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Ryan Beil: Checking in with the ghosts of Northwest League past

A little nostalgia for the two teams that were dropped from the league. 
The Boise Hawks were once part of the same league as the Vancouver Canadians.

The Northwest League we know, love, and revere today has existed in some form or another since 1890. That’s the year Wyoming became a state! This may seem to be a fairly irrelevant historical factoid for this column, but it's one of the only historical factoids I could find that wasn’t a complete and total downer; 1890 was…not a fun-filled year.

But worry not, dear reader. This is not going to be a sorrowful essay about 1890. This is a fun column about baseball! With a gentle sprinkling of history mixed in. 

The Northwest League has seen many changes, adjustments, and developments over the years. One of the more recent changes, adjustments, and developments was the promotion of the league to the level of High-A in 2020 when it also went from eight teams to six. 

While I do love having a higher level of professional baseball in the city to enjoy, I can’t help but sometimes miss the old eight-team circuit and feel nostalgia for the two teams that were dropped from the league. 

So today, I thought we’d pay a little homage and do a little checking in on two baseball teams I used to love to boo when they came to town. The Boise Hawks and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. 

The Boise Hawks

Founded in 1987, the Boise Hawks are Idaho’s premiere baseball franchise. In my opinion. I don’t actually know what the rest of the baseball landscape looks like in Idaho, but I stand by my assertion. Hopefully, I don’t get too many angry letters from Meridian, which is another city in Idaho. 

I really miss the Hawks. There was something about them that made them so fun to cheer against. They had an air of villainy about them. Maybe it was the graphite-coloured road uniforms or the hats with talon scratch marks on them?

More likely it’s because they share a name with the bad-guy team from The Mighty Ducks movie franchise.   

Whatever it was, I always loved it when the Hawks would fly into town. And that’s just a bird reference. These Hawks played minor league baseball. These Hawks rode the bus. 

Fun fact. Wayne Gretzky’s son Trevor played a season with Boise - 2013 to be exact. I was at a home game that year where The Great One himself dropped in to watch his son play ball. There were more eyes on the stands than on the field that day. And some very creative heckles for Trevor to endure. Or so I’ve been told…

The Hawks currently reside in the Independent Pioneer League, and played in the championship series in 2021. They unfortunately lost 2 games to 1 to the Missoula Paddleheads which is just a fantastic name for a ballclub. 

The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes

First and foremost: I love a hyphenated sports team. Why play for only one geographic area when you can have multiple? It just seems like good business. 

Secondly, I love it when sports teams really go for it with their nicknames. What’s more powerful and devastating than a volcano? An earthquake? A meteor shower? A solar flare? You tell me. 

The Volcanoes are also still playing baseball and are actually charter members of the Mavericks Independent Baseball League, which is a four-team, independent league entirely based in the Salem Metropolitan Statistical Area and play all their home games at the same stadium. Which is pretty awesome. 

Who knows? Maybe one day the current Northwest League will expand beyond six clubs and we could see one or both of these teams again. But that’s not likely. 

For now, they live in our memories. And in their respective cities. But the next time you’re at the Nat, maybe take a moment to remember the Volcanoes and the Hawks and all the joy they brought us when the C’s would thump them. 

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