In 1950, Charlie Petersen came to the Tri-Cities to manage the new Western International League baseball franchise in town, the Tri-City Braves.
He was 37 back then and the first manager for the very first professional team in the Tri-Cities.
On Friday, 63 years later, he celebrated his 100th birthday at his Kennewick home with his grandsons, Brian and Mike Hammer, and his great-granddaughters, Courtney and Shelbie Hammer, with a barbecue.
“I’m gonna try to make it to 200,” he joked.
Asked what his secret is in his longetivity, Petersen doesn’t know.
“It’s hard to say,” he said. “I eat good, sleep good, go to the bathroom good. I get up in the morning, I get dressed, I eat. It’s just a good routine.”
At 100 years old, Petersen still has that sharp wit, sometimes peppered with colorful language. He makes his grandsons and great-grandaughters laugh.
“G-- d---, the years went by,” he said.
Petersen spent 16 years in professional baseball, either as a player or manager with teams in the old Pacific Coast League or the WIL (the precursor to the Northwest League), starting in 1936.
His brother Ike played for the Detroit Lions, and his wife, Mary, had a brother named Jack Wilson who pitched for the Boston Red Sox.
“It was a free-for-all when he and Jack would get together and tell stories,” said Mike Hammer.
Petersen had been managing then Yakima franchise in 1949, when he got a call from the owners of the Wenatchee franchise. They were moving their team into the Tri-Cities because they thought they could make more money there.
The Braves began play at Sanders Field in Kennewick for the 1950 season, the ballpark being named for Connell farmer Henry Sanders.
The field was located on Clearwater Avenue in Kennewick, where the strip mall with Inca Restaurant is and with Morain Avenue running right through where the outfield once was.
On Opening Day that first season, each of the three Tri-Cities — Kennewick, Pasco and Richland — held its own parade for the team.
Petersen led that first squad to an 83-66 record that first season, taking third place behind Yakima and Tacoma.
Mary and their two daughters moved down from Yakima for the 1951 season. But by then Petersen was thinking about getting out of the game.
The team struggled in 1951 with a 58-87 record, and he thought he was getting ulcers, so he resigned at the end of the season.
The Petersens decided after that to make the Tri-Cities their home, and Charlie took a job with the Benton County P.U.D. “He went to every sporting event I had,” said Brian, who played at Kamiakin and went on to Walla Walla Community College for football. “He always told me I went into the wrong sport. He said I got a good arm, good wheels. I couldn’t hit the curveball, though.”
Petersen retired in 1977, but not before he had to do one last painful job.
“I got the call in 1974 to tear down the lights at Sanders-Jacobs Field,” he told the Herald in a 1989 interview. “My foreman told me ‘Well, you started it. You can tear it down too.’”
From the day he left the Braves until the day the stadium was torn down, Petersen never watched a game there as a spectator.
“It’s like going hunting or fishing without a gun or pole,” he said back in 1989.
Mary passed away in 2007, but he’s still going strong.
He still does crossword puzzles every day. He still reads the paper every day.
He watches the Major League Baseball Network.
“All that they can put on there,” he said Friday.
His favorite team?
“I like the Yankees, because they go get the ball players,” he said.
What about the Seattle Mariners?
“You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken s---,” he said.
Well OK, then.
He’s just ornery enough to make a good run at 200 years, but he’ll never know, he says.
“You don’t celebrate them after 100,” he said.