NORTH POLE NICKS
"It was a monumental effort on the part of a few community members. John Lohrke was kind of the guts of the team. Trying to shoestring it together, it was a battle." - Mike Gillespie, Head Coach at USC
"The Panners took their cleats off and got into their vans. We go, 'Wait a minute.' We poured some gasoline on the field and lit it. We scorched that field. We just had a bonfire for twenty minutes. We dried it out. We had to rake it like crazy. It wasn't pretty, but it was playable. They had to put their cleats on and we ended up beating them." - Lohrke
1985 - "It was an outstanding team. That team played defense anybody would have been proud of. That was a fun group to work with." - Mike Gillespie
"I fell in love with Mark Grace. I got on the phone and said, 'There's a guy here who could be in the majors right now.'" - Jack O'Toole
"I never saw Andy (Stankewicz) walk anywhere. He would run up to the plate. He would run back to the dugout. I thought, 'This kid is going to make it somewhere." - Lowell Purcell
"I housed players (Loring Davies, Greg Baker, Bernie Forbes), served on the Nicks Board of Directors, worked the press box and booster booth and had a great time with the whole thing." - Linda Douglass
"(Steve Finley is) a great kid. He loved living with the family he had, he was leading us in hitting. And then he got a call from the national team to play for them. He said, 'I can't pass it up.'" - John Lorhke
"It was definantly a good baseball experience for me." - Todd Zeile
"All the rain water drained to the infield. The fences were like a half mile out there. I think they built the mound out of sand. The had a Little League Backstop." - Dave Forman
"I just remember driving out there in the middle of nowhere and there was this field in a forest of trees." - Steve McFarland
"Of all the players I saw during that time, many worked very, very hard. None worked harder than Eric Karros. On the Alaska team he was probably the third or fourth best player (Luis Gonzalez was considered the best) at the start of the season. By the end of the season, Karros had come farther than anybody - in bat speed, strike zone judgment... In watching him work, every time you saw him step into the batting cage, you always thought Eric was going to come out a better hitter, that he was going to learn something new or that he had reinforced a basic fundamental that would help him the next time he was up there for real." - Clay Morgan, Announcer
The best baseball players in America take North Pole? You bet. The North Pole Nicks ballclub (named after St. Nick, of course) had many highs, including reaching the national championship game of 1985.
A closer look at this campy clubhouse of characters reveals the power of a united drive to excel. Forging bonds of brotherhood through common adversity enabled each ballplayer to rise to inspiring levels of personal and team excellence.
For a decade, the Nicks' organization successfully carved a 'field of dreams' in the wilds of Alaska. Shortly after the last pitch, though, the wilderness reclaimed Wright Field's right field. Even so, the team's legacy of excellence lives on. In fact, a fraternity of Nicks continues to thrive in major league baseball.
Starting from scratch and reaching the national championship game was a remarkable achievement. Having done so from the home of Santa Claus was even more unlikely.
1985 NORTH POLE NICKS
Five of the Arizona Diamondbacks starting lineup in the World Series on Saturday had an Alaska connection, including three former North Pole Nicks. Center fielder Steve Finley, first baseman Mark Grace and left fielder Luis Gonzalez all played for the Nicks, a now-defunct team that was part of the Alaska League from 1980-87, while second baseman Craig Counsell played for the Mat-Su Miners and starting pitcher Curt Schilling was born in Anchorage. more...
North Pole, Alaska is located 14 miles south of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway. The City of North Pole was incorporated in 1953. Though the city was founded in an attempt to attract toy manufacturers, its grew into community serving local military bases. Starting in 1975, oil refining fueled the local economy. The introduction of the oil industry brought a period of rapid population growth in the area, making North Pole a noticeable sister city to Fairbanks and a logical home for an expansion ballclub in the Alaska Baseball League. more...
The North Pole Nicks were suited up for play in the 1980 Alaska Baseball League season. Though forced to play a very difficult schedule, including against the national champion Fairbanks club, the Nicks played well enough to solidify local support. In the coming years, the Nicks fielded highly competitive teams filled with future major leaguers.
During that heyday, the organization moved from Growden Memorial Park in Fairbanks to Wright Field at Newby Park in North Pole. Those involved with the organization continued to rally support among the North Pole community, who responded with vociferous support at all home games.
The crowning moment of the Nicks ballclub came in 1986, when it captured the Alaska Baseball League championship -- ousting rival Fairbanks, who had won eight titles in a row. The 2001 MLB World Series was another highlight for the Nicks, as three former players anchored the eventual champion Arizona club -- including Luis Gonzales, who hit the series-winning hit for the D-backs.
Of the 20+ players from the Nicks to reach the major leagues, many are still great producers. Steve Finley, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was named National League Player of the Week in 2004.
Check back at this location for exhibit additions, as well as for continuing coverage of alums' careers in and out of baseball. If you have an anecdote to add, or a picture to share, please feel free to email todd @ alaskan-legacies.com.
I have many fond memories of the Nicks. I treasure my 1987 team signed ball. This is a great site. Mark Holley
Hello, Just wanted to say hello to Lowell Purcell,little Steve Zannazo and his buddy Mike who helped keep the sanity and fun in the game. At that time Steve and Mike were 7 or 8 and lived at the ball park with us. I have several pictures from 1984 in which we finished in 2nd place this season. Coaches Gillispie, Sanchez and Len Mohney, great GUYS AND COACHES. Thanks also to My host Family the Bonjour's Randy, Susan, Joe, Jake and Katie. Thanks also to Everyone in Fairbanks to BJ, field maint., Marjie the beer girl, and John Lorhke for brining me to Alsaka. Thanks Again Mark Honnor 1984 email@example.com
Clay Mitchell 1985 "I gotta piss like a race horse."
To John Sweeney at Wright Field late in the early innings, "Here's your burger you horses ass." anon.
I was just watching ESPN tonight, and they were doing their 50 states in 50 days, focusing on Alaska in today's show. They had a short clip on the midnight game in Fairbanks, and I found myself thinking of all the good times I had while stationed at Eielson AFB from 1989-1991. I met some great guys up there; Mike Aihers (sp?), and Steve, both from North Pole and the leaders of our team. We were sponsored by Lou's T.V. and played a lot of our games at Wright Field. Heck, I even got a chance to play against the Goldpanners a couple of times. The three best years of my life!
I was surfing the web and found this site. Just wanted to say hi to all the North Pole Nicks of 84. What a summer. Hope all of you are doing great. Dan Larsen
Daniel Newman -86 lhp-univ of San Diego. Now with the San
Marino Major League Baseball Club of the Italian A1 league.
See www.baseball.it or baseballitali
Brings back a lot of memories...
This is more of providing information on the development of the team for the years between 1980 and 1984. Mr C V Johnson, who was with the reacreation and sports department at Eielson Air Force Base and had helped the team during the above years, has many fond memories, along with some great photographs of the team members at work and play during this time. He always talked highly of those days and had many stories to tell. A couple of the players stayed at their home, one, was Mike Schooler. We have lost contact with all of the people and would enjoy being re-united, even if it was on the internet. My e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone with these memories, I'd love to hear from. Sad news is that C V has passed-away a couple of years ago from cancer. We moved from Alaska after he lost his sight and re-located to Las Vegas, where I (we) live today. I'm Linda, his wife. I look forward to hearing from any of you. Linda Johnson
I have three baseballs that were signed by the players and given to my father. Some of the signatures are hard to make out but L Gonzalez' is legible as well as others. One is dated 1980 and two have Luis G. signatures (#16) .....no date. I have had offers for them but how can I know what is reasonable? gredunzle @ yahoo.com
I discovered this website by accident by am so happy I found it. I have many fond memories of playing for the 1984 Nicks. Jeff Hainline email@example.com
The "Second Phase" of North Pole Nicks history came after the re-organization of the team for the 1989-1991 seasons. The biggest star from that period was Twins starting pitcher Brad Radke.
Comments or Questions? We would like to hear from you.