.5), Wayne Comer (2.4), Greg Goosen (2.1) and pitcher John Glenar (2.0). I think this might be the only team I've covered that didn't have a player break the 3.0 WAR threshold. For that reason is should come as no surprise the team finished 64-98, last in the AL West.

That was not the worst thing to happen to the Seattle Pilots though. Bankruptcy was. Their stadium was pretty old and didn't have a high capacity. Apparently there were problems with the scoreboard and not all the seats where ready to be occupied by opening day. As a result of that, a miserable July/August, and probably several other reasons the Pilots just 677,944 in attendance.

It was this bankruptcy that allowed Bud Selig to purchase the franchise and move it to Milwaukee. Seattle's loss was our gain! Interesting side note, Seattle was going to build a new stadium for the Pilots, among other sports teams in the area. This is what the Kingdom became, which eventually became home to the Seattle Seahawks.

But even more interesting, the city of Seattle had begun proceedings to sue Major League Baseball over the Pilots' relocation. To get them to drop the suit, MLB gave them another expansion team in 1976: The Mariners. In order to balance out the teams, that meant they also had to create a second expansion team: The Blue Jays. I honestly had no idea just how much the Brewers history intertwined with all these other teams.

If you're interested in learning more about the Seattle Pilots, former Pilot Jim Bouton wrote a book that details his time with the Pilots and Astros during the 1969 season. I've not read it yet, but it's supposed to be very good. It's called "Ball Four."

I believe we probably have some Brewers fans that were around for the 1969 season. I wonder what your recollections are of the team. Obviously you couldn't have had any idea the following season it would become your team. So I wonder what Brewers fans remember.

Also, as this ends the franchise look back portion of the opening day countdown, I'm going to need everyone's help coming up with more article concepts. The idea is to link the countdown number to a stat, event, or whatever. So if you have something you think would be interesting, goofy, fun, or whatever let me know in the comments.