March 2023 ~
It’s a story she is reluctant to tell. But the truth is, a whole lot of baseball players, former and current, can relate to Wendy (Peterson) Ingraham’s (Wilson, 1978) long-held secret, and not one of them would hold the details of it against her. Especially 50 years after the fact. So, after some gentle coaxing, Wendy fesses up.
It is spring 1975 and Wendy is prowling left field for the Wilson High freshman baseball team (spoiler alert: the 2010 PIL Hall of Fame inductee was that good an athlete). In previous games, coach Tom Ogan had positioned her at third, then shortstop, but this was her first trip to the outfield. So, of course, she would be tested.
“A fly ball came out to me,” Wendy begins, before pausing momentarily, then restarting with a laugh. “I’m not proud of this. This might need to be just between us. Anyway, I’m thinking the ball is coming right at me, but it wasn’t. So, at the last second I have to dive for the ball and wind up trapping it. I get up slowly with the ball in my glove and look in to see the umpire has called the batter out. Now I’m out there thinking, Do I need to tell the umpire I didn’t catch it?”
Wendy would finish out that season without another moral dilemma, and that would be the end of her baseball playing days — but not because of the decision she made (no, she did not tell the umpire) that to this day still bothers her at least a wee bit. By the next spring, softball had been officially sanctioned by the Oregon Schools Athletic Association and Wendy would join the Wilson team and earn the first of her two letters in that sport. But her stint playing alongside the boys on the baseball team was an early testament to her abundant athletic skills.
Anyone not keeping score of her exploits that early on would have plenty of opportunities to catch up over the rest of Wendy’s high school career, during which she would also collect four letters in both volleyball and basketball, earn 1st Team All-PIL and 2nd Team All-State honors in volleyball and make the All-PIL 1st Team and All-State 2nd Team twice in basketball.
While it’s tempting to say she was destined for sports fame, that would do disservice to the work Wendy put in to achieve all she did. But there is no denying the influence of DNA and the environment of her upbringing. From age 4 to 12, she lived in Jewell, where her late father Joe was a coach and school principal in addition to camp director at Sports Acres, the former youth sports camps located just a few miles away in Elsie. Wendy and her older brother, Scott, who would later proceed her as a three-sport star at Wilson (1976) and also be inducted into the PIL Hall of Fame in 2010, were inseparable.
“There was absolutely a strong sibling influence,” she says. “I was the little brother Scottie never had. We literally had a gym and baseball field in our backyard, so we played a lot of one-on-one basketball. Or he’d put me in catchers’ gear so he could practice pitching. Then he’d practice for Punt, Pass and Kick and I was always on the other end of that.”
Because of her father’s position at Sports Acres, Wendy was exposed to the spectrum of youth sports, including softball, basketball, swimming, archery, tennis and football, to name a few. “Then mom (Delores, still “thriving” at 85) made me take baton twirling and that was soooo painful,” she recalls, laughing.
By the time she had moved to Portland and entered Wilson, basketball had become her favorite of all those sports, and it’s on the hardwood where Wendy’s favorite high school memory lives.
“My favorite moment in sports came during my freshman year on the basketball team,” she remembers. “The OSAA hadn’t sanctioned girls basketball yet, but we still had state championships at Portland State that year, and we won. I can’t even remember who we played, but the entire Wilson boys team was there. When the game ended, they all came running down to the floor, and Scott grabbed me and hoisted me up so I could cut down the net.”
The moment was captured in a photo that accompanied an “Oregon Journal” article about the game.
Equally memorable, Wendy says, was her induction into the PIL Hall of Fame alongside her brother, who died tragically of a heart condition in 2013. “I felt very honored to begin with but being inducted the same year as Scott was icing on the cake. It’s something I know he was very proud of. It really meant a lot to me too, and it kind of gets to me just thinking about it. But it’s something I will always cherish.”
Wendy’s participation in team sports ended when she graduated from Wilson. Though she had earned a basketball scholarship offer from PSU, it placed second to a job offer she got from the phone company.
“I was ready to start making money and I couldn’t pass it up,” she says.
Wendy turned that offer into a career that she retired from 32 years later. Along the way, during a stint in Hermiston, she met fellow phone company employee and current husband, Mike. After both transferred to Portland, they purchased and moved to a 65-acre spread in Birkenfeld, which Wendy describes as “basically a ghost town” about 20 miles northwest of Vernonia.
There may not have been much happening in Birkenfeld when the Ingraham’s arrived, but there would be after the couple purchased and refurbished a derelict 110-year-old, 7,500 square feet building that once housed a country store and multiple living quarters. When the economy went south in 2008, the Ingrahams brought the building back to life as a restaurant and music venue, with temporary living quarters for traveling musicians.
“We were getting musicians and acts from all over the country,” Wendy says. “The place was built with old growth timber, and musicians would want to play out here because they’d hear the acoustics were incredible and we could put them up and feed them.”
Musical guests who appeared at The Birk Roadhouse included Jim Croce’s son, A.J., Gregg Allman’s son, Devon, and Buck Johnson, keyboard player for Aerosmith, as well as a host of other, primarily blues, acts.
The couple closed the venue in 2018, and Wendy went to work for Northwest Natural Gas, where she now serves as a compliance specialist and has the good fortune of being able to work primarily from home.
“I love it,” she says. “It’s so pretty out here.”
When it comes to pastimes, Wendy hasn’t lost her competitive edge.
“Since closing The Birk, I pretty much work and workout,” she says.
During the Covid lockdown, Wendy converted a section of that 7,500 square-foot building to a gym and equipped it with a MYXFIT (Peloton-like) bike and rower. “It’s great having so many trainers available with all types of workouts,” she says.
Wendy’s 9-year-old grandson, Lincoln, an emerging baseball stud in Sandy, and two mastiffs, Gibson (weighing in at 200 pounds) and Tucker (“only” 160) also keep her busy. She’s clearly in a happy chapter of a story to be proud of – even considering that little incident in the outfield several pages back.~ Profile written by Dick Baltus (Wilson, 1973)