Walter Daggett, who was managing general partner and an owner of the North American Soccer League Sounders, died at his home Sunday in California.
Walter “Walt” Daggatt, who brought the Sounders of the North American Soccer League to Seattle, died Sunday in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Mr. Daggatt, who had suffered from leukemia, was 91 years old.
Seattle soccer icon Alan Hinton, who coached the NASL Sounders in 1980-82, called Mr. Daggatt the “founding father” of professional soccer in the area. Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer also praised Mr. Daggatt’s influence.
“He has a big place in the history of soccer in Seattle,” Hanauer said.
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In 1974, Mr. Daggatt was involved with the ownership group hoping to bring Seattle an NFL franchise. While on a trip to Dallas to gain support from the league’s owners, Mr. Daggatt crossed paths with Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, an avid soccer supporter who owned the Dallas Tornado of the NASL.
Instead of football, the two talked soccer. The conversation inspired Mr. Daggatt to bring a team to Seattle with the help of the Seahawks’ ownership group, which included David “Ned” Skinner, Herman Sarkowsky, Lloyd Nordstrom, Howard Wright, Lynn Himmelman and Lamont Bean.
Mr. Daggatt became the managing general partner of the new soccer franchise, and decided to have fans vote on the team name before the first season in 1974. Fans chose “Sounders” over, among others, “Mariners.”
The NASL Sounders achieved great success on the field and in attendance, playing in the league championship game in 1977 and 1982. Mr. Daggatt and the ownership group sold the team in 1979; it folded after the 1983 season, and the league ceased operations after the 1984 season.
The Sounders name, however, has lived on and remains important to the local soccer community. After Seattle was awarded a Major League Soccer franchise, Mr. Daggatt — who had remained an avid supporter of the Sounders throughout the years — was part of pregame festivities before the franchise’s debut at Qwest Field.
“He was so proud of what the Sounders are doing know,” Hinton said.
Born in Portland as the youngest of four children, Mr. Daggatt earned an economics degree from Dartmouth and quickly climbed corporate ladders across the country. Work took him from Los Angeles to Newark, N.J., but he was drawn back to the Pacific Northwest by Skinner, a college roommate.
Eventually, Mr. Daggatt brought professional soccer, too.
“He was there in the beginning of it all,” said Jimmy Gabriel, who coached the NASL Sounders in 1977-79. “He was always such a great help to me.”
Those who knew Mr. Daggatt said he was known as a gentleman who rarely, if ever, raised his voice in anger or complained. He was also a very accomplished golfer, recording seven holes-in-one and shooting his age more than 200 times from the ages of 70 to 88.
“I hated that he always beat me at golf because I was Scottish, and we invented the sport,” Gabriel joked.
Mr. Daggatt is survived by his wife, Janet, of Seattle and Rancho Mirage, Calif.; and sons Andy and Russell of Seattle and Scott of Issaquah. He is also survived by three grandchildren.
Family and friends will hold a private celebration of Daggatt’s life at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Seattle Golf Club.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org