Doug McArthur Lifetime Achievement Award-Detail

Supporting youth & sports since 1942.

Doug McArthur Lifetime Achievement Award-Detail
Doug McArthur Lifetime Achievement Award-Detail

Aaron Pointer

    By Arnold Lytle
    Aaron Pointer came to Tacoma by accident. He stayed by design.
    Now, more than 50 years after Aaron and Leona Pointer first called our community home, the TAC is honoring Aaron for his decades of distinguished service in sports and recreation with its Doug McArthur Lifetime Achievement Award.
    Pointer's life reads like a human highlight reel, from his childhood in Oakland, Calif., to his professional baseball career, to his 29 years as activities director for Pierce County Parks and Recreation. Then came 20-plus years and counting in an elected position at Metro Parks Tacoma, while he simultaneously distinguished himself with a 17-year career as an NFL official.
    Along with a glittering resume, Aaron Pointer has a reputation as a respected, humble man. "His professionalism is unquestioned. He's top drawer," said fellow Pierce County sports official Jack Stonestreet. "I've never heard a bad word about him."
    Pointer's journey to Tacoma started in the late 1950s when he was an outstanding athlete and senior class president at McClymonds High School, which also produced Major League Baseball stars Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Curt Flood that decade. Pointer's cousin and schoolmate, Paul Silas, finished his NBA career with the Seattle SuperSonics and was part of the 1978-79 NBA champions. His younger sisters formed the Grammy Award-winning vocal group the Pointer Sisters.
    The University of San Francisco Dons, a national power in the '50s, offered Pointer a basketball scholarship. Though he didn't play much basketball at USF, he was a baseball star who was scouted and signed in 1961 by the expansion Houston Colt .45s. Pointer was sent to their Class D affiliate in Salisbury, N.C. There, despite enduring the South's Jim Crow laws mandating racial segregation in public facilities, he excelled on the field, batting .402 to lead his team to a league title. His feat was the last time a professional in a North American league batted .400 in a full season (93 games, 418 plate appearances), which was featured in Sports Illustrated magazine on July 29, 2019.
    His major league debut came as a pinch runner Sept. 22, 1963. Five days later, Pointer started in right field as part of the only all-rookie starting nine in major league history, a lineup that included Joe Morgan at second, Jim Wynn in center, Rusty Staub on first and Jerry Grote catching.
    After more time in the minors, Pointer's next big league game came in September 1966 when he was called up by the Houston Astros (the name was changed with the opening of the Astrodome). In 11 games and 26 at-bats, Aaron hit .346 and had his first major league homer. On April 11, 1967, he opened the season in left field for the Astros and stroked an RBI double in a victory. Three days later, his 3-run homer in the second inning ignited another victory for the Astros.
    In early May, he was sent to Class Triple-A Oklahoma City to work on his hitting. The next season, on May 4, 1968, Pointer was traded to the Chicago Cubs, who assigned him to their Triple-A team in Tacoma. Though the Cubs never called him to Chicago, Pointer kept his mind on baseball. "When I was playing, all I was thinking about was baseball," he said.
    Still, he couldn't help but notice the beautiful place where he was living. His rental was near Waughop Lake in Lakewood. "I had never been an outdoorsman before, but I found out I liked the fishing and the beauty of the place," he said.
    At Cheney Stadium, he batted in the .260s and became a fan favorite, though Tacoma struggled to a 65-83 record. In 1969, the Tacoma Cubs took off. With Pointer batting .265 with 120 hits, 60 RBI and six home runs, the Cubs won the Pacific Coast League north by 14 games. In September they played host to the Eugene Emeralds for the first two games of the best-of-five PCL championship series.
    Pennant fever was high in Tacoma because the Cubs were the first Class Triple-A team to represent the city in a playoff series. The Emeralds nearly spoiled the party by taking a 2-0 lead back to Oregon. "Very few people experience being so close to elimination, then come back to win," Pointer said. But the Cubs didn't give up. "Ken Still deserves a lot of credit," Pointer said of the late Tacoma PGA Tour golfer. An avid baseball fan, Still thought the Cubs could rally in Eugene, and he said so. Emphatically. Tacoma swept three games in Oregon and spoiled the Emeralds' plan for a champagne party.
    After the 1969 season, Pointer continued his baseball career in Japan. In three seasons with Nishitetsu, he batted .230 with 40 homers, 125 home runs and 30 steals in 302 games.
    Returning to the States, Aaron and Leona wondered what they would do next. First stop was Tacoma, where their possessions were stored. Then an offer came from Pierce County Commissioner Clay Huntington, long-time broadcaster and South Sound booster, to become a Pierce County Parks recreation supervisor.
    In the ensuing decades Pointer was active in officiating, working baseball, basketball and football at levels from youth recreation to NCAA Division I college, including becoming the first African-American to lead a Pac-10 football crew. "He was the guy in the white hat," said fellow official Jay Strickerz. "The referee. The man in charge."
    Pointer wanted to work NFL games. It took three years from the time he applied to become an NFL official. "They watch your abilities," Pointer said of the NFL. "They want professionalism. Good character off the field counts." For a part-time job, Pointer said, the NFL had something close to full-time demands. "You get reviewed, take tests," he said. "You spend four to five hours a week on football aside from travel and stuff. You have to recognize what needs to be called and what doesn't."
    He worked on the field through 2004, then he became an observer evaluating the performances of the seven officials assigned to each NFL game. "I would chart every play ...," Pointer said, rotating through the positions so ever official got attention. That lasted until September 2012, when the NFL and its referees got in a dispute that led to a lockout. When it was settled, the NFL asked Pointer to return. He declined, and that was the end of his 17-year stay in the NFL. "I told them when you locked out the officials, you locked me out, too," he said.
    Pointer has fond memories of his work in the NFL. There was the preseason game in which his son Deron Pointer, a former Washington State player, made his first NFL catch for the Indianapolis Colts and gave his dad the ball. The Pointer Sisters sang the national anthem before a game he worked. Their older brother needed clearance from the NFL for a brief visit with them.
    From high school standout, to pro baseball player, to recreation supervisor, to Pac-10 and NFL official, Pointer's career has spanned every level. He has distinguished himself as an icon of Tacoma-Pierce County sports for decades. Congratulations to Aaron on this well-deserved honor.
    Doug McArthur Lifetime Achievement Award-Detail