Hal Childs, called by former Seattle sports executive Dick Vertlieb “a promoter extraordinaire who helped put Seattle on the map of major sports franchises,” and was the first public relations director for the Sonics (1967-71) and the Mariners (1977), died Sunday in Dublin, CA., from complications of heart disease. He was 84.
Childs also worked with the North American Soccer League Sounders and indoor soccer’s Tacoma Stars, as well as for the University of Portland, of which he was an alum, and the University of Oregon. He was assistant general manager for the Golden State Warriors when they won the 1975 NBA title.
Born in Yakima and raised in Portland, Childs was a relentless, savvy promoter who moved beyond the Northwest. From 1987 to 1991, Childs was director of administration for New York Knicks GM Al Bianchi, the Sonics’ first coach in 1967 for two seasons. The Knicks made the playoffs all four years.
Childs and Vertlieb, who helped bring the Sonics and Seahawks to Seattle, as well as the Trail Blazers to Portland via Seattle investor Herman Sarkowsky, helped launch the rocky start of the Mariners, where the tandem didn’t survive to a second season.
In a a story by Dan Raley in the 2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Mariners ownership, made up of five Seattle businessmen and Hollywood celebrity Danny Kaye, were unhappy with first-year results and attendance. One owner, Jim Walsh, blamed Childs in front of the media for the problems and said he should be fired. Childs was scheduled for a heart procedure the next day.
Incensed, Vertlieb confronted Walsh in the pressbox, grabbed him by the lapels and threatened to drop him out of the Kingdome window if he meddled again.
“The next day I got a call from Danny Kaye and went to see him,” Vertlieb told Raley. “He said, ‘You’re going to have to fire Hal Childs.’ I said, ‘I’m not going to fire Hal Childs. It’s in my contract.’
“Danny put an arm around me and said, ‘You have more integrity than anyone I know. You’re fired.’”
Childs is survived by his wife, Jacqueline, daughters Cindy Johnson, Debbie Alston, Lynn Childs and Wendy Feldhaus, son Douglas Pace, six grandchildren and a great grand-daughter.
Rosary and Mass will be at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church at 11555 Shannon Avenue in Dublin.