Brian Kamens' contributions to the South Puget Sound sports scene have been some of the most immeasurable - yet easiest to overlook - of anyone. The recipient of the Doug McArthur Lifetime Achievement Award was not a coach, athlete, or official, but in a twist of irony, his forgotten contributions have helped ensure so many of the greatest coaches, athletes, and officials in the history of the region will be remembered.
Kamens retired last fall from his position as supervisor and lead historian at Tacoma Public Library's Northwest Room, a role he held for 15 years. He spent more than 40 years working for the Tacoma Public Library and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pierce County Heritage League and a Career Achievement Award from Tacoma's Landmarks Preservation Committee in 2019 prior to retiring. His unparalleled knowledge of Tacoma history has long made him an invaluable resource for local reporters, residents looking for a seemingly random tidbit of knowledge, or curators of a local sports museum trying to track down historical details and contact information.
"Brian has been a phenomenal resource and life saver for the Tacoma Athletic Commission, the Shanaman Sports Museum and the Baseball-Softball Oldtimers Association of Tacoma-Pierce County," Marc Blau, co-founder and president of the Shanaman Sports Museum said. "The amount of time and quality of information he's provided over the years has been nothing short of remarkable and amazing."
Kamens, who came to Tacoma from Connecticut in 1976 at age 23 and began his career with the library by delivering books between branches, co-founded the Tacoma Historical Society and co-authored the book, "Showtime in Tacoma" with Blaine Johnson. He has provided information for virtually every Banquet of Champions, Tribute to Champions, Touchdown Time and TPC Baseball Oldtimers events, while also helping research bios, identify images, and provide contact information for honorees.
"Brian was always ready and willing to track down information that filled in the missing blanks about a team, player, coach or umpire," Blau said. "So, indirectly, Brian Kamens has been a valuable 'player' in the process of recognizing so many individuals that have contributed to our sports heritage."
Along with his awards last year - and the Doug McArthur Lifetime Achievement recognition - Kamens was profiled for The News Tribune shortly before his retirement in November. In that story, Kamens shared a brief summation of his love for history: "I believe you don't really know entirely where you're going unless you know what's happened before you and where you come from."
Those honors and the newspaper profile finally shone a light on Kamens' contributions, even if they can never be fully recognized for their sheer scope. His legacy is present in every historical organization in Tacoma, his permanent imprint is on the Tacoma Public Library's Northwest Room, and his tireless efforts will be absolutely missed by everyone seeking to capture the region's history moving forward.
"Until the article in The News Tribune this past November came out announcing his retirement, who all knew Brian Kamens? Not enough!" Blau said. "Brian's knowledge of Tacoma's overall history is amazing, and given that he has had a 'behind-the-scenes' hand in allowing us to prepare stories to honor our community's sports heritage, it is fitting that he be honored with the Doug McArthur Lifetime Achievement Award. After more than 40 years of service, it's high time Brian be properly recognized!"