Goldpanners Through the Years

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Goldpanners Through the Years

Fall 1959 – University of Alaska-Fairbanks basketball coach Ray Wheeler meets with Fairbanks newcomer H.A. (Red) Boucher about sponsoring a team in the North of the Range League.  Local sports broadcaster Bill Walley, later mayor of Fairbanks, becomes involved in organization.

Spring 1960 – New North of the Range League team debuts as Pan Alaska Goldpanners. Local players are buoyed by five freshman from Coach Frank Sancet’s University of Arizona team. Among those is pitching stalwart George Mies, a resident of Alaska to this day.

August 1962 – Boucher takes his team to the National Baseball Congress Tournament in Wichita, KS. Tournament founder Hap Dumont seeds Panners 33rd in a 32-team field, recognizing the promotional aspect of a team from Alaska. Panners astound all finishing second to Wichita Dreamliners. Team members build what is now Growden Park.

Spring 1963 – Boucher realizes to reach greater goals he must have community support and forms an eight-man Board of Directors to help raise funds and awareness. Among those who agree is Bill Stroecker of First National Bank, who still serves as team President and also attorney Charlie Cole, who became Chairman of the Board of Directors in 2010. Others of major importance to the rise of the team included Tom Miklautsch, Wally Burnett and C.W. “Bill” Snedden, publisher of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Team name is changed to Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks.

June 1963 – Wichita Dreamliners become the first “outside” team to visit the Goldpanners and take part in the annual Midnight Sun Game following their national championship win over the Goldpanners in 1962.

July 1963 – Don Dennis of Grand Junction, CO, contacts Boucher about scheduling the Goldpanners in the Colorado city en route to Wichita. Contact came about when Dennis was visiting Basin League games in Winner, S.D., and picked up a Sunday Omaha World Herald, which had one paragraph story about Wichita team playing in something called the Midnight Sun Game in Alaska.

August 1963 – Goldpanners stop at Grand Junction during the team’s first barnstorming trip to Wichita. Grand Junction manager Sam Suplizio joins the Panners for the national tournament and wins the Most Valuable Player award as Panners finish third.

June 1964 – Grand Junction Eagles become second outside team to play in Midnight Sun Game.   Growden Park is dedicated by Alaska’s first governor, Bill Egan. Growden is outfitted with a lighting system and a Grand Junction-Goldpanners game becomes the first lighted outdoor sporting event in Alaskan history. Grand Junction’s visit was on the heels of the Good Friday Earthquake and a freak mid-June snowstorm in Fairbanks.

August 1964- Strong Goldpanners team just misses again in Wichita with runnerup finish. Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver is a mainstay on Panners’ staff, but suffers successive defeats in visit to Grand Junction when a then unhearalded Frank Carbajal is imported by Don Dennis to oppose Seaver.

October 3, 1964 – Dave Dowling becomes the first Goldpanner to reach the major leagues of baseball.  In his debut with St. Louis, Dowling throws a scoreless inning.

June 1965 – Rick Monday, an outfielder on the Goldpanners’ 1964 team, makes history as the first player selected in the first ever Major League Baseball player draft. Goldpanners place fourth at national tournament.

August 1966 – Goldpanners represented USA in World Tournament in Honolulu and claimed world title by beating Kumagai-Gumi, the World Amateur Champions.  While on the island, Goldpanners also won Hawaii Invitational Tournament.

June 1967 – Japanese champion Kumagai-Gumi visits Fairbanks for eight-game Midnight Sun series. Fairbanks wins 7 of 8, but loses the annual sun game. MSG reports record 5,200 in attendance.  Two games are played at Mulcahy Park in Anchorage.

August 1967 – Chena River floods and Growden Park is destroyed. Grandstand and press box under construction is not completed. Fairbanks was due to host the Babe Ruth World Series but due to flood the event was relocated to Anchorage.

September 1967 – Following the devastating flood Boucher, now the Mayor of Fairbanks, contacts Dennis in Colorado about coming to Fairbanks to act as the chief operating officer of the team while doubling as a sports editor at a new newspaper, Jessen’s Daily. Dennis arrives in Fairbanks the day after Thanksgiving.

Spring 1968 – Major reconstruction of Growden Park is undertaken. The field was leveled by the flood and all equipment lost. Team records were also lost. Board member Barney Kopf heads the rebuilding effort.

July 1968 – Dennis agrees with Anchorage resident Joe Keenan that the 1968 Alaska NBC Tournament can be staged in Anchorage. Only two games are scheduled for the best-of-three series and the Panners pound a group of local all-stars. Purpose, however, was to raise funds and awareness for a competitive Anchorage team and 5,000 turn out for the day.

August 1968 – Goldpanners make 17-day, 7-city goodwill tour of Japan.  Side trip tours Hiroshima.

June 1969 – Anchorage Glacier Pilots take the field. Chapman College coach Paul Deese heads the effort.

August 1969 – Glacier Pilots squeeze past Goldpanners and win Alaska’s first NBC championship. In semifinals Pilots get only one hit out of the infield (a two-run single by Chris Chambliss) but still prevail 8-7.

Spring 1970 – Boucher steps aside as Goldpanners manager and is honored at the annual Midnight Sun Game. Residents of Fairbanks place thousands of signatures on a 40-foot scroll in his honor. Lyle Olsen of San Diego State is named field manager and Jim Dietz of the University of Oregon is enlisted as assistant coach.

August 1970 – Olsen resigns as Goldpanners manager and Dietz is elevated to the position.

November 1970 – Boucher is elected Alaska’s first Lieutenant Governor (name change for the office from Secretary of State).

August 1971 – Anchorage wins second NBC title, edging Goldpanners 5-4. A freak bases-loaded play secures the game for the Pilots, who featured future Cy Young winner Randy Jones in the game. Future Hall of Fame player Dave Winfield pitches and plays the outfield for the Goldpanners.

July 1972 – Goldpanners travel to Haarlem, Holland, to take part in Honkbal Tournament, featuring the Cuba National Team. Cuba squeezes in eighth inning run to beat Goldpanners and goes on to win the tournament.

August 1972 – Goldpanners break through under Dietz and win first NBC championship as the team wins 30 of 37 games after Holland trip. Championship game is won on seventh inning solo home run by catcher Steve Swisher of Ohio University. University of San Diego’s Kerry Dineen is tourney MVP.

August 1973 – Goldpanners go back-to-back in Wichita with a 10-6 win over Liberal, KS in title game. BYU’s Lee Iorg is named tourney MVP and he, Santa Clara’s Gene Delyon, and Oklahoma’s Kenny King blast home runs in the rout. After Wichita the Panners win International Tournament in Kamloops, B.C., Canada.

October 1973 – Dennis, Deese and Fairbanks attorney Ed Merdes visit Kenai service clubs and elected officials with pitch for a third Alaska team. Getting good response Deese takes the lead in formation of the team by hiring Chapman coach Bob Pomeroy.

June 1974 – Peninsula Oilers of Kenai debut in four-game series hosting Goldpanners. Three teams band together for formation of Alaska Baseball League. Emmett Ashford, Major League Baseball’s first black umpire, is head umpire and commissioner of the league.

August 1974 – Goldpanners make it a three-peat in Wichita with the NBC championship, a 7-5 win over Boulder, CO, Collegians. Second baseman Jeff Ellison of San Diego Mesa blasts a fourth inning grand slam home run to set the pace. Outfielder Steve Kemp of the University of Southern California is named tourney MVP.

September 1974 – Panners repeat as champions of the international tournament in Kamloops.  Pitcher Floyd Bannister of Arizona State pulls the improbable feat of winning three games in one day on the final day of the Kamloops event to secure the title. Powerful team wins 62 games while breaking more than 100 team records and hitting 135 home runs.

August 1975 – Goldpanners are beaten in the national championship game by Boulder, CO, 6-4. Team goes three-in-a-row at International Tournament in Kamloops. Stanford lefty John Yandle in named MVP at Kamloops.

November 1975 – A meeting among Dennis, Merdes and Alaska State Fair manager John Hale in Fairbanks leads to the formation of the fourth Alaska League team to be known as the Valley Green Giants of Palmer. Sen. Jan Koslosky of Palmer is only investor outside of Fairbanks.

June 1976 – Green Giants are managed by UCLA’s Gary Adams and play on home field at state fairgrounds only two months after start of construction. Hermon Brothers Construction rescues wobbly effort and field is named in its honor.

July 1976 – Goldpanners win the first National Invitational Tournament in Pueblo, CO, by defeating no one less than the fledgling Valley Green Giants. Giants had to dispose of Colorado heavyweights Boulder and Grand Junction to make final game.

August 1976 – Goldpanners defeat Pilots in classic 10-inning, 2-0, NBC championship game at Wichita. Panners’ Greg Harris outduels Pilots’ Dan Boone in a true “game for the ages” as both had two-hit shutouts through nine innings. Harris is named MVP of the national en route to 15-win season, still the record for a Panners righthander. Strong post-Wichita team wins fourth straight Kamloops tournament due to a key error.

August 1977 – Goldpanners reach 7th consecutive national championship game but lose in 11 innings to the Kenai Oilers. The loss came despite having beating Kenai for the Alaska League title, Alaska State Championship title, and NBC regional title in Pueblo, CO. Kamloops changes dates of international tournament so Goldpanners split squad makes a three-province road trip and claims their fifth-straight Kamloops tourney to cap it off.

September 1977 – Alaska League teams agree to bypass Wichita in 1978 with Panners and Pilots joining to host a new tournament, dubbed World Crown Tournament by Pilots’ GM Jack Brushert.

January 1978 – Jim Dietz is forced to resign as manager of the Goldpanners due to illness in the family. LaVerne College Coach Ben Hines is named successor. He adds LA Valley College Coach Dave Snow and former big league pitcher Dick Selma to his staff.

August 1978 – Goldpanners capture the first of five successive Alaska League championships under Hines. Valley Green Giants are surprise winners of the first World Crown Tournament, which features an international field. Washington State University Coach Charles “Bobo” Brayton leads Goldpanners split squad into Kamloops event but team falls short.

August 1979 – Second World Crown Tournament is a huge success on the field but week-long bad weather in Anchorage spells financial doom. Brushert and Joe Armstrong of Anchorage also with Dennis and Les Gunderson of Fairbanks, sign bank note to pay off nearly $35,000 in losses for the two years of the tournament. Pilots and Kenai withdraw from the Alaska League however Pilots and Panners continue to work together to retire debt.

September 1979 – Lack of local support causes Goldpanners to withdraw underwriting support of Palmer team. With the folding of the Valley Green Giants the Alaska League, under Commissioner Emmitt Wilson, admits new members the Cook Inlet Bucs of Anchorage and North Pole Nicks.

June 1980 – Alaska League welcomes two new members in the Bucs, managed by Dennis Mattingly, and the Nicks, managed by Jerry McClain of Santa Clara, former manager of the Green Giants.

August 1980 – Goldpanners power to their fifth National Baseball Congress championship in a decade (also runnerup three times and did not participate twice) with an 8-4 victory over Liberal, KS, and its pitching star, Oral Roberts’ Mike Moore. Center fielder Kevin McReynolds of the University of Arkansas is named Most Valuable Player of team generally regarded as the strongest in Goldpanners history.

September 1980 – North Pole caps off its first season by going to Canada and winning the International Tournament. McClain’s Nicks lost the opening game before reeling off seven straight wins for the title. The first year Nicks also distinguished themselves in winning four games from Fairbanks as the Panners lost only nine times the entire season.

July 1981 – Goldpanners win fifth straight league title.  The streak would run to eight years.

September 1982 – Hines resigns as Goldpanners manager to accept a position with the California Angels and Snow, Hines’ assistant in 1978-79, is named manager. Snow named Cerritos College Coach George Horton as his assistant.

August 1983 – Goldpanners win 6th straight Alaska League title and finish second in the NBC Tournament, losing to Grand Rapids, MI, in what was considered one of the biggest upsets in team history. Team featured the “million dollar outfield” of Oddibe McDowell, Shane Mack, and Mark Davis —  with Barry Bonds forced to play first base due to the excess of talent.

August 1984 – Goldpanners win another Alaska League title, 8th straight, and finish third in national tournament. Snow resigns due to pressure of his new position as head coach at Loyola Marymount University.

September 1985 – Tim Kelly — former Panners assistant under Hines in 1980, along with Don Sneddon — is named field manager. Kelly tabs fellow ASU assistant Bill Schmidt as his assistant coach.

October 1985 – Panners’ Dennis and Bucs’ Mattingly visit Hawai’i University Coach Les Murakama and Don Takaki of Hawai’i Island Movers and Movers team is admitted to the Alaska League. Additionally, WSU’s Brayton applies for membership of a summer team to be known as Palouse Empire Cougars and is admitted. League is divided into two divisions with Pilots and Oilers along with emerging Mat-Su Miners taking part.

Spring 1986 – Kelly resigns to accept professional scouting job and Dave Snow is renamed Panners manager with Mike Weathers, head coach at Chapman College, to assist. Then in early June after leading Loyola to its first College World Series appearance a tired Snow decides to pass on Alaska and Weathers is promoted to head coach. He picks Larry Corrigan and Mike Grahovac as assistants.

August 1986 – Goldpanners power way to only unbeaten slot in NBC tourney but are upset 2-1 in 10 innings by Grand Rapids, MI. Goldpanners split squad participates in U.S. Open Tournament in Hawai’i with former Hines assistant Rick Oliver leading the team.

October 1986 – Goldpanners announce they will forgo the Wichita tournament and only take part in the U.S. Open for 1987.

August 1987 – In a stunning setback, Japanese champion team scores five times in the bottom of the ninth inning to snatch U.S. Open title in Honolulu.

Fall 1987 – Anchorage Bucs announce they will take 1988 season off to reorganize.

Spring 1988 – On May 17, the Mat-Su Miners announce it cannot operate in 1988 due to financial problems. Three days later the Anchorage Glacier Pilots also fold for the 1988 season. The day after that the North Pole Nicks shut down operations. The schedule is quickly revised as only Kenai and Fairbanks remain in the league from Alaska. The Palouse Empire Cougars of Washington State and Hawai’i had been added and the San Francisco Senators were quickly added to set up a five-team race.

June 1988 – Bret Boone becomes the all-time first second generation Goldpanner. His father Bob played in 1966-67-68 and was voted the most popular Goldpanner ever.

August 1988 – Goldpanners march unbeaten to the championship of the U.S. Open Championship in Lake Tahoe, CA. Former Panner and major league star Dave Kingman opposes Panners in title game and blasts home run in 12-2 loss.

September 1988 – Weathers resigns as field manager after successful three-year run. Former Panner player Pat Harrison, coach of The Master’s College, is named field manager. He selects Gary Henderson, head coach at Chapman College, as his chief assistant.

Spring 1989 – Bucs, Pilots and Miners return to Alaska League. North Pole fields team but does not compete for league title.

August 1989 – Strong-starting Panners (22-5 on July 5) falter in finals of U.S. Open. Harrison leaves team and Jim Dietz is rehired to take over the Panner team he last managed in 1977.

August 1990 – Panners win U.S. Open Tournament in Ontario, CA. Jason Giambi leads club with .377 average.

August 1991 – Panners cruise to title of first National Shootout Tournament at Amarillo, TX. The 47-14 team settles for second place at U.S. Open in Carson City, NV. Bill Dunckel and Todd Pridy battle for batting crown, Dunckel winning with an even .400 average (Pridy .398).

January 1992 – Tom Seaver becomes the first Goldpanner elected to the MLB Hall of Fame, becoming the all-time leading percentage leader, receiving 98.84% of the vote.

July 1992 – Goldpanners suffer first losing season since inception when 11 games against inferior opponents are cancelled at the end of the season.

Spring 1993 – Alaska teams agree to informal association of teams to play like number of games in Alaska Federation.

August 1993 – Panners organize new post-season event in San Diego, known as the Grand National Tournament. Panners dispose of Ukraine National Team but lose title game to San Diego Stars.

Spring 1994 – Dietz ends 11-year managerial stint with the team.  Dietz posts 485 victories and captures four NBC titles along with two U.S. Opens, National Invitational Tournament, and National Shootout titles along with five Kamloops International Tournament wins, making him the most successful manager ever at the highest levels of amateur ball.  Rick Baumann, coach at Treasure Valley College in Oregon, named to head team.

August 1994 – Panners again finish second in Grand National Tournament.  Baumann leaves as field manager and is succeeded by former Panner player Stacey Parker.

August 1996 – Goldpanners finish second in International Tournament at Kelowna, B.C., Canada but suffer second losing season in team history.

February 1997 – Former big league coach Don Leppert is named to replace Parker.  Former Milwaukee Brewers mound ace Dwight Bernard is named pitching coach.

August 1997 – Talented team finishes second at Kelowna.  Leppert departs and former Panner player and North Pole Manager Dan Cowgill is selected to head team into new century.

November 1997 – Mattingly, Dennis and Jack Slama, Teamsters Union official, huddle in Seattle airport hotel and hammer out agreement to Kenai, Pilots and Miners rejoin the Alaska League as full members.

August 2000 – Goldpanners return to NBC Tournament in Wichita but are eliminated in two straight games.  Cowgill resigns and is replaced by Chris Jones, coach at San Antonio College.

February 2001 – Dave Winfield became the second Goldpanners elected to the MLB Hall of Fame, leading all voting with 84.5% of the vote.  Mentions Fairbanks experience during his induction speech.

June 2001 – Goldpanners represented by two first-round draft picks in the amateur draft. Aaron Heilman (98) is drafted 18th overall by the Mets, and Bobby Crosby (99) is taken 25th overall by the Athletics.

August 2001 – Jones leads Panners to co-championship of Alaska Invitational Tournament but leaves the Panners and highly successful Lewis-Clark State College coach Ed Cheff is named successor.

August 2002 – Cheff caps off his first season leading the Panners to the team’s record sixth National Baseball Congress championship, beating the Anchorage Pilots, who the Goldpanners edged by one-half game to win the Alaska League.  The Goldpanners beat the Pilots twice in the tournament on the strength of two come-from-behind victories, including the title game.  Blake Gill of LSU is named MVP of Wichita Tourney.  The Goldpanners becomes the first club of any sport to broadcasting an entire season live online with audio and video

“The Goldpanners are the Yankees of the NBC” – Bob Lutz

August 2003 – Strong Goldpanners team repeats as Alaska champion and knocks off rugged Republic of China National Team in the NBC Tournament 5-4, but it is the only loss for the Chinese as they rebound to sweep to the NBC championship.

August 2004 – Unbelievable Alaska League race goes into the final day of the season with four teams in the running.  Panners win outright with a victory but lose to Mat-Su and due to tie-breaking rules wind up fourth with Mat-Su and Bucs tying for the title.

June 2005 – Fairbanks product Sean Timmons lands in Major League Baseball Hall of Fame by pitching and winning his third Midnight Sun Game in the 100th renewal of the event.  Panners dominate the Alaska League but settle for fourth place in NBC tournament.

Spring 2007 – Ed Cheff decides not to return to Fairbanks and in mid-March former Panner player Tim Gloyd, coach at Yuba College, is named to head Goldpanners.

June 21, 2007 – The Goldpanners 14-year Midnight Sun Game winnings streak snapped by the Oceanside, CA, Waves – a club managed by Fairbanksan Mike Studer.

August 2007 – Gloyd and Panners make strong run at end of the season to place third in the Alaska League.

Spring 2008 – Gloyd returns to head team as Panners launch 49th consecutive season playing north of the range.

June 21, 2008 – Bill “Spaceman” Lee returns to Fairbanks to avenge his 1967 Midnight Sun Game loss.  Wins epic contest to even record at 1-1.  During stay, Lee refers to Goldpanners as “the number one team in amateur baseball history.”

July 12, 2009 – Jim Dietz skippers the Goldpanners to three wins in a single day (for the second time) to capture the Kamloops International Baseball Tournament.  It is the sixth KBIT championship for the Panners, which ties their number of tourney titles at the NBC World Series – a record number for both events (which still stands).  Barnstorming tour finishes in Wichita, Kansas for ceremonial opening game of the 75th NBC World Series.

Summer 2010: Jim Dietz returns to Fairbanks for his 13th year with the club.  The Stroecker/Dennis management team enters its 43rd (and final) year in charge of team operations.

Winter 2010-2011:  Seven key members of the Goldpanners organization perish during the club’s darkest winter season.  The “Sacred Seven” represented a major part of team operations: William G. Stroecker (46-year team president – son of Midnight Sun Game founder – “Five Decade Man”); Robert Francis (team salesman); Al Hines (longtime board member and host parent); Dave Swanson (all-time greatest supporter); Mike Lawless (board member); J. Michael Carroll (longtime supporter); Sam Woodke (Gaming MIC).

Summer 2011: Goldpanners embark on West Coast barnstorming trip, playing down the Interstate 5 corridor to great reception.

Summer 2012: Jim Dietz compiles his 15th winning season with the Goldpanners.  Retires as the winningest coach in summer baseball history.

2013: Three pennants solidify the club’s reputation as undisputed champions.  The first championship was at the Barona Bash Invitational Tournament in San Diego.  Once in Alaska, a Fairbanks record of 22 wins and 4 losses catapulted the Goldpanners to the Alaska Baseball League regular season championship.  The ABL “Top of the World” Series title was also taken by the club, as they swept the Anchorage Glacier Pilots in Anchorage.

2014: The 55th season of Goldpanners baseball resulted in a repeat of the ABL championship, along with the American Division championship.  The Alaska “Top of the World Series” was won with a sweep of the Mat-Su Miners.  The Panners rode into Wichita, KS, for the 80th NBC World Series, finally being eliminated in 7th place nationwide by Fairbanksan Mike Studer’s Oceanside (CA) Waves.

2015: Following on the footsteps of seven titles in the previous two years, the Goldpanners opt for a developmental season in order to focus on the future.  First-time head coach Jeff Stephens, graduate of Cal. Irvine, is brought on board to lead young group of prospects.  Stephens orchestrates sweep of eventual national champion Seattle Studs in Midnight Sun Series.

2016: The Goldpanners embrace their barmstorming roots by going independent.  Season opening series against national champion Seattle Studs in Tacoma a resounding success, with the Panners winning three of four.  Highlight of the series was an exhibition played at the triple-A Tacoma Rainiers home Cheney Stadium.  Goldpanners win every season series except one, including a rout of the ABL Kenai Peninsula Oilers in the Midnight Sun Series.  Seventh place finish in the NBC World Series solidifies club’s independent success, followed by the free agent signing of Isaiah Aluko by the Minnesota Twins.  The Goldpanners become the first team of any sport to broadcast an entire season live on Facebook.