Seattle Pilots Documentary and Randy's Diner: Separated at Birth (and Death)

Seattle's original Major League Baseball franchise wasn't burdened by a corny nickname and Bobby Ayala.
The Dinner: French toast at Randy's, an old, kitschy 24-hour diner located just south of the Museum of Flight and the soon-to-be condemned South Park Bridge--or on Boeing Field, more or less.

The Movie: The Seattle Pilots: Short Flight Into History, available for purchase exclusively as a DVD at

The Screenplate: On June 14, Seattle's own Jason Reid (who shoots the "Music on the Ferry" series for SW's music blog, Reverb, as well as the occasinal multimedia assignment) and his Sonicsgate cohorts will be honored in New York City with a Webby, the online world's answer to Oscar. Their exhaustively researched documentary about the Sonics' 40-plus years in Seattle was made available for free to anyone who wanted to download it, and it generated enough heat to be featured on an ESPN segment.

It's doubtful The Seattle Pilots: A Short Flight Into History will receive anywhere near the attention of Reid's film. With the subsequent arrival of the Mariners, Seattle's original MLB franchise was swiftly scrubbed from most casual fans' memories, and the Pilots played their games on Rainier Avenue in Sicks Stadium, a glorified minor league park on whose former grounds now sits a huge hardware store.

The Sonics endured for over 40 years and won a championship--plenty of fodder for a two-hour documentary (Reid edited it down from an original cut of four hours). The Pilots lasted all of one season (1969), making it a challenge for filmmakers Steve Cox and Brad Powers to stretch the film to its 84 minutes. But it's an informative and enjoyable effort, even if the film is nowhere near as polished as Sonicsgate, which itself isn't an exceptionally refined film (for any of Reid's films to fit such a characterization would be to strip them of his unique charm).

The Pilots' ultimate flight to Milwaukee (they became the Brewers in 1970) was nowhere near as sour as the hijacking of the Sonics. If Major League Baseball was liable for anything, it was not properly screening the team's cash-strapped owners. (In fact, a court of law did find MLB liable for just that; hence, the Mariners.) The owners sucked, the stadium sucked (by professional standards), and the team sucked, mainly because the general manager sucked so badly that he traded the player who would become that season's rookie of the year to Kansas City during spring training. That player? Lou Piniella, whose encore performance a few decades down the line turned him into an Emerald City legend.

But the sucking made for plenty of playful mischief, and Cox and Powers, through the memories of former players like Jim (Ball Four) Bouton and Greg Goossen, milk it for all its worth. Goossen, for one, is a particularly compelling character, spinning borderline incomprehensible yarns about drunken, post-game carousing, and how he got more ass telling "broads" he flew planes for TWA than playing on a pro baseball team named for such tradesmen. It's also abundantly clear that "Goose" has remained friends with the likes of Evan Williams and Jack Daniels. Great guys, those two.

Randy's, in some incarnation, was around when Goosen roamed the outfield (poorly, by his own admission). It, and not Boeing's glass palace up the road, is the original Museum of Flight, with aviation manuals strewn about the diner and model planes hanging from the fans. Its employees, not its sausage, are locally sourced, and its regulars, not the omelets, are well-seasoned.

But the French toast? The French toast is, indeed, "grilled to perfection," as the menu boasts. And besides, you're here more for the atmosphere than to be blown away by the kitchen's prowess. The same could have been said for Pilot diehards, however few there were.

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