Onward Civic Stadium

I submitted this column at 9 am Monday, July 6. I just got off the phone with Val Hoyle, who has not been recalled … yet. As of 9 am the Oregon Legislature has the capability, but not the will, to be done. 

The last major roadblock was the bonding measure that passed on Friday, July 3. The Republicans threatened to skip work that weekend because, after all, they don’t really have to adjourn until July 11, and to work on the 4th of July would be unpatriotic. Republican legislators still get paid you see, not to work, but to work on the 4th of July is unpatriotic

These are the same bozos who voted against paid sick leave for minimum wage workers with sick children! Apparently getting paid for not working on the 4th of July is not unpatriotic! Otherwise, not much of value to report from Salem. If the Senate Republicans grant procedural waivers on hemp and housing subsidies, Sine die could happen tonight.

I disagree with the R-G’s blaring headline: “Civic Stadium lost to history.” I believe historians will recite the history of Civic Stadium’s demise as a morality tale for some time to come. As much as I love baseball (my first EW column was Insider Baseball), there are reasons why I have never stepped foot in PK Park. 

I grew up in Roswell, New Mexico. Baseball ruled. Roswell even had a semi-pro team, the Rockets, which played in the Texas League. I played organized baseball from Little League on. For those inquiring minds who secretly harbor certain insensitive, stature-related questions, the answer is: No, I was not a “shortstop.” 

Being left-handed, I played a lot of first base, presenting an admittedly vertically challenged target for my fellow infielders, but built close enough to the ground to scoop up anything that hit the dirt. Roswell was pretty good for baseball weather-wise, no rainout problems down there. Sandstorms were often a problem, but whining was frowned upon, so you wore your squint de jour. I lettered all three of my years in high school. And, yes, it’s true, I’m so short I can play handball against a curb.

After high school, I attended the University of San Francisco, played club baseball one spring and fell in love with the San Francisco Giants and my future wife, in that order. So when Jeannie and I arrived in Cottage Grove (she was born and raised here) in 1977 we immediately fell in love with the Civic Stadium scene. We followed the Ems, attended Ems games through the years. We played on a city league co-ed softball team organized by another USF baseball Don, Bob Hickok. We even brought our newborn Simon along on road trips back in the early 1980s. Each summer, Jeannie’s employer would host a game night and picnic at an Ems game, as did the Weekly.

Things changed in 2007. The UO and Uncle Phil and the alums and their new athletic director, jealous of OSU’s success in college baseball, had reinstated college baseball. Then the $1-a-year millionaire athletic director rounded up four other wealthy alums and built a baseball stadium in Autzen’s parking lot. Then he recruited the Ems to play there. Then, the grateful alums named the place Pat Kilkenny Park. 

The UO, Lane County’s largest employer, never gave a plausible explanation for why it did not work with the city of Eugene or the 4J School District to incorporate and remodel Civic Stadium in its plans. Instead, Civic Stadium went dark in 2009, abandoned. Then, after being saved repeatedly by incredible citizen efforts, it was torched less than a fortnight ago. 

As citizens of Lane County, we should honor the folks in our community who stepped up to save Civic Stadium over the years. In 2007 and 2008, Dennis Hebert (a friend I first met in Salem), Jim Crabbe, Tom Halferty and Scott Landfield of Tsunami Books created the nonprofit Save Civic Stadium. They persevered for years beating the drum, keeping the fight alive. And then, another group of heroes emerged, 120 private donors and incredible volunteer efforts by Derek Johnson and the Eugene Civic Alliance. And you can’t end this story without acknowledging the bravery and skill of the Eugene firefighters who fought the fire and saved the neighborhood that Monday night. History will remember all of this; Civic Stadium is not lost to history.

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