2006: Midnight Sun Game illuminates century-old baseball tradition

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MIDNIGHT GAME: The tickets for the Midnight Sun Baseball game feature photos of two Hall of Fame baseball players and a third man who is likely to join them someday.

Tom Seaver, who played with the Goldpanners in 1964-65, and Dave Winfield, who became an outfielder at Growden Memorial Park in 1971, are already in Cooperstown.

Barry Bonds, who has been dogged this season by the steroid controversy, will probably be enshrined after he retires because he has surpassed Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list.

The annual Midnight Sun Game, a Fairbanks tradition that goes back to 1906, is scheduled for Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Seaver and Winfield played extensively in Fairbanks, while Bonds went to summer school in 1983 and joined the team after the regular season. He played for the Panners in the NBC tournament in Wichita, Kan.

Both Seaver and Winfield have spoken at length about the great experiences they had playing summer baseball in Fairbanks.

Seaver would often mention Red Boucher and Fairbanks during nationally televised games as a broadcaster and Winfield told Goldpanner stories in his autobiography.

In his book, Winfield provides his version of one of the legendary moments at Growden Park, when he hit a homer to left field that carried across Second Avenue.

In Winfield’s account, he was asked by Manager Jim Dietz to pinch-hit that night. Winfield had been a pitcher in college, but his arm was sore and Dietz was getting him used to playing in the field. The opposing manager pulled his outfielders in when they saw a pitcher at the plate, Winfield wrote in “Winfield: A Player’s Life.”

“First worthwhile pitch I see, I take a tremendous cut and blast it out of the park and onto the roof of a bowling alley across the street,” Winfield said.

Winfield apparently didn’t learn as much about curling as he did about baseball during his stay in Fairbanks.

In another version of the story, Goldpanners General Manager Don Dennis recalls that the ball bounced off the wall. In any case, it was a memorable home run that belongs in the Goldpanner Hall of Fame.

Because of the vagaries of daylight and cloud conditions, the Midnight Sun Game is often a memorable experience, though no one is likely to scuff the walls of the Curling Club when the Panners play the Beatrice Bruins. The game starts at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Tickets at the gate are $10. The box office is open tonight from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for advance ticket purchases and Wednesday from noon to 5 p.m.

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