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.
If you are a die-hard, through thick and thin, support the team at all costs, even if beer is $50 per thimble, then you should not read “Shipwrecked” by Jon Wells.
Wells is a former entertainment lawyer who moved to Seattle in 1996 and founded a great publication that you can subscribe to or find being hawked outside Safeco on game day. It is “Grand Salami” and is far better than the Mariner magazine, also being hawked, which is nothing but puff pieces and advertisements.
The program is good for every homestand; full of stats, articles, analysis, and of a course, a good scorecard.
Wells has a lot of perspective on the Mariners, follows them closely, not just the players, but the front office, what they do, what they say, and has a lawyers sharp eye for detail.
In the aptly titled “Shipwrecked” Wells recounts the woeful history of the Mariners from the beginning to the present. What is depressing is that no matter who the owners were, there were front office blunders after blunders. Too many to list here.
Of interest are the ten best and the ten worst Mariner trades that are food for Mariner fans to chew on. Worst trade according to Wells, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe to Boston for Heahcliffe Slocumb. Hard to argue that, but the Kevin Mitchell trade should, to me, have ranked higher. Best trade was Mark Langston and Mike Campbell to Montreal for Gene Harris, Brian Holman, and Randy Johnson.
He also claims Jeff Manto as all time worst Mariner, but I vote for Carlos Silva.
There is a page of infamous quotes which are fun. In January, 1981, manager Maury Wills, when asked who would play centerfield in the upcoming season, responded by saying “I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Leon Roberts.” I guess no one told Wills that five weeks earlier Roberts had been traded to Texas.
It is not always a negative book, many positive things are written, but looking at the teams history, it can not help be depressing. Especially when you read the quote by Harold Lincoln, who said in an interview with the Seattle Times one year, “The goal of the Mariners is not to win the World Series, but field a competitive team year after year, to put itself in position to win the World Series, and hope at some point that happens.”
That sums up Mariner history. The goal is not to win, but hope. It is the legacy Mariner fans have to live with.