Northwest League (1977-1981)
Born: 1977 – Northwest League expansion franchise
Affiliation Change: 1982 (Salem Angels)
The Salem Senators were an independent franchise (i.e. no Major League parent club) in the short-season Class A Northwest League. The Senators were a brand revival of Salem’s earlier Senators team, which played in the city from 1940 until 1960. Stockton, California businessman Carl Thompson founded the team in 1977. Thompson and his wife Noreen owned several low-level minor league clubs in California and the Pacific Northwest during the 1970’s, typically running the clubs as independents, which allowed Thompson to appoint himself field manager.
The Thompsons’ operation was a ramshackle effort to put it mildly. The Sens’ shared a Little League field during their first season. Carl Thompson threatened to cancel a 1977 game over a dispute with the local Parrish Little League over who would pay $75 for liability insurance at Holland Youth Park. The game only proceeded after Northwest League Commissioner Bob Richmond forked over the seventy-five bucks himself. The Sens’ rarely drew more than a couple hundred fans a night.
Carl Thompson ran out of money midway through the Sens’ second season in the summer of 1978. He released a number of players, including the Northwest League batting leader, and made noises about folding the team mid-summer. He was soon forced to sell by the Northwest League. A local group led by mobile home dealer Ben Yates stepped up and backstopped the Sens through the end of the season.
The Sens muddled along as an independent operation for five seasons through the summer of 1981. In 1982 the California Angels became Salem’s parent club and re-branded the ball club as the Salem Angels.
Only two Senators players ever advanced to the Major Leagues. Catcher Darryl Cias (Sens ’78) had a cup of coffee with the Oakland A’s in 1983. Infielder Sap Randall (Sens ’81) got into four games for the White Sox in 1988.
Improbably, the franchise that Carl Thompson entered into the Northwest League in 1977 remains in Salem to this day. After numerous subsequent affiliation changes and re-brands, the team is known today as the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.