An NBA rainout -- and the best prep football game ever: Forty years of sports highlights at the Seattle Center.
Sept. 30, 1964: The Coliseum, which was built in 1962, finally hosted its first sports event when the minor-league Seattle Totems lost to the defending Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs, 7-1. Later, the Totems won back-to-back Western Hockey League (WHL) championships in 1967 and ’68. They were followed on the ice by the junior-tier Breakers, then the Thunderbirds, who started play in 1985.
March 3, 1966: Seattle University’s men’s basketball team played Texas Western College, which was on its way to becoming the first team with an all-black starting lineup to win the NCAA championship. The Chieftains handed Texas Western its only loss of the season at the Coliseum, 74-72.
Oct. 20, 1967: Californians Dick Vertlieb and Don Richman, then business manager and general manager of the new SuperSonics, had Hollywood in mind when they urged everyone attending the team’s NBA debut to dress in tuxes and gowns. Some of the 4,473 fans who showed up did. But the gala night ended with a 121-114 Sonics loss to San Diego. The Sonics won the NBA title in 1979, the city’s first championship since the Seattle Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup in 1917.
Nov. 7, 1975: Prep football has been played at Memorial Stadium since 1947, but the game The Seattle Times ranks as the greatest of the 20th century was a quadruple overtime doozy between Blanchet and Garfield in front of 12,951 fans. Blanchet won, 42-35, when star halfback Joe Steele threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Steve Williams in the fourth overtime. Each team had come into the game undefeated and featured future University of Washington stars, including Steele, who became the Huskies’ all-time rushing leader.
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July 5, 1975: Most of the players were from England or thereabouts, but Seattle treated the Sounders like they grew up next door, falling in love with professional soccer. The original Sounders played before sellout crowds, pushing Memorial Stadium to expand. The Sounders shut out Pele and the New York Cosmos, 2-0, in front of 17,925 fans. Seattle’s love affair with the sport fizzled when the North American Soccer League started having financial trouble in the 1980s. The Sounders folded in 1983. The team returned in 1994 as an A-League squad, but today’s Sounders haven’t rekindled that same magical feeling.
Feb. 12, 1978: Martina Navratilova won her fifth consecutive Virginia Slims tennis tournament title before 5,410 fans at the Coliseum. Navratilova was the sole headliner after Billie Jean King and Evonne Goolagong pulled out because of sickness. Navratilova won $20,000 in prize money after defeating Betty Stove 6-1, 1-6, 6-1. In 1979, Navratilova defeated Chris Evert for the title in Seattle.
March 14, 1981: Shadle Park’s Class AAA state title is still a sore subject for folks on Mercer Island. They’ll tell you that Greg Schmidt’s baseline jumper came after time expired. Everyone east of the Cascades swears, as the officials ruled, that Schmidt’s shot was good, giving Shadle Park a 66-65 win at the Coliseum. Mercer Island players were celebrating and ready to cut the nets when told they weren’t champs. Fights erupted on the court and in the stands. Police futilely tried to control the hostile crowd, and 35 minutes after the game the trophy presentation at center court had to be canceled. Shadle Park accepted the title in its locker room and immediately left for home in Spokane. The following day, about 1,400 fans gathered at Mercer Island’s gym to lament together.
Jan. 5, 1986: Umbrellas and basketball were the fashion trend at the Coliseum when the Sonics and Phoenix Suns played in the NBA’s first “game postponed due to rain.” The Suns led 35-24 one minute and four seconds into the second quarter when mopping up water from the leaky roof had become comical, and the game was postponed. Apparently a tarp duct-taped to the roof earlier that day had blown off and the trickle of raindrops quickly turned into a steady stream at halfcourt. Some of the 5,679 fans in attendance pulled out their umbrellas to protect themselves. The game was re-started the next day and the Suns defeated Seattle, 117-114.
July 27, 1990: The Goodwill Games were a financial flop for media mogul Ted Turner, but handball had a sellout crowd for its medal games at Seattle Center (Mercer) Arena. Yep, 3,605 watched the Soviet Union defeat Yugoslavia 29-27 for gold, capping an introduction to the sport in America. The Seattle Center was one of many places around Puget Sound to host the 17 days of competition. Also at the Arena, the U.S. women’s basketball team, featuring Jennifer Azzi and Theresa Edwards, defeated Russia for the gold medal. At the Coliseum, the U.S. men’s team lost to Yugoslavia in the championship game, while budding star Oscar De La Hoya won the 125-pound boxing title. The Soviets claimed 188 medals at the Games, including 66 golds.
June 22, 1996: There were figure skating competitions at the World’s Fair in ’62, but the big time came in the form of the Tour of World Figure Skating Champions at KeyArena. The twirling show featured household names like Nancy Kerrigan, Michelle Kwan, Brian Boitano and Oksana Baiul.
Oct 27, 1996: The raggedy Mercer Arena was dressed up to unveil a new sport to Seattle — women’s professional basketball. The Seattle Reign of the American Basketball League opened the era before 4,591 fans. The players ran through a poster, former mayor Norm Rice spoke, and the Reign defeated Portland, 83-70. The happy days ended when the ABL folded in December 1998. But women’s pro basketball returned with the WNBA’s Seattle Storm in June 2000. The Storm kicks off its third season at KeyArena on May 30.
Oct. 10, 1999: Media from around the world were interested when Washington sanctioned the first Man vs. Woman fight. After much drama, Loi Chow of Vancouver, B.C., fought Bremerton’s Margaret MacGregor before a sellout crowd of 2,768 at Mercer Arena. Blood-curdling screams of approval were heard as MacGregor won the four-round junior lightweight bout by unanimous decision. Before that there were legitimate fights at the Coliseum, heavyweights such as George Foreman, Jimmy Ellis, Ron Lyle and Ken Norton fighting there in the ’70s.
Jan. 27, 2000: The 500th victory by the UW women’s basketball program was achieved with an 85-83 victory over Stanford at KeyArena. UW guard Megan Franza scored 33 points. The Huskies’ men and women played one season at the Key and Mercer arenas while Edmundson Pavilion was being renovated.