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The Big Unit vs. Mark McGwire, 6/24/97 in the Kingdome

I would like to describe the weather that June day, but since I was watching in the Kingdome from section 311, row 17, seat 10, all I saw was a gray dome. The Mariners who were good that year winning 90 games had Randy Johnson 11-1 pitching against Oakland’s Steve Karsay, 1-7.  I thought it would be an easy win for the Big Unit, but this is baseball and nothing is a given.

Randy struck out Jason McDonald leading off the third, giving him six strikeouts in the first ten batters. Rafael Bournigal then singled, scored on Geronimo Berroa’s double, who then scored on Mark McGwire’s double, before Randy whiffed Jose Canseco and former Mariner prospect Patrick Lennon.

Mariners down 2-0 when McGwire comes up in the 5th with two down, both on strikeouts. What happened next is what occurs when speed meets power at a precise spot in the bat, the sweetest of the spots, unless of course you are a Mariner fan. I was sitting down the left field line and saw the ball jump off McGwire’s bat with such velocity that when the ball reached it’s apogee, I heard a thundering crack, or was it an explosion. I would like to say I saw the ball after that, but it disappeared from my view as it headed for the scoreboard high on the wall, above the bleachers, and so far away from the plate it was unreachable. I looked at the scoreboard to see what lights the ball would break. But alas, the ball did not get there. In my mind’s eye, however, it got close, real close.

It was estimated to have gone 538 feet into the second deck of the bleachers just below the scoreboard. Naturally it was the longest homerun hit in the Kingdome. And I was there to almost see it.

George Williams homered for the A’s in the 9th to take a 4-0 lead. Randy went the distance striking out 19 and walking zero while giving up 11 hits. He was the fifth pitcher at the time to have struck out 19 in a game. The others being Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, and David Cone. Carlton, a lefty like Johnson also was the losing pitcher in his 19 K performance. The 19 K’s by Randy was an American League record for a lefty and a Mariner team record.

The M’s lost 4-1, scoring a run in the bottom of 9th on Griffey Junior’s leadoff triple, scoring on Edgar Martinez groundout. Junior had a single, double triple, and walk in the game.

It was memorable game of course as you do not see 19 K’s every day, nor a 538 home run, nor Junior going 3-3 (a homer would have been nice though), but it still burns me 18 years later that Randy had 19 K’s and lost.  I did not know at the time, how could I, that the 538 blast may have been chemically induced. No matter. I lost the ball in the dark gray of the dome.  


What was the lucky charm that got Rube Marquard into the Hall of Fame

Rube Marquard spent 18 years in the majors and though he pitched for Brooklyn, Cincinnati and Boston of the National league he is known for his time with John McGraw’s New York Giants. From 1911-1913 he was arguably the best pitcher in the NL, along with teammate Christy Mathewson of course. In those three years he went, 24-7, 26-11, and 23-10. He was 73-28 in those three years. His career record was 201-177 and if you do the math the other 15 years he was 128-149. Not exactly a Hall of Fame career and many think he does not belong.

But there is something remarkable, perhaps magical, about those three years with Giants, something that defies common sense, and that was his lucky charm. It was not a lucky coin, nor a rabbit’s foot, nor horseshoe, but one Charlie Faust.

In the summer of 1911 Charlie walked onto the field in St. Louis where the Giants were warming up before a game with the Cardinals. He told John McGraw that a fortune teller that he would pitch the Giants to the pennant. To this day nobody knows if Charlie a country rube, mentally challenged, or a bit loony, but he became the Giants mascot, though he often got distracted by his lack of contract, leaving the team, or appearing on the New York vaudeville stage regaling people with his impression of baseball players.

But the truth of the matter is that when Charley was with the Giants in uniform sitting on the bench or warming up in the bullpen, they won over 80% of their games and during one stretch it was over 90% and the biggest beneficiary was Rube Marquard. During that period, Marquard was 33-3 and two of those losses came when Charlie was absent.

Baseball players back then were highly superstitious and Marquard believed he pitched better when Charlie was there. Of course he was right, and that power of believe no doubt gave him confidence and with confidence anxiety is abated; no tension, confident in victory, Rube loved Charlie’s presence.

Without those three great years Rube would not have made the hall of Fame and without that stretch with Charlie he would not have had those three great years. As it was, Rube was not elected until 1979 when he was 92. He would die the next year.

But there is one interesting note for those two players. Both Marquard and Faust were born on October 9th, Charlie in 1980 and Marquard in 1886. Could there be some sort of symbiotic karma with the two who shared a birthday that gave Rube his obvious luck? Faust died in 1915, Fort Steilacoom, Washington, in a sanatorium, from tuberculosis. In the 100th year of Faust’s birth year Marquard died. Maybe it was just in the numbers.

I wrote a fictional account of that year with Charlie. It is an e-Book on Amazon you can find here.

A non-fictional book on Faust by Gabriel Schechter is here




Hey gamers, who wins, Strat-o-Matic or Out of the Park Baseball

I admit I am a Strat-o-matic fanatic, have been since 1999 playing their windows version of Major League Baseball, NBA and ABA, NFL and NCAA, and NHL. I am patiently waiting for WNBA. Go Storm! That being said I can not believe what OOTP (Out of the Park) baseball gives you for the dollar. I am safe in saying that for the money you spend on OOTP you get far more than any other sports game. No contest.

Here is why you get more for the money. With OOTP version 16, I received all the baseball seasons since 1871. I also got all minor league teams, plus leagues from Japan, Korea, China, Italy, leagues I never new existed and yes, even the Frontier League. That alone is what no other game gives you for $39.99. So for 40 bucks I can play the entire history of baseball on autoplay should I choose. This would cost me hundreds of dollars with Strat; believe me I know as I have purchased seasons from 1901-1927, plus 1947-1954, plus 1999-2014. But there is more to the game.

The game is designed so that you can design how you want to play it. I set the 1966 baseball season to play with exact lineups and transactions. But you can set up any season, any league, in other ways. I was playing the 2015 Tacoma Rainiers in another style, as both GM and manager, one without the ‘as played’ function. The M’s Jackie Z-or a computer generated Jackie Z-would send me emails to my mangers inbox, such as informing me that Dustin Ackley was being sent down. Then during the first half of the season I ended up with a player who last played for the Oakland A’s in 2008. I was playing in an alternative universe, but it was fun.

You can be commissioner, GM, manager, you can be anything. The game satisfies gamers and role players who love baseball. And for those who wonder about the accuracy of player stats, Sandy Koufax won the triple crown in my 66 replay, going 28-11, 1.63 ERA, and 324 K’s. Willie Stargell won the hitting triple crown .364-44-126. Of course there are anomalies. Tom Haller hit 37 homers, ten more than actual 27, but if every player came out the same as true life, why play the game. Which is why the Dodgers and Orioles who actually played in the 66 World Series did not make it in my replay, it is Pittsburgh and Minnesota. The Pirates had the top three hitters in the league and hit .292 as a team.

The actual play of an individual game plays much like Strat, but OOTP has a K-zone, and when you bat, should you choose, you can elect to take, swing, or just ignore and hit space bar to play faster.

So who wins between Strat and OOTP. I will always play Strat, but like the ABA and NBA, the AFL and the NFL, I can involve myself in two separate entities. OOTP provide me with more options to do things and I can experiment for months, if not years. Did I mention you can create a fictional league, teams, and players, and logos and uniforms.

I must go as the 66 World Series awaits. I see Woodie Fryman 17-6, 2.42 is pitching for the Pirates, while the Twins are going with Dave Boswell, 11-9, 3.52. But the second game has a great matchup with Bob Veale 23-9 and Jim Kaat 20-9, both with 2.48 ERA’s. Can’t wait to see what happens.

And by the way they have a hockey version, but I have no information on that, but here is a link to their game-and, I stress, I have no financial gain, from the company. I am not giving a paid endorsement. I simply love the game.


A modest proposal to counter in-your-face bat flips

I hate it when batters stand an admire their home runs, then flip the bat in defiant contempt. It has nothing to do with those players who say “it is disrespecting the game.” I have no idea what that means, but if I were a pitcher I wouldn’t like to be shown up, which is what Jose Bautista did against Texas in game five of the ALDS.

But I would not hit Bautista the next time I faced him. Instead I offer another solution. Since batters continue to get away with it, the pitcher should be allowed the same opportunity. So the next time a pitcher strikes out Bautista, or any other batter who falls in love with his last homer, the pitcher can stare down the batter, then defiantly throw down his glove as the batter walks back to the dugout. It is the in-your-face equality rule.

The only problem I see is that hitters would not like it, they would complain and cry about disrespecting the game, they would cry and carp about showing up the hitter. And umpires would go along with it I am sure, as batters are allowed to admire their shots, but pitchers must be discreet and civilized because they are only on the mound to serve up towering homeruns.

And of course Joe Torre would not like it and would outlaw pitcher celebrations of strikeouts. He likes doing things that make no sense, like suspending Chase Utley during the playoffs, though there had been many previous hard slides where a player could have been suspended. When Joe says, “I can’t worry about the past only the present,”  that tells me he could have done something, but chose not to until someone got hurt. Bad move Joe. The idea is prevention and that means taking charge before someone breaks his leg. Now you are being a sanctimonious politician.

But I like my idea as it brings equality to showboating. Please forward this blog to all major league pitchers and maybe we can see more defiant fun in 2016. We must get this trending.





What’s wrong with Seattle sports radio

I was listening to Dave ‘Softy’ Mahler on KJR  the other day. He said now that Seahawks camp is open and the Mariners have waved the white flag of surrender they would no longer be talking about the Mariners. I am sure the station may mention the M’s from time to time, but there will be little or no talk about them. That was certainly my impression. I am a big fan of Softy’s, but that really pissed me off.

I understand the Seahawks are a big story with two consecutive trips to the Super Bowl and everyone loves to talk Hawks. I also understand that radio is a ratings game. But if you are a ‘sports talk’ station then you should talk all sports relevant to the city and any national stories that have merit. If you don’t talk about the Mariners you are excluding a part of your audience.

KJR should change their identity to football radio and talk Seahawks, Huskies, Cougars and Pee Wee football. Don’t get me wrong, I love football, and was a Seahawk season ticket holder for eight years., but sports talk jocks like to denigrate fans who are frontrunners, and by essentially blackballing talk about the Mariners, KJR is nothing if not being a front runner. Seahawks win; Mariners don’t. We talk Hawks; we don’t talk Mariners. That is a front runner.

If I played for the Mariners, and next year during spring training and the opening of the season, if KJR came down from their front-running high horse and condescended to ask for an interview, I would say go to talk with Doug Baldwin.

The other sports talk station in town, 710 ESPN Seattle, is also spending more and more time talking Hawks. They are the flagship station of the Mariners, but they too want Hawk talk. At least they had Jayson Stark discuss why the Mariners were doing so poorly.

I don’t know what happens in other cities, but I hope to explore that as my cities sports talk stations will spend more hours talking about Russell Wilson’s contract than they will spend on a years worth of Nelson Cruz talk.

It might be a good thing the Sonics are gone and that the NHL is not coming anytime soon. There is no room for them on the airways. Unless they might win of course, but then the Seahawks would first have to lose.



Felix Hernandez has three and a half years of no run support

I did not do the math, but I trust 710 ESPN Seattle who gave out the information. The sports talk host said Felix had 118 starts where the Mariners had given him one run of support.

At this writing Felix has 319 starts, so 118 starts equates to 37% and with Felix averaging 34 starts in his career, three years would be 102. That leaves 16 starts. So for three and one half years Felix has had one run to work with and that means a lot of stress innings trying to hold the opposition close while waiting-and 37% of the time waiting in vain-for his team to score runs.

I do not know what pitcher has had the worst run support in his career, but King Felix must be at or near the top. And consider we are talking only run for three and a half years. What about two runs?

To go out and pitch the way Felix does requires great determination and desire knowing he can’t afford any mistakes every five days, week after week, month after month, year after year. And Felix never complains, never carps, never bitches, remaining as positive as Seahawk coach, Pete Carroll. The difference of course is that Carroll has reason to be optimistic, Felix has none.

Perhaps the closest pitcher to Felix, if not surpassing him for frustration, is Hall of Famer Walter Johnson. He pitched 21 seasons for the Washington Senators from 1907-1927, one of the worst teams of that era (like the Mariners). Walter won 416 games, 110 by shutout, a major league record never to be broken. He shutout the opposition in 26% of his wins. And his record in shutouts has set records. Consider that 38 of his 110 shutouts were 1-0 scores, a major league record. And he was the losing pitcher in 65 shutouts, a major league record, and 26 of those were 1-0 games. His record in 1-0 shutouts was 38-26. Sixty-four games of 1-0 duels is also a record. 110-65 in overall shutouts. And not all of his career was in the dead ball era.

Walter got to the World Series in 1924 and 1925 when he was 37 and 38. I doubt Felix will pitch that long. And the way the Mariners fail to hit year after year, Felix, like Ernie Banks, may have a Hall of Fame career but no World Series.

King Felix meet Seattle Mariners General Montgomery

For those unaware of Mike Montgomery he will be 26 on July 1st. He was the first round draft choice of the Kansas City Royals in the 2008 amateur draft, 36th overall. In 2012 he was traded to Tampa Bay in the deal that sent James Shields to the Royals. Tampa was not happy with his development and this spring were trying to convert the left handed starter to a reliever.

But then the Rays traded him to Seattle for Erasmo Ramirez at the end of training camp, March 31st of this year. The Mariners needed a starter at triple A as insurance should one of their Major league pitchers get an injury. When James Paxton went down, Montgomery got the call, making his major league debut against the New York Yankees June 2nd, allowing one run in six innings.

Tuesday night at Safeco Field, pitching against his former organization the Kansas City Royals, Montgomery pitched a complete game 4-hit shutout striking out ten, walking nobody. It evened his record at 2-2 with a 2.04 ERA. In 35.1 innings he has allowed 26 hits, 8 walks, struck out 22 and given up one homer. He also has shown the ability to get out of jams. The Royals had the bases loaded in the first, no outs, and did not score. In the second inning they had runners at first and second, no outs, and Montgomery struck out the side.

The thing is there was nothing in his unremarkable  minor league career to indicate how well he has pitched at the major league level. Before his promotion, he was 4-3 at Tacoma with a 3.74 ERA. He had pitched 53 innings in his nine starts, not quite six per start. But the batting average against was .240. His entire minor league career shows a 46-50 record with 4.24 ERA in 159 starts and 5 relief appearances. More remarkable is he had only two complete games in his 159 starts and not one shutout. Not one, none, zip, never happened. His shutout of the Royals was his first professional whitewash.

They say-and we know who they are-that lefties develop later and it could be the Mariners have a steal and for once another organization, or in Mike’s case, two, are the ones getting fleeced not the Mariners. Seattle has lost Adam Jones, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo to name but three they should have kept. 

The Mariners currently have five starters doing well, though Felix in June has struggled. The King will not come out of the rotation, so it will be interesting what happens when Iwakuma and Paxton are once again healthy. Who leaves the rotation and where do they go? Tacoma? Unlikely. Bullpen? Stay tuned. But General Montgomery in command of all his pitches doesn’t look to be going anywhere.