Sick made hops, beer and baseball

— As kids got to know each other in grade school, one of the most common questions was: Where do you live?

The answers were mostly Dekker Road, Arms Road, Liberty Road and others I knew from experiences I had to that point Then, there were kids who lived, “On the Satus,” or “Out in the Satus.”

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Ted Escobar

There was another group of kids who would say: “En el seis.” On the Six? “Si, at the Six Ranch.”

The Six? What a peculiar name.

A visit to Horse Heaven Farm on South Emerald Road last week brought back memories of those times when I was 9 or 10. I went to observe Granger school kids release salmon they had raised into the river.

Since it was the first thing I was to do that day, I drove to Sunnyside via Emerald Road. Generally, it has a speed limit of 35 mph. You are allowed to enjoy what today is the beautiful south slope of Snipes Mountain and the flat land that stretches southward.

What you see along Emerald is a testament to what man can do when he sets his mind to it. He has greened up the area — up and over the mountain in some places.

It was just ugly sagebrush, grasses and weeds when I was 10. Occasional, unauthorized trash dumps dotted the landscape.

Now, there are even luxury homes — more coming — on Cherry Hill, at the Granger end of Snipes. Water has transformed the south slope, just as it did the north slope, another beautiful, but quick, drive down Interstate 82.

The “Six Ranch” the Hispanic kids referred to was Sick’s Hop Ranch, about halfway between Granger and Sunnyside. It was one of the first projects in the greening of the south slope.

The hops are still there, but I don’t suppose it’s still Sick’s Hop Ranch. The purpose for its being no longer exists. It was one of the first things I remember learning about all on my own, actually researching it.

I thought “Six Ranch” was strange until I realized Six was a street translation of Sick’s. Then I wondered why it would be called Sick’s.

That was because of Emil Sick, a man who had his hands in several business ventures in Canada and Washington and was largely responsible for professional baseball in the northwest.

One of Sick’s ventures was Sick’s Rainier Brewing in Seattle. He owned it from 1934 until he died in 1964. Parents of kids I knew, and my own father and uncles, drank Rainier Beer.

One of the arguments of the time was whether Rainier or Olympia Beer — made in Tumwater — was best. Somebody would say “Budweiser” and settle it.

Rainier Brewing closed in 1999, but it had a long history, stretching back to the 1880s in San Francisco, where is was launched. When prohibition came in 1915 — yes, 1915 in Washington — the company continued to do business here by producing soft drinks and near-beer.

When Sick acquired all rights to the Rainier brand in 1934, his entrepreneurial legend continued to grow. He eventually bought the company and opened Sick’s Rainier Brewing in Seattle.

Meanwhile, Sick started to become a baseball mogul. He acquired a baseball club in the 1930s that became the Seattle Rainiers.

The Rainiers played in the Pacific Coast League, which was then like major league baseball on the West Coast. Along with the Los Angeles Angels, they were a marquee franchise.

Some players came to Seattle for a crack at the majors, but many players had complete careers with the Rainiers.

Sick built Sick’s Rainer Stadium. It was one of the finer AAA stadiums anywhere. It was expanded from 17,000 to 30,000 capacity in 1969 for the arrival of the Seattle Pilots of the American League.

But no matter how much was done to the stadium, it couldn’t be upgraded to major league specifications.

The Pilots left town after one season and became the Milwaukee Brewers.

I was grateful, however, the Pilots had existed. A cousin from Billings, Mont., came over and took my brothers and me to our first major league game. I got to watch Tommy Davis, who had been the hitting star for the great Los Angeles Dodger teams of the mid-1960s, and 6-8, 260-pound slugger Frank Howard.

I knew about the Rainiers because I followed the league in the newspaper, just as I did the major leagues. But I didn’t know the connection my friends at school had to the team until I saw the actual name of the Sick’s Hop Ranch on Emerald Road.

Sick produced his own hops on that ranch. It had housing for the farm hands and foremen.

The kids I knew who lived there, thought of it as a community.

— Ted Escobar is the managing editor of The Daily Sun. Email him at tescobar@dailysunnews.com.



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ckapner@foxinternet.com 3 months ago

Thanks for a wonderful article! I grew up attending baseball games at Sick's Stadium and it was a great ballpark with lots of history. You've just added to our knowledge of that history. I still have my souvenirs from those wonderful games. Charles Kapner

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