Book tells Everett’s rich baseball history
EVERETT — Jackie Robinson did not break baseball’s color barrier.
Jimmy Claxton did, and some might have had relatives who saw the southpaw pitch in Mukilteo and Edmonds during the mid-1920s.
Claxton’s tale is among dozens of fascinating snippets and anecdotes in Steve Bertrand’s new book, “Mill Town Baseball,” which traces America’s pastime in Everett from its roots in the late 1800s through the end of 2022.
“I wanted as many stories as I could get my hands on,” said Bertrand. “I tried to make it a collaborative effort.”
Doug Ramsay photo
Author Steve Bertrand discusses his new book "Mill Town Baseball" as he shows some of his baseball memorabilia at his home. Bertrand has the 1930 Everett High School Letterman's letter that his grandfather Dick Hyatt earned for playing baseball.
Though Bertrand, a writer and teacher at Cascade High School, is listed as author, the 323-page trade paperback contains contributions from many other scribes.
The idea began as a COVID-era Zoom presentation for Bertrand’s fellow members on the board of the Everett Museum of History.
Board member Joan Packard suggested Bertrand create a timeline of Everett baseball. Bob Mayer of Historic Everett urged him to turn the timeline into a book.
“I was surprised how big a part of this community baseball has been in the past and continues to be,” Bertrand said. “Everybody had stories, everybody had photos, everybody had memories. People came out of the woodwork. It just kept growing.”
The pages of “Mill Town Baseball” are arranged like a scrapbook, with photos, poems, statistics, records, and photocopied clippings from old newspapers.
Separate chapters (called “innings”) chronicle Little League; Babe Ruth Baseball; American Legion Baseball; Cascade High and Everett High baseball; the Everett Merchants; and professional baseball — the Everett Giants and AquaSox.
Interspersed throughout are contributed articles and essays, reprinted pieces from books and newspapers (including the Tribune), and short biographies of memorable coaches and players.
Bertrand contributed original stories, poems, and personal meditations, of which many center on his childhood in South Everett.
“I call them sandlot tales,” he said. “We grew up in the Eastmont neighborhood, playing on sandlots.”
One story tells how Bertrand and his friends tried to emulate Willie Mays’ iconic catch in the 1954 World Series. Another, “The Heckler,” describes the poignant effect of the Vietnam war on a childhood pal.
Mostly, though, “Mill Town Baseball” outlines the development of the sport in Snohomish County over a century and a half.
Baseball predates the incorporation of Everett.
The first organized area baseball teams were Native American squads from reservation boarding schools. Tribes played against each other, with fans catching steamships from Seattle and Snohomish to see the games.
Claxton, who had a Native American father and an African-American mother, was an early standout. A fellow tribe member helped the talented left-hander connect with the Minor League Oakland Oaks.
On May 28, 1916 — nearly three decades before Robinson’s Minor League debut — Claxton hurled both games of a double header for Oakland.
He was gone less than a week later after team owners discovered the other half of his DNA, returning to Snohomish County to play for club teams.
Jimmy Claxton, who made it into pro baseball but then swiftly fired because of his race.
Claxton became the first of a long list of SnoCo players to reach professional baseball.
The most famous is Howard Earl Averill, one of only three Washington state players enshrined in the baseball Hall of Fame.
Averill, his son Earl Jr., and Earl Torgeson, are dubbed the “Three Earls of Snohomish.” Averill Park in Snohomish is named in honor of Earl Sr.
Bertrand pays due credit to these pioneers, but also highlights dozens of lesser-known contributors – youth coaches, high school coaches, even businesses that supported Everett baseball.
One of his favorite stories is a short piece, “A Tale of Two Brothers,” on Vern and Jim McDowell, who have played and coached in Everett their entire lives.
“I tried to give ‘Mill Town Baseball’ a community feel,” Bertrand said. “I wanted to work in as many people as I could.”
It turns out there were too many for one book.
He already has new material for a second printing sometime this summer, and said the third printing will be even bigger.
“As soon as you publish something like this, the next story comes forward,” Bertrand said. “This is a work in progress.”
Meanwhile, the current edition is available for $30 at the Everett Museum of History's Van Valey House at 2130 Colby Ave. Sale proceeds go to the museum.
Anyone with stories, photos or memorabilia to contribute should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 1925 Edmonds baseball team.
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