1963 – Around the World and Close to Home
President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C., Beatlemania breaks out across America with the hit "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and zip codes are introduced to the U.S. mail system. Seattle’s Jim Whittaker becomes the first American to summit Mount Everest, Boeing’s 727 takes off on its maiden flight from Renton, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge opens to traffic across Lake Washington, and the Washington Huskies win six of the last seven games to reach the Rose Bowl.
When Balint Ducz promoted his Hungarians by successfully bidding for a Pacific Coast League franchise, the stakes were raised. The magnificent Magyars left a state league where they were unrivaled against amateurs to a setting in B.C. where the semi-pros around Vancouver and Victoria were already battle-hardened and every bit the equal of Seattle’s best.
While Ducz knew it was going to be a challenge on the field, week in, week out, he was also the first to bet on fan support from throughout Puget Sound. After all, Sunday afternoon matches at Lower Woodland Park were regularly ringed with hundreds and, sometimes, thousands of spectators. There was no gate, no admission and no bleachers, although they might drop a coin or two in the box of Eddie Craggs, who produced the weekly program.
In the PCL, with added costs of travel across the border, including cruises aboard the Princess Marguerite to Victoria, the Hungarians needed to charge admission. Ducz, whose bakery was in Burien, settled in White Center Stadium as the club’s home field. It featured some covered seats and capacity for 2,000. The problem: it was a dozen miles from the region’s soccer epicenter, Woodland Park. Furthermore, once they arrived, they would need to pay for the privilege of watching the finest league north of California and west of St. Louis.
It was not just a change in scenery. Ducz upgraded the roster, adding striker Alex Bogdan from Portland, Tommy Major from Victoria and Zoltan Mako of Denver.
During that first season, the Hungarians would often draw praise and fans – but only on the road. At home in White Center, the turnouts were comparatively paltry. By spring 1963, Ducz was growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of a following. Still, he and the Hungarians stuck with it, returning to the PCL for a second season in 1963-64.
Elsewhere, the University of Washington, in its second season as the state’s only varsity program, opted not to play simultaneously in the state league. Instead, the Huskies scheduled a seven-game slate versus collegiate opposition in British Columbia (varsity) and Oregon (club).