Monday, June 1, 2009
Without Selig, We Wouldn't Have The Schonz
The city of Portland owes Bud Selig a debt of gratitude, regardless of whether or not a Major League Baseball franchise is ever awarded to the Rose City.
You see, back in 1970, Selig had an empty baseball stadium in Milwaukee, WI just waiting for a tenant. The Braves had packed up and moved to Atlanta, leaving County Stadium without a team. So Selig, along with Edmund Fitzgerald, made a play for the Seattle Pilots. The acquisition was approved, and the Pilots became the Brewers. Seattle was left without a Major League Baseball team.
So what does this have to do with Portland? Well, a 40-something Bill Schonely was, at the time of the move, the radio voice of the Pilots. With the Pilots gone and Schonely unwilling to move to Milwaukee, he was left without a marquee gig. He was still making a living calling games, everything from University of Washington football to Seattle Totems hockey, but it wasn’t the same as working in the big leagues.
Then came a phone call.
“Harry Glickman found out I was available,” said Schonely. “He called me and said, ‘Schonz, how would you like to do NBA basketball? I just got a new franchise here.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I read all about it.’
“Well I didn’t have the slightest idea in those days about the NBA. I had done Major League Baseball, University of Washington Huskies; I was doing Seattle Totems, the National Hockey League, rodeo and roller derby. I staying in Seattle and Harry said, ‘Well why don’t you come down? We’ll talk because I think you can do NBA games.’ I drove down here, we talked for about five minutes, we shook hands and the rest was history.”
Almost 40 years of history, to be exact. And on June 1, Schonely’s 80th birthday, he’s still as enthused about the Trail Blazers as he was when he first took the job as the first voice of the team back in 1970.
“I’ve been a diehard Trail Blazers fans since the first day I met with Harry Glickman,” said Schonely. “It’s been a huge part of my life. It’s been the love of my life and I want to stick around until we get another one of these.”
‘These,” in this case, is a championship ring, the ring Schonely was awarded as a member of the 1977 title team. And it never would have happened if Selig hadn’t poached the Pilots away from Seattle.
“I always thought I was going to be in baseball a long time,” said Schonely, “but it didn’t work that way. It’s been an absolute thrill since Day One.”