Just when you don’t think you can handle another second of 2017, baseball comes to the rescue. The Portland Pickles, a summer-league amateur team stacked with West Coast college players that calls Lents Park’s Walker Stadium home, are here to offer transport not just to simpler times before young players are lured away with huge contracts, but to actual decades and centuries past.
On Thursday, June 8, the Pickles plan to party like it’s 1991, with the team playing as the Twin Peaks High Steeplejacks as they face Northern California’s Marysville Gold Sox. The iconic David Lynch TV series (its third season is screening on Showtime now, 26 years after its second season ended on ABC) had no baseball angle; instead, characters skipped football practice, tried out for the cheerleading squad, and wrestled rivals who had “quads like bridge supports.” But who cares? Portland is prime Peaks territory, and one of the team’s owners is also cofounder of an LA-based marketing agency that claims Showtime as a client, so the brand synergy is off the charts. Plus, there’s free pie from Shari’s (not the show’s tantalizing RR Café, alas), costumes are encouraged, the first 400 fans get a sheriff’s department beanie, and there’s a nod to the Black Lodge after the game, when kids get to run the bases, backwards.
Sunday, June 11, brings a doubleheader whose games are separated by, oh, about 150 years. Before the Pickles face the Chico Heat at 5:05 p.m., the Pioneer Base Ball Club of Portland meets the Willamettes of West Linn to play by rules from the 1860s, when the newfangled sport of “base ball” was two words, balls had a different size and stitch pattern, and players wore no gloves. Formed in 1866, the PBBC was the first baseball team in the Pacific Northwest and included shopkeepers, a lawyer, a saloonkeeper, and a man who would eventually perish in the Titanic sinking. “Portland had baseball before it had running water and paved streets,” says the re-created team’s current captain and catcher, Blaise Lamphier. Your Pickles ticket gets you into the stadium early for the old-time game, starting at 2:15 p.m. “We try to balance historical accuracy with having fun,” says Lamphier, who notes that 1860s-rules games are free of one modern sports interruption: “The pace can be quick—we don’t have to wait for commercials.”
The promo calendar is fleshed out with plenty of usual suspects—bobbleheads, T-shirt giveaways, fireworks. But June 24 hops back to the past again with a nod to the 1970s for Portland Mavericks Night, celebrating Bing Russell’s fun-loving independent squad that inspired a 2014 documentary.
Time warp? You bet. And come to think of it, a Rocky Horror promo night would fit right in.