Herbert Simpson, Surviving Member of Seattle’s West Coast Negro League Team Honored by Seattle Mariners
While most of us know Ken Griffey Jr. and the historical impact he had on Seattle, few of us knew the name Herbert Simpson – until this weekend.
At 92, he is the only known surviving member of the Seattle Steelheads, a West Coast Negro League team which folded in 1946. Returning to Seattle, Herbert was honored by the Seattle Mariners prior to their August 10, 2013, game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
His recognition was part of Ken Griffey Junior’s Hall of Fame Induction Weekend and African American Heritage Day at Safeco Field.
Though his time spent in Seattle was brief, he remembers it fondly. The Advocate, a local newspaper from Herbert’s hometown, New Orleans, recently said:
Simpson, however, said one of the things he remembers most about his time with the team was the support of the fans at Seattle Stadium.
“Our fans regularly came to the games,” he said. “But when we went to other cities, like Portland and San Francisco, there were not many people in the stands. A lot of times in those places, it was rainy and cold.”
Simpson had been to Germany while in the Army during World War II, but he said his time in Seattle was interesting for a 25-year-old from the Deep South. There was no segregation, he said. Or if it existed there, he didn’t see it.
“Seattle was really nice,” he said. “The people treated us real good. We didn’t have any problems.”
However, that wasn’t the only thing that made for an easy adjustment to Seattle, a port city.
“It reminded me of New Orleans,” he said. “The food was similar to New Orleans. There was a lot of seafood there.”
And, the money was good, he said, with pay being about $300 to $400 a month.
The RBI Club, especially Commissioner Bob Simeone, worked closely with the Mariners to contact Herbert and arrange for his transportation to Seattle. The trip was a huge success. Herbert met with several members from the Mariners broadcast and media staff, attended Friday and Saturday’s games, attended Junior’s pre-induction lunch and came to both of the RBI Club’s book club meetings at Henry’s Tavern. (More book club details to follow shortly.)
A huge shout out to RBI Club members Lorri Ericson and Pete Bellmer. They graciously helped show Herbert around Seattle and Safeco Field.
Want to know more about the Steelheads? Check out Ryan Whirty’s article from the May 2013 issue of Seattle Magazine.