SEATTLE — Max Soriano, a partner in the ownership group that gave Seattle its first Major League Baseball franchise, died Saturday at Swedish Medical Center. He was 86.
In 1969, Soriano and his brother Dewey paid $2 million to purchase a 35 percent share in the expansion Pilots. The brothers were hailed as heroes for bringing baseball to Seattle.
The celebration, however, didn’t last long.
Acrimony among owners, poor attendance at Sicks’ Stadium and a disappointing 64-98 last-place finish in the American League West forced the brothers to file for bankruptcy a month after the season.
Despite efforts by business leaders and politicians to keep the Pilots in Seattle, the team was sold, relocated in Milwaukee and renamed the Brewers.
After baseball, Soriano began a shipping company, Western Pioneer, in 1975 that remains the family business.
He became an avid Mariners fan.
“He loved baseball and was a fan of the game until the end,” said Soriano’s son Larry. “He played it as a younger person. He could cite statistics going back to the early 1900s. He liked the business side of baseball.
“The Pilots, that was just a bump in the road. He never lost the love for the game. He thought it would be a great thing to bring major-league baseball to Seattle. And when the Pilots left, that didn’t damper his enthusiasm about the game in any way, shape or form.”
Soriano, the ninth of 10 children of a Spanish-born fisherman and Danish mother, was an all-city pitcher at Franklin High and starred at the University of Washington, where he was named to the All-Century baseball team.
Soriano served in the Merchant Marines in the 1940s during World War II and obtained chief mate standing. He received a law degree from UW and practiced admiralty law before he became co-owner of the Pilots.
He was married 49 years to his late wife Ruth.
Soriano is survived by siblings Gloria, 85, and Charles, 83; children Sharon, 61; Larry, 57; Susan, 54; Elizabeth, 52; Jim, 50; and eight grandchildren.
A memorial gathering will be Oct. 14 at Ponti Seafood Grill.