Pro-Ball Was a Big Deal.

The Hawaii Islanders were Honolulu’s professional baseball entry in the Pacific Coast League from 1961 to 1987.  The franchise had moved to Honolulu from Sacramento in 1961 and the team was a big hit almost from the get-go. There were no big league games on television because there were no TV satellites in those days.  As a result, the Islander games were very popular, typically drawing 4000-5000 fans a night.


Regretably, I am unable to identify any of these players in this photo. But i does appear that an Islander player has homered and the fans are on their feet.

Players enjoyed performing here and no wonder, because the perks were unique to Hawaii and generous compared to minor league teams on the mainland. For instance, players were given the use of automobiles while they were here, courtesy of a local car dealer. 


.Every year a few days before the first home game was played, there was a welcoming reception for the players and their wives. Also attending were representatives from companies sponsoring the radio broadcasts of the games, members of the Islander Fan Club, and others with various connections to the ball club.  And there was entertainment, of course: “local style”, with some of the guests singing or performing hulas.


.All Islander games—both home and away—were broadcast on one of the local radio stations. For reasons no one can adequately explain, several of the Islander play-by-play broadcasters were ”discovered” and went on to establish themselves at the Major League level on the mainland. You’ll recognize some of the names: Al Michaels, Harry Kalas, Les Keiter, Mel Procter, Hank Greenwald and Ken Wilson among others.


.The string finally ran out in 1987. Old Honolulu Stadium had been torn down and the team forced to play their games in cavernous and costly Aloha Stadium. In the meantime, travel expenses had escalated and Islander fans woke up one morning to learn their team was moving to Colorado Springs. It was a blow, but we have plenty of memories . . . 


. . . . like the steamy night in 1966 when Islander pitcher Dave Baldwin threw an 11-inning, 1-0 shut out against the Phoenix Giants. The opposing pitcher that night was Don Larsen, who threw the only perfect game in World Series history for the New York Yankees in 1956.


If you were a baseball fan, it was a very special time.

One Comment

  1. Funny that this post popped up today in the site’s “You May Also Like” section as I am just finishing up Al Michaels’ book “You Can’t Make This Up.” Michaels writes fondly of his time in Hawaii and has some great stories about it. He was there from 1968-1970. In the fall of 1970 he was courted first by the Chicago White Sox, who decided he was too young (they hired Harry Caray) and then by the Cincinnati Reds, whose job offer he accepted.

    He almost changed his mind: it was 40 degrees when he interviewed in Cincinnati and 82 when he got back to Honolulu!

    I doubt that many players griped about a long plane flight to go play the Islanders for a week!

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