Charlie Petersen, the Tri-Cities’ first professional baseball manager, died of natural causes Sunday at his Kennewick home.Petersen had turned 100 years old back in March.
Petersen came to the Tri-Cities in 1950 to manage the new Western International League baseball franchise in town, the Tri-City Braves.Up to his 100th birthday, Petersen had that sharp wit, sometimes peppered with colorful language.
He 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.
Petersen had been managing the 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.
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The Braves began play in Kennewick for the 1950 season at Sanders Field, 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.
Petersen led that first squad to an 83-66 record that first season, taking third place behind Yakima and Tacoma.
His wife 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.
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.