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.
Ken Griffey Jr. is back with the Mariners. He carries not a bat, but his knowledge of the game, his ability to communicate, and his Hall of Fame presence.
In case you did not hear the news Junior is now a special consultant to the Mariners and will serve in various capacities.
He will be in spring training to reach out to the minor leaguers, telling them what it means to be a Mariner. I wish he would tell me what it means. I know what it means to be a Yankee, Red Sox, a Dodger, a Cub, a Cardinal, but I have no clue about what it means to be a Mariner.
But he will also work with minor leaguers, not only in spring training, but throughout the year as needed.
He will also be making trips to Seattle during the season and will no doubt be shaking hands with corporate sponsors.
Junior will also be involved in player development and baseball operations. The Mariners could have no better utility ambassador, instructor, and consultant who can perform a multitude of roles.
One still wonders what kind of consulting Ted Simmons is doing with Trader Jack. But considering the 2010 Mariner season they could use all the consultants they can get.
Can the Big Unit consult on pitching, on intimidating, on scowling? Can Edgar Martinez consult Bradley on how to be a professional? Can Jay “Bones” Buhner consult on how to have fun playing baseball?
Can the Navy Department consult the Mariners on how to steer a ship?
Who knows, but is good to have Junior back in the Mariner family.