On June 2nd, 1990, my dad took me to a baseball game. I was five years old and we were going to see the Mariners take on the visiting Detroit Tigers in the Kingdome. Even at that age I went to so many ballgames that this particular day was no different than many others. But somewhere, amongst my collection of baseball-related things, I still possess a ticket stub from that contest. It’s unusually glossy, with a vibrant yellow trim, and weaves the Mariners’ alternate logo — a blue baseball stamped with “M’s” lettering — into its otherwise-white canvas. It indicates my preferred seating location — somewhere in the nether reaches of the Dome’s 300-level, on the first base side, directly across from the big screen, or DiamondVision to the initiated.
I don’t remember much about that particular evening. When you’ve only recently hit the halfway point of your single-digit years, memories tend to be fuzzy and shrouded in puffy, silver clouds. I’d like to say I recall every moment of that game, but that would be a lie. About the only distinct memory I do have is rising to my feet with a crowd, clapping and cheering as the ninth inning faded into oblivion. Next to me, my dad explained what was occurring. Baseball may not have done everything right in defining their terminology over the years, but the term “no-hitter” is pretty easy for anyone to understand, even a kid.
Much of what I know about that night and its place in history came in the following years. Tacked up on my wall, alongside my bed, hung a poster commemorating the events of that date. I studied that poster for more than a decade. Every time I rearranged my room, that poster found itself moving to a new location. I wanted to look at it always. It gave me something to focus on when I couldn’t sleep, something to think about when I needed to ease my mind, and most of all, it was just plain awesome.
The inset of that poster contained a box score from the historic game. Burned into my consciousness are all sorts of anomalies from that stat sheet that I won’t ever forget.
Ken Griffey, Jr., still just 20 years of age, had not yet endeared himself to the heart of the team’s order; he batted fifth that evening. Following Junior at sixth and seventh in the lineup? Third baseman Edgar Martinez and right fielder Jay Buhner.
Mike Brumley, who happens to be the team’s current first base coach, played shortstop and batted ninth. In the history of Mariners infielders, Brumley, a journeyman backup, was but a blip on the radar of relevance. Had it not been for this particular evening that he found himself penciled into the starting nine, few fans might retain any memory of Mike Brumley, the Mariner.
Scott Bradley, a left-handed-hitting backup catcher, was on the receiving end of every pitch thrown that night. He was spelling injured starter Dave Valle — a frequent visitor to the disabled list in his career.
Cecil Fielder, who would go on to hit a league-leading 51 home runs in the 1990 season, occupied the three-hole in the Tigers’ order. He didn’t manage a dinger, let alone a hit, on this night, however.
And at the bottom of that box, in the home pitching frame, read a line that will forever have meaning to Seattle sports fans. Having relinquished zero runs and zero hits, walked six, and struck out eight, Randy Johnson pitched all nine innings to record the franchise’s first no-hitter. Above those statistics, an image of Johnson surrounded by teammates and embraced by his catcher, Bradley, lay splashed in black-and-white across the vast majority of this work of art. Human emotion remained frozen in time. A man roared skyward, another grinned, a few more ran towards the embracing battery, and thousands of individuals cheered in the background. It was, in a word, significant.
Twenty-two years and six days elapsed between Seattle’s first no-hitter and its most recent. In this rendition of hitlessness, six hurlers combined to stymie the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.
Kevin Millwood started the game, then pulled his groin after six innings. He made way for southpaw Charlie Furbush, who would eventually yield to rookie right-hander Stephen Pryor. Pryor would issue two baserunners via walks to start the eighth, forcing manager Eric Wedge to turn to situational lefty Lucas Luetge to record an out, then the beleaguered (no pun intended) Brandon League to nail down the penultimate frame. In the ninth, newly-christened closer Tom Wilhelmsen set down the final three hitters in order, thus polishing off one of the rarer feats in sports: a combined no-hitter.
Much has been written about this moment already, so for me to recap it once more would be foolish. But the reality of the situation is that this game, for those who witnessed it, will never be forgotten. You can ask me where I was on June 2nd, 1990, and I’ll be able to tell you from now until the day I die. Likewise, for those in attendance at Safeco Field on June 8th, 2012, there will always be a certain importance attached to the date.
In the grand scheme of a season that may or may not end up being remarkable, Friday evening will stand out. And on the landscape of Seattle sports events, though it might not result in a championship or even have a direct bearing on the team’s performance from here on out, this no-hitter will resonate as a gigantic pick-me-up amidst a down era in the city’s athletic annals.
We needed this. I needed it. You needed it. If you’re a sports fan in this town of ours, what the Mariners did on one special night in June was a shot in the arm for all of us.
So to the Mariners and their six remarkable pitchers, because we don’t say it enough, and because it just feels good to say it sometimes, thank you. Thank you, M’s. You did great.
Filed under: Mariners
The Mariners played what I thought was there most solid game of the year tonight beating the powerful Detroit Tigers 7-4 to snap a four games losing streak. This game was just what we needed after the last several days, or perhaps it was just a tease to keep those of us who are still paying attention a reason to hang in there. Either way tonight we got a gutsy outing from Jason Vargas who got the start and the win against a powerful Tigers lineup which added Prince Fielder in the offseason to give Tigers skipper Jim Leyland even more ammo in his quest to get back into the playoffs and go a little deeper this year.
I sort of played a little game with myself tonight by handling other chores and fiddling around online while the game was playing in the background tonight just in case it was another blowout which would allow me to transition into civilian life easier without going through more grief. But our guys just kept pounding away tonight collecting a season-high 15 hits thanks to guys like Alex Liddi who had a big night with three base knocks including a huge solo homer in the seventh to give the Mariners a 6-4 lead at the time. Michael Saunders also had a nice game knocking in three runs with a couple of clutch 2-out doubles in front of 30,073 Tigers fans at Comerica Park in the Motor City.
The Mariners relief corps of Tom Wilhelmsen and Brandon League also were impressive tonight, especially Wilhelmsen who managed to get out of a jam in the eighth after both Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder singled to start the frame. But Wilhelmsen took control after that fanning the last two batters in the eighth showing some grit in a crucial situation before handing the ball off to Brandon League who hasn’t pitched since blowing that save the other night. It became apparent right away that League still doesn’t have a handle on his deadly splitter, but like a true pro he adjusted after walking the first batter and threw fastballs the rest of the inning to shut down the Tigers. League will have to find that elusive splitter soon if he is going to be the effective closer we have all gotten used to.
Alex Liddi’s big night at the plate raising his average to .368 in limited appearances may add another wild-card into the mix as far as who will eventually be sent down once Carp and Gutierrez come back. I don’t know about you guys but I’m getting a little tired of waiting around for Justin Smoak to produce at the plate and I think Eric Wedge may need to give Liddi another day at first to see if the big Italian kid can keep driving the ball. It would be nice to win this series to get things back on track and tonight’s solid game was a great start! Go Chuck and Howard! http://jeffsmariners.com
I love this team. Don’t get me wrong. I just happen to hate this version of this team. It’s like when you’re a kid and you screw up and your parents get mad at you. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you anymore. They’re just upset for the time being. That’s all it is.
On paper, the 2011 Seattle Mariners are grosser than a Brendan Fraser movie. They’re flat boring. Brendan Ryan? Adam Kennedy? Jack Cust? Eh. Let’s be real here. None of those guys get you excited about the future of this team. They just don’t. But at least we got rid of Ryan Rowland-Smith. The Minus. Addition by subtracting the Subtraction. Though I suppose we could reacquire his goofy didgeridoo ass since he was just cut by the Houston Astros. Seriously. And he spent his entire offseason doing MMA workouts with Jay Glazer, too. Gee, I don’t know how that didn’t lead to success.
Anyway, here’s the thing about this year’s Mariners. The real media is obligated to make you believe in ‘em because currently they’re tied for first place with the best record in the league. Me, on the other hand…well, let’s just be honest, I have absolutely no obligations to anybody. So I’ll give it to you straight. Don’t think of this as a preview of the season. You would never read that garbage. Treat it as a heavy dose of reality.
Point No. 1: Everyone get off Tom Wilhelmsen’s dick
Tom Wilhelmsen. If you don’t know who he is by now, Google him. Every beat writer and columnist in the entire frickin’ world has written about Wilhelmsen and his quote-unquote story. Story, my ass. Let me give you the real Tom Wilhelmsen story, free of charge:
Athletically gifted dude gets paid a lot of money at a young age, blows said money on weed, wastes his talents, smokes aforementioned weed, quits job, goes AWOL, realizes he’s doing jack sh*t with his life, kicks weed (supposedly), puts talent to good use, gets a job. End of story.
But the way the scribes tell it, Wilhelmsen is a GDMFing hero. Why? Because he stopped smoking pot? Tim Lincecum started smoking pot and became better at his job. So suck on that.
The reality of Tom Wilhelmsen is that up until a year or two ago, the dude was a lazy motherf**ker. That’s not a knock on the guy. Hell, there are millions of lazy motherf**kers in the world. Most of them can’t throw a baseball 95 miles per hour, however. Wilhelmsen can. That doesn’t make him Mother Theresa.
I can’t fault Wilhelmsen’s plan. It was genius. Set the bar ridiculously low for yourself, then hop over it…hero status. Way to go. We wish we could all be the benefactors of our own shallow expectations.
I’ll still root for the guy. Not because he’s a hero now or whatever. I could care less about that. I’m intrigued by the fact that he was so passionate about life that he up and quit his job to pursue, well, nothing. More people should do that, and I’m dead serious. We tend to wait until we’re old and decrepit before we really enjoy life. So good for you, Wilhelmsen. Even I can applaud that.
Point No. 2: You better not screw this up, Bedard
You know the crazy girl you used to date but keep messing around with on the side? The one who you have no foreseeable future with, who you kind of hate, who your friends don’t like, but who has mad skills in the sack? That, my friends, is Erik Bedard.
Bedard is the most frustrating player in the history of baseball. He’s talented as all hell, but he can’t stay healthy. And yet we keep giving him chance after chance after chance, and what does he do? He tantalizes the fan base. He’s the world’s biggest cock tease. The hot actress on the cover of the magazine with her own hands covering her boobs. Just splay your fingers or something. Christ.
So what if we’re not really granting Bedard much of a salary anymore? He’s basically working off commission at this point, anyway. The money doesn’t matter. It’s the way he plays with our emotions every year. Pitching lights out when he’s on, stagnating on the DL when he’s off. And now here he comes with this phenomenal spring. Getting our hopes up one more time. For what? To let us down again? Is that how this will all play out?
I can’t do it anymore, Bedard. You’re the Jerry Maguire to our Dorothy Boyd. We want to believe in you, to complete you, to trust you, to love you, but it’s such a freaking struggle.
I hope this is the year. I really do. Don’t screw it up, Bedard. We need you.
Point No. 3: Milton Bradley is your starting left fielder
I mean, I don’t even know what to say really. Just let that sh*t sink in. Milton Effing Bradley. Unbuckingfelievable.
Point No. 4: Brandon League is your closer
God, I hate Brandon League. I do. I really do. There’s no other way to put it. The guy is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. He’s Bobby Ayala 2.0. And the thing that really bugs me about League is that so many people think he’s good. Okay, yeah, whatever.
Sure, the dude throws hard. I get that. We all do. But unfortunately he has the mental fortitude of a kindergartner. He crumbles under pressure, inflates his numbers in garbage time, and all in all becomes an average major leaguer when you take everything into account. He’s basically the Ricky Davis of baseball. Again, if you don’t know Ricky Davis, much like you may not have known Tom Wilhelmsen, please Google him.
It was bad enough last year when League was our top setup man. Now he starts this season as the team’s closer because David Aardsma has Bo Jacksonitis or something.
How’s League supposed to protect a one-run lead? Huh? Riddle me that. Because there were moments last year when he seemingly wasn’t capable of protecting the world’s tiniest penis. He’s like a perforated Trojan Mini. Good luck with that.
I don’t know, League. I wish I could like you, but I just don’t. Maybe one day after you give up baseball and go become a hair stylist for the blind I’ll learn to appreciate you more.
Point No. 5: Where the sh*t is Dustin Ackley?
I don’t care if he’s not ready. Billy Downtown Anderson wasn’t ready in Major League: Back to the Minors, but what did Roger Dorn and the Twins do? They called him up anyway. To sell tickets. And breathe some life into a moribund franchise. That’s what they did. And did it work? No, it didn’t. But who cares. At least they had the moxie to pull the trigger on the move anyhow. You have to like the attitude.
I don’t care if Ackley still needs seasoning in the minors. I want to watch him play. Now. Yes, I realize how selfish this is. But the dude was the No. 2 overall pick a few years ago. People want to see this man in a Mariners uniform!
Prove to me he’s not ready. You’re paying him millions of dollars to do his job, why not make him earn it a little bit? That’s all I ask. Bring him up here, install him at second base, ship Jack Wilson down to the Caribbean so he can hang out with Jack Sparrow, and let’s do this. Ackley ain’t getting any younger and you already poached him from the college ranks, so his body clock has to be ticking. Sh*t, if he was Dominican you would’ve had him up here two years ago. But then again, he would have told you he was like 18 back then when in reality he was really 34 or 35. That’s the thing about Dominicans. They use a different calendar than we do and hence don’t count the years the same way. It’s the metric system is what it is.
All I’m asking is for a little excitement. And Ackley brings that. Excite me, Mariners. This is going to be a long season. I’d at least like to see more than frumpy stopgap veterans slogging their way through the tail ends of their careers. We deserve better. Let’s make it happen.
Filed under: Mariners