Lou Almada, dead at 98: Elder of Seattle baseball
Lou Almada went extra innings, finally passing away last week. He was 98, believed to be Seattle's oldest surviving pro baseball player up to that point.
He was an outfielder for the Seattle Indians of the old Pacific Coast League from 1929-32, running down fly balls on the grassless surface of the now defunct Civic Stadium.
"The only problem was he was on poor ballclubs playing on that rock pile at Civic Stadium," said Edo Vanni, 87, a clubhouse boy when Almada played in the city. "That didn't do him justice. He was an outstanding player."
Almada, who pitched at times, spent 11 seasons in the PCL, also playing for the Hollywood Stars and the San Francisco Mission Reds. He had a .306 lifetime batting average.
He left Seattle in '32 under unique circumstances. He brought his younger brother, Mel, with him to training camp and got beat out for a starting job by his sibling, and left for the Mission Reds at midseason.
He had a few nicknames, but none was more endearing than "Ladies Night Lou" -- a label picked up for hitting well over .400 in Thursday games in which women were let in for half price.
Almada was born in Mexico and raised in Los Angeles, where he turned down football scholarship offers from USC and Notre Dame to pursue pro baseball. He gained widespread attention by striking out Babe Ruth in a 1927 exhibition game in L.A.
He was signed by the New York Giants for $5,000 and made the big league roster. His goal was to become the first Mexican-born player in the majors, but he was injured on a barnstorming tour before the season and never appeared in a regular-season game at the top level.
His brother, Mel, collected that ethnic baseball honor.
Almada was brought to Seattle for the 1999 opening of Safeco Field. It was then he was reunited with Vanni, who used to shine his shoes in the clubhouse.
"He was a good tipper," Vanni recalled with a laugh.
Almada, who died Sept. 16, will have a funeral mass at the San Carlos Cathedral on Saturday in Monterey, Calif.