Chinooks honor local legend before falling in 14-inning Alaska Baseball League marathon
Even with a record crowd on hand there was still more than enough baseball to go around Thursday night at Lee Jordan Field.
Unfortunately for Fish fans, Malcom Tipler’s 2-run single in the top of the 14th inning put a damper on an otherwise dreamlike night at the ballpark as the Anchorage Glacier Pilots took a 3-1 win in the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks’ home opener.
An announced crowd of more than 600 fans showed up for a game that included a special pregame ceremony to honor Jordan, who died just after New Year’s at the age of 88. Jordan’s family was in attendance, including his widow Barabara, who was presented with a special memorial proclamation from the Alaska Legislature. The game even featured a starting pitcher from Chugiak — even if he did suit up for the other guys.
Jordan helped found the Knik Little League in 1963 and was the founder and longtime editor/publisher of the Chugiak-Eagle River (Alaska) Star newspaper.
“Everywhere he looked he saw the need for development, and Little League baseball was the first beneficiary,” said Chinooks ballpark announcer Dave Stroh.
Jordan’s lifelong support of local baseball culminated in his support of an effort to bring the collegiate Alaska Baseball League to his adopted hometown in 2012, when the the nonprofit Athletes in Action Fire needed a new location to call home. The renamed Chinooks have been located within the Loretta French Park complex ever since, and the field where the team plays was named for Jordan in 2014.
Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer praised Jordan, whose legacy in the area is unmatched.
“Not only was he a dreamer, but he was a doer,” Meyer said of Jordan, who briefly served as mayor when Chugiak-Eagle River attempted to break from the Municipality of Anchorage in late 1974.
Meyer said the picturesque park alongside the Old Glenn Highway is an ideal setting to honor Jordan’s legacy.
“I truly believe this is the field of dreams,” Meyer said.
Barbara Jordan was given a bouquet of flowers by Chinooks manager Jon Groth and she got a hug from the team’s general manager Chris Beck.
Jordan’s son, Steve, said the pregame ceremony was deeply touching.
“My dad was always so moved especially when they named this park after him because he never expected anything like this. He never expected things to grow so big and to be so important to the community,” Jordan said. “So we know he’s probably looking down and he’s probably got a tear in his eye like he did a couple years ago. So thank you for all of that. And if he was here right now I think he’d say, ‘You know kids, keep your eye on the ball, keep your glove on the ground and keep your hands off the treats until the game is over.’”
Knik Little League coaching coordinator Sandra Mullen thanked the Jordan family on behalf of the local youth league, which has grown to including more than 500 participants — many of whom were in attendance Thursday wearing Little League uniforms and chasing foul balls at the intimate field nestled at the foot of the Chugach Mountains.
“We appreciate everything Lee did for our league and for our town,” Mullen said. “We thank Barbara and the rest of the Jordan family for sharing Lee with the baseball community. We know he’s watching and cheering for all the ballplayers from heaven.”
If that was the case, Jordan must have been rooting alongside Ernie Banks, because the teams nearly played two.
The Pilots’ only runs came in the first and last innings of the game. Anchorage (1-0) opened the scoring when Calicdan scored on an RBI single by Spencer Erdman off Chinooks starter Sam Brace.
The Chinooks (1-1) scratched across an unearned run to tie the game in the fourth off Glacier Pilots starter Cody Curfman — a second-year Glacier Pilot and a local product who graduated from Chugiak High in 2016.
Nine innings of scoreless baseball followed the Chinooks’ one-run fourth and neither starter factored in the decision. Hunter Rigsby struck out five batters over five scoreless innings to finish the game and earn the win.
The Chinooks used six hurlers, with Daniel Freeman giving up two runs on four hits over the four-hour game’s final two innings to take the loss in a game that ended at 11:05 p.m. There are no lights at Lee Jordan Field, but fortunately the sun doesn’t set until around 11:30 p.m. this time of year in Chugiak.
The Chinooks do get a bit of a break after their marathon Thursday night; the team is off until Sunday, June 9 at 2 p.m. against the Anchorage Bucs at Lee Jordan Field.