Dan Raley didn’t set out to be a journalist.
When everyone else in his family was getting a business or science degree, Raley always wanted to do something different. When his best friend signed up to take journalism classes in school, Raley did it, too.
After graduating from Western Washington University and reporting for a stint in Alaska, Raley worked as a sports and crime reporter at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for 30 years. Today Raley works for MSN.com and writes books about Seattle’s history. He and his family live in North Bend.
While in college Raley was offered a job at the Skagit Valley Herald. He accepted the job, dropped out halfway through his sophomore year and began working as a cub reporter. Instead of sitting in a classroom, Raley got hands-on experience covering the events of a small town.
“I didn’t want to stay in a small town forever,” said Raley. “I had bigger ideas.”
So Raley went back to school, got his degree and then took six months to hitchhike up the west coast and Canada, on the way accepting a position as a sports editor for a paper in Fairbanks, Alaska. At age 22, he packed up his car and drove alone from Seattle to Fairbanks.
As a young sports editor, Raley experimented with new techniques like participating in the events he covered. On one occasion, he took third place in a snow race on a 10-mile track through the woods. After the Fairbanks high school basketball team earned a spot at the state championship, he took the 700-mile flight to Juneau in order to cover it.
When a family emergency brought him back to Seattle, Raley decided he needed to get serious and settle down. He wanted to get a job with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, but competition for jobs was stiff. After six months of persistence, he was offered a job as a temporary part-time reporter. A week later, Raley recalled, one reporter died and two others left.
The paper asked him if wanted a full-time position. He said yes, and spent the next 30 years covering sports and crime in Seattle. At 25, he was one of the youngest on the staff. But performing beyond his years was nothing new to Riley.
At age 9, Raley lost his father in a terrible car accident. His mother died seven years later in North Seattle.
“It made me grow up really fast,” said Raley. “I had to be the rock for my brothers.”
Real stories and Seattle history
Going through tragedy forced Raley to consider life and death. His life was not easy or painless. As a crime reporter, Raley saw the dark side of Seattle and realized that human stories are not pristine. Real stories are full of dirty details and tragic twists. Raley wanted to tell these stories, so he pushed for specific detail and the uncomfortable facts.
Raley’s first book, “Tideflats to Tomorrow: The History of Seattle’s SoDo,” tells the story of Seattle’s rough-and-tumble industrial area south of downtown. His second work, “Pitchers of Beer: The Story of the Seattle Rainiers,” outlines the history of the baseball team. In 1937, when local beer baron Emil Sick stepped in, the Seattle Indians were a struggling minor-league baseball team teetering on collapse. The Rainiers were renamed after the beer brand, set attendance records and won Pacific Coast League titles in 1939, 1940, 1941, 1951, and 1955.
Baseball in Seattle was not entirely wholesome. Raley reveals the squalid personal lives of many of the players and even profiles a brothel inside the stadium.
In his latest work, “The Brandon Roy Story,” Raley profiles a family man. Roy was a standout basketball player from Seattle’s Garfield High School to the University of Washington and then to the NBA.
Unlike some of his peers, Raley reports that Roy’s personal life is above reproach. He married his high school sweetheart and has been faithful to her.
When Raley agrees to write a story, he does so with the understanding that his narrative will include the good and the bad.
“If I wanted to be a PR guy I would be,” said Raley. “If you are going to do your life story, you have to tell it all.”
• Dan Raley’s “The Brandon Roy Story,” published by Old Seattle Press, is $16.95 and 240 pages. Learn more about the book and writer at www.danraley.com.