Portland may be getting its first Major League Baseball (MLB) team through the efforts of the Portland Diamond Project. This new team would add to a rich sports culture already within Portland, which boasts successful soccer, basketball, and hockey teams. Founded in July of 2017, the Portland Diamond Project is led by Craig Cheek, a former vice president at Nike; Mike Barrett, a former NBA broadcaster for the Portland Trail Blazers; and Jason Atkinson, a former Oregon state senator. The Portland Diamond Project is looking closely at two possible ballpark sites: Portland Public Schools’ (PPS) headquarters, just north of the Rose Quarter in North Portland, and an industrial site in Northwest Portland owned by the manufacturing company Esco Corp. PPS announced in April that they wanted to see if they could get a better offer after the Portland Diamond Project offered them 80 million dollars. The second site, which is on Northwest Vaughn Street between 24th and 26th avenues, was an early home of Portland baseball from 1901 to 1955. Vaughn Street Park served as the original home of the Portland Beavers.
The Portland Diamond Project is projecting that the first pitch will be thrown in 2022, after taking two years to navigate politics and another two to build the park. According to John McIsaac, spokesperson for the Portland Diamond Project, there is a 70-80% approval rating among Portlanders. “The great thing about baseball is it’s a very family-friendly, social sport. We believe everybody in the state can own a personal experience with the team. We’ll draw from Portland’s deep food culture for concessions; we’ll make the facility completely wired and easy to use for social media. Everyone will be welcome, no matter the location,” states McIsaac.
While there hasn’t been an MLB team in Portland, the city is steeped in baseball history dating back to 1866, according to the Oregon Historical Society. The teams, which changed names so often sometimes people couldn’t keep up, provide some great monikers for Portland’s future MLB team.
1866—Pioneer Baseball Club Formed only fifteen years after the city of Portland was founded, this club was comprised of a group of amateur males who didn’t allow any professionals. Many similar clubs were formed in the metro area after the Pioneer Baseball Club.
1884—Portland Willamettes Portland’s first professional baseball team was started by Joe Buchtel, who named the team the Willamettes in 1884. They resided in East Portland.
1890—Portland Webfeet The Portland Willamettes were so successful that they became a professional team and changed their name to the Portland Webfeet. This team helped form the first fully professional baseball organization, the Portland Northwest League (PNL). In 1891, the Webfeet won the PNL championship.
1896—Portland Gladiators The PNL league ended in 1892 due to an economic recession, but the league was resurrected for one season in 1896, and a new Portland team, the Portland Gladiators, won the championship.
1901—Portland Webfoots Not to be confused with the Webfeet, the Portland Webfoots was the first Portland team to join the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues in 1901, which would later become Minor League Baseball. The Webfoots played at the newly opened Vaughn Street Park. The third baseman for the Webfoots, Joe Tinker, went on to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
1903—Portland Browns The Portland Browns joined the then newly founded Pacific Coast League, and was the most unsuccessful professional baseball team in Portland’s history, finishing the 1903-04 season with a 74-136 losing record.
1906—Portland Giants/Beavers/Buckaroos/Ducks The Browns were bought by a local family who changed the name to the Giants in 1905, and then the Beavers in 1906. The team’s name changed two more times to the Buckaroos and Ducks, but to reduce confusion we’ll just call them the Beavers. The Beavers won the Pacific Coast League championship title in 1906, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1932, 1936, and 1945.
The Vaughn Street Stadium was remodeled in 1912; 12,000 fully enclosed bleachers seats were added in centerfield, and the first known “luxury boxes” were installed.
In 1918, wartime travel restrictions due to World War I forced the Beavers to cancel their season.
In 1956, the Beavers moved from the Vaughn Street Park to the Multnomah Stadium (now Providence Park).
In 1964, the Beavers became the AAA team of the Cleveland Indians.
In 1972, amid declining interest, the Portland Beavers moved to Spokane.
1973—Portland Mavericks Class A baseball came to Portland through the Portland Mavericks in the Northwest League.
1978—Portland Beavers The Portland Beavers returned and rejoined the Pacific Coast League. They won a PCL title in 1983, but moved to Salt Lake City in 1994.
1995—Bend Rockies In 1995, the Bend Rockies of the Class A Northwest League move to Portland.
2000—Portland Beavers (again!) In 2000, the Portland Beavers came back to Portland. Surprise! However, the arrival of the Portland Timbers in 2009 essentially kicked out the Beavers. They played their final game at PGE Park in 2011.
2012—Hillsboro Hops In 2012, the Hillsboro Hops, a minor league team, came to the Portland area, drawing crowds from around the Portland-metro area.
If you want to learn more about the history of baseball in Portland and Oregon in general, check out Franklin teacher, Greg Garcia’s, book Ground Rules of the Willamette.