The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
1974: A Name & Much More
by Doug Thiel
But first the name. What would it be? Hal Childs, PR Director, referred to Seattle’s unnamed team as, “The team from Camelot.” And it was. But we needed an official name, one that really fit Seattle.
We did have the Sonics, a Boeing reference. The post Sounders period was named Mariners followed by the Seattle Seahawks.
But now it’s time to get serious and give the boys from Camelot a serious name. We had 2,200 entries most of which now seem to have been submitted by the Muppets’ cast.
goalWA.net is very pleased to feature an ongoing column that allows writer Doug Thiel a forum to share his memories of our “Original Sounders,” the North American Soccer League (NASL) club that played in the Emerald City from 1974 through 1983. Doug is the author of the 1977 Sounders season highlight book “All the Best,” as well as two new books for youth soccer players, coaches and parents called “The Winners Way.” Click www.cowanparkpress.com to purchase one or both books.
Is there anyone still alive who can remember the names that made the finals?
No? Okay, here are the six that made the cut: Cascades, Evergreens, Mariners, Schooners, Sockeyes, and Sounders.
Touching. And now the announcement: Sounders. A name submitted by Henry Iske of Seattle.
As a matter of no note at all we had a tennis team named the “Sea-Port Cascades.” And a local but unnamed ping pong promoter. Who got all hot when he discovered that the name game had ripped off “Sockeye” which he’d selected for Seattle’s first ever professional ping pong team.
Who could have guessed that a Pick the Name contest would nearly ended up a court case?
A radio station to broadcast games. Seems simple enough. What was a slam dunk for the Sonics became a, ”You want us to broadcast a team with no players? Don’t let the door hit you on the butt on your way out.”
But there was one major station left and a very small one that offered a maybe.
At this juncture Walt Daggett decided that what he really wanted was KVI, one of Seattle’s finest, to handle the play-by-play.
Bert West had been KVI’s former Manager. Walt and Bert West were good friends. But Bert had left Seattle and KVI to take over as President of Golden West Broadcasting Company in LA.
If you remember Gene Autry, you may recall Golden West. Autry owned it and the California Angels. Now, carefully watch how this next move evolves.
Walt and Hal Childs paid KVI a visit. Jack Bankson, the KVI station manager, didn’t want to say no. But he certainly didn’t want to say yes, either. A rock and a hard place seemed to fit Jack’s dilemma.
So after squirming and walking around, Bankson called Bert West in Los Angeles. Bert listened briefly before shouting,” Professional soccer? You’ve got to be out of your tree!”
And that discussion came to a halt. But Walt’s decision to get KVI didn’t. Later that morning station WEAK SIGNAL made a very nice presentation.
Now’s the time to bait the hook. Walt called KVI back and told Bankson that there was another station that was very interested in the contract.
“This is your last chance,“ he said. “We’re about to sign with another station,” smiled Walt knowing that Bankson was dying to know which station was making the offer. What to do?
“Don’t do anything. I’ll call you back this afternoon.”
The plot thickened. Later that day Bankson called back and told Walt, “I may get hung for this, but we’ll take on the Sounders.”
Hal and Walt smiled, shook hands and went out briefly to celebrate their good fortune.
The Sounders not only got KVI, they got Bob Robertson as well. Bob, a Canadian from the Vancouver area, had played soccer and loved it.
But know this. At the time that KVI took on the Sounders they were without a major Seattle sport to broadcast. Oops.
KVI had lost the Husky football broadcasts but knew that pro football was not far away. And KVI dearly wanted to hang in as a sports oriented station.
So, unknowingly KVI got hooked into a clever scheme. Yes, but KVI and the Sounders both profited from this somewhat shady venture.
So where are we now? Well, we have a name. And we have a radio station to broadcast the games, but? No logo.
Every child knows you are nothing without a logo, some sign, a symbol, something that looked like a Sounder. But what did a Sounder look like?
The Sounders found someone who did. Denny Strickland, a former basketball star from the University of Oregon. Yes, that University of Oregon.
But now he was a free-lance designer. And even more than that he knew what a Sounder looked like. Hard to believe but this is true nonfiction. Is there any other kind?
We continue. The logo, as you’ve figured out by now, is the name “Seattle Sounders” with a soccer ball in place of the letter “0″ in Sounder. Brilliant. What more can you say?
Well, you could say that it kicked off our first season, 1974. And a year of non-ending, indescribable joy. No one would argue that.
But Still Missing Are.
The players. You need some of those before your first game. But where do you get them for a brand new team with a brand new everything else?
There are four sources for players: (1) American teams who will sell to you or trade, (2) free agents (players not currently signed with a team), (3) European teams who will loan or sell players, and (4) the American college draft.
Number four was not an exciting source of “ready to play talent” at the professional level. But when you start with nothing, you take what you can get. Our get was good for a first year.
So, on we go. The first NASL college draft was held in January of 1974. We got to pick third in the first round behind LA and Washington DC.
Our first selection was Dave D’Errico, a 150-pound 5’7″ forward from Hartwick College in N.Y. However, in 1977 the Sounders waved goodbye to Dave and packed him off to the Minnesota Kicks who scooted him on to Boston in 1978.
But during his first year with the Sounders Dave made the U.S. Team and played two games with them. He also was a source of complaint about what was later called the English Mafia.
The name English Mafia was a not nice appellation (name) used frequently in the 1970’s. Why? Well, it was necessary to have a high number of British coaches and players in the NASL. I didn’t mind but many others did.
So the feeling was that the Brits were stealing places and positions that rightly belonged to the native born (U.S.) players and coaches.
D’Errico had the moxie to state his opinion publicly and privately but was not highly appreciated for doing so.
Here we go again with a wee bit of the Boston Tea Party gig but with no guns and no personal injuries.
And that’s it for this week.
If you have a NASL Sounder topic/item you’d like included or just want to chat, send me an email @ firstname.lastname@example.org