By Roger Underwood

Mike Ellis, longtime minor league baseball executive and current majority owner of the Pioneer League’s Missoula Osprey, has been named to succeed Bob Richmond as president of the Northwest League.

Richmond, who led the NWL from 1974-81 and 1991 on, will retire at the end of the calendar year.

Ellis, who resides in Missoula with his wife, Judy, has been a minor league baseball owner and operator. And he will have huge shoes to fill.

Richmond has established himself as one of the most respected men in professional baseball, an executive with an thorough knowledge of both baseball and the business world.

Visits to Yakima during the Bears’ recently-ended tenure here always included pleasant between-inning chats in the press box that covered a variety of topics. Bob always returned my phone calls, if he didn’t answer the initial call, and offered candid and helpful answers to sometimes delicate questions.

I will always remember the 2000 NWL playoffs when Yakima was hosting Eugene. During Game 4 at Yakima County Stadium (the series was best-of-five then), a Bears pitcher was ejected early in the game after a covering first base on a close play. When the runner was called safe, the pitcher turned and, as he was walking back to the mound, said something over his shoulder and was then thrown out of the game.

After interviewing the umpire for his side of the story, I wrote a column stating that the pitcher should not have been ejected — especially in that situation — even if he said something he shouldn’t have as the umpire explained.

The next night, before the deciding game, Richmond summoned me to his chair in the press box and I thought, “Well, here it comes,” anticipating a critical response.

“Roger?” he said, standing and extending his hand. “Yes, Bob,” I said.

“Great column in today’s paper,” he said.

And that was it.

Richmond will continue as president of the Arizona League, a position he has held since that group’s inception in 1988, as owner of Baseball Opportunities, Inc., a firm that brokers the sale of minor league baseball franchises, and also as co-owner of the Class AA Midland RockHounds of the Texas League.