The Rise and Fall of the 1990s Seattle Mariners:
A Ticket-Stub History (1996)
1996: THE GREATEST LINE-UP EVER
- March 31: M's 3, White Sox 2 (12 innings): Opening Night and the M's start out where they left off: with a come-from-behind victory before a sell-out crowd of nouveau fans at the Kingdome. Amusing moment: In the 1st inning, Randy gets two strikes on a batter and half the Kingdome rise out of their seats to cheer for that third strike. I look around and laugh. “It's March 31st, kids. Save something for the season!” M's win it on a sharp single to right by a young Alex Rodriguez that plates Doug Strange. And it just continues.
- April 6: M's 8, Brewers 5: Or does it? We win again but by this point, a week later, we're 1 1/2 GB. Tino's replacement Paul Sorrento hits 2 homeruns, including a grand slam, and Junior adds a late-inning solo shot.
- April 16: M's 11, Angels 10: Or DOES it? This game plays like a microcosm of the previous season. In the first match-up between the Angels and M's since the one-game playoff last October, the Angels take a commanding 9-1 lead in the fourth. Then Sorrento homers. Then A-Rod homers. Then A-Rod singles in a run. Then Cora singles in a run. Down by 4 in the 7th, the M's string together a walk, single, HBP, HBP to set up a 3-run double by Russ Davis to tie the game. A Buhner single in the 8th puts the M's on top. It's the the biggest comeback in Mariners history. Refuse to lose, indeed.
- May 3, Indians 5, M's 2. It's the game after the day an earthquake shook Seattle, and the M's still can't shake the Indians.
- May 11: M's 11, Royals 1: The year before, the Royals worried me. No longer. HRs: A-Rod, Sorrento, Buhner (2). M's are over .500 but 5 GB.
- May 24: M's 10, Yankees 4: These guys don't worry me, either. They start Game 4 starter Scott Kamieniecki, we start Sterling Hitchcock. We jump to a 4-1 lead. Then Junior takes over. In the 4th he hits a 2-run homer off Kamieniecki. In the 6th he hits a 3-run homer off Jeff Nelson. In the 8th he adds a solo shot off Steve Howe. THREE HRs!!!! Suck it, NY!
- May 26: M's 4, Yankees 3: We even beat them when we start Paul Menhart. HRs: Edgar and A-Rod. Edgar's hitting .350 on the season. A-Rod's hitting .369.
- May 31: M's 9 Red Sox 6: More Refuse to Lose. Down 5-1 in the 5th, M's string together: walk, walk, walk, groundout, strikeout, and then a 3-run homer by Junior to tie the game. A-Rod puts us ahead with a 3-run homer in the 7th. It's our take on the Earl Weaver strategy: Lousy pitcing but a couple of three-run homers.
- June 15: M's 8, White Sox 6: Lose? Refuse! Junior ties it with a 2-run homer in the 7th but Norm Charlton, walking everybody, gives back 2 in the 9th. We tie it in the bottom of the 9th (with 2 outs) and win it in the bottom of the 12th on a walk-off, 2-run homer by Brian Hunter. I don't even remember it. Shouldn't one remember one's walk-off homers?
- June 19: Blue Jays 9, M's 2: Am I a jinx? I was at the game last year when Junior shattered his wrist, and I'm at the game, this game, when Junior (fouling back a pitch?) in the bottom of the third, breaks his hamate bone. At first I think it's his wrist again—you see him opening and closing his hand, trying to shake it off—but it's the hamate and he's out for 4-6 weeks. Randy went down in May, now Junior in June. The M's are six GB with no pitching and no Junior. Doesn't look good.
- June 28: M's 19, Rangers 8: Who needs pitching? HRs: Edgar, Brian Hunter and Dan Wilson. Luis Sojo with five singles.
- July 2: A's 11, M's 6: WE need pitching. The M's blow a 4-0 lead. Then in the top of the 9th, in a 6-6 game, with one out, Norm Charlton gives up a single, walk, walk, single, home run. Five runs. Poof! His ERA is now 4.30. Charlton, so strong the year before, is blowing ballgames big. This one is reminiscent of the May 17th game in Baltimore when he gives up a walk-off grand slam to Chris Hoiles in the bottom of the 9th and the M's lose 14-13. That one hurt.
- July 11: M's 5, Angels 4 (12 innings): Poor Angels. They go up 3-0. We come back, 4-3. Our bullpen allows them to tie it in the 9th. We win in the 12th. Paul Sorrento singles, the pitcher balks him to second, Dan Wilson grounds him over to third, and he scores on a wild pitch. I'm getting spoiled. I turn up my nose at the aesthetics of this extra-inning victory. A lousy single? Meanwhile A-Rod hits 2 doubles and a homerun. Kid might go places.
- July 12: M's 6: Angels 5 (10 innings): Maybe it's Refuse to Lose to the Angels? We go up 4-0, they go up 5-4, we tie it in the bottom of the 8th and win it in the bottom of the 10th in a slower replay of Game 5: Edgar scores from first on a double by Jay Buhner.
- July 24: M's 8, Brewers 7: How do I not remember this? M's are down 7-5 in the ninth when Joey doubles and Alex singles him in. Griffey, back in the lineup, singles Alex over to third and then steals second. Buhner strikes out. One down. Sorrento gets a pass to load the bases. Darren Bragg hits a sac fly to tie the game. Two outs. Dan Wilson doubles to score Griffey and end it. Memorable! Yet not. Spoiled.
- August 7: Indians 5, M's 4: Again with the Indians. On the ticket stub I wrote “Bonehead Piniella moves!” Leading late, set-up man Mike Jackson relieves new acquisition Jamie Moyer in the 8th and gives up a walk. Then he strikes out the next two batters. At which point Lou brings in Norm. In the 9th, ahead by 2, with two outs and nobody on, he gives up a homer to Omar, a single to Lofton, a double to Vizcaino to tie the game, and another single to put the Indians ahead. His ERA is now 5.17. We lived by “Refuse to Lose” and now we're dying by it. “Can't Begin to Win.” Against the Indians anyway.
- August 28: M's 10, Yankees 2: Now THIS I remember. We're killing the Yankees again, 8-1 when, in the top of 8th, Tim Davis replaces Terry Mulholland and pitches to Paul O'Neill. First pitch is high and tight. O'Neill bitches. That's what O'Neill does. M's back-up catcher John Marzano stands up and confronts him. That's what Marzano does. Soon we're getting shoves, a would-be haymaker from Marzano, then a headlock from Marzano, and benches clear. Seattle Times story here. Next inning Jeff Nelson hits Joey Cora, but A-Rod makes him pay by going deep in the next at-bat. Unfortunately, the next time I'll see these guys, in 1997, they'll be World Champions. BTW, I didn't know, or didn't remember, this. R.I.P., John Marzano. May you be up in Heaven forever punching Paul O'Neill in the face.
- August 30: O's 5, M's 2: Can we beat these guys already???
- September 4: Red Sox 7, M's 5: M's lose, never leading. Junior hits 3-run homer, his 43rd. Buhner hits a solo shot, his 39th.
- September 16: M's 6, Rangers 0: First of a four-game series with Texas. M's begin it 6 games back of the Rangers and really need a sweep to stand a chance. The first game's hardly a contest. Rangers can't hit Jamie Moyer, Edgar smacks his 50th double. Alex is hitting .368 with a 1.080 OPS. 78-70, GB: 5.
- September 18: M's 5, Rangers 2: M's win on the 17th as well as this night. Buhner hits his 41st. 80-70, GB: 3.
Mr. B lets the world (or Tim) know the M's are only 3 games back.
- September 19: M's 7, Rangers 6: Sweep! It's the September to Remember all over again! Just 2 GB! Our line-up is as good as any lineup I can remember: Cora, A-Rod, Griffey, Edgar, Buhner, Sorrento, Whitten, Hollins, Wilson. Our no. 9 guy hits his 17th homer of the year. It just continues.
- September 20: M's 12, A's 2: And continues. HRs: Junior, Jay and Joey. GB: 1.
- September 21: M's 9, A's 2: And continues. M's win their 10th in a row! HRs by Junior, Jay, Edgar, A-Rod, and Sorrento. GB: 1.
SEASON RECORD: 18-6. And then, suddenly, it didn't continue. M's lose their last home game of the year to the A's, then go 2-5 on their final roadtrip and finish 4 1/2 back of Texas. Afterwards Lou bucks up the squad by telling them that this is the best team he's ever managed. He tells them next year they're going all the way. But in the meantime, the New York Yankees, who couldn't touch the M's this season, beat Texas in the ALDS, beat the O's in the ALCS (with help from Jeffrey Maier), and win the World Series, with help from '95 M's Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson. The dynasty that should've been the M's is beginning to be someone else's.