It has been exactly 14 years and six days since that fateful evening in October when the Mariners toppled the mighty New York Yankees to advance to the 1995 American League Championship Series.
In honor of the annual playoff atmosphere consuming Major League Baseball this time of year, MLB Network broadcast the original footage of the final game of the ’95 American League Divisional Series between the M’s and Yankees earlier this afternoon. In its entirety, the contest was absolutely spectacular, culminating in Edgar Martinez’s historic double and Ken Griffey Jr.’s franchise-altering slide.
I was able to catch the second half of the game on TV today (originally broadcast on ABC, and narrated by veteran play-by-play man Brent Musberger) and noticed a few interesting things that may have been forgotten over time. It’s a trip down memory lane, and if you’re a Mariners fan, you’ll love it. My observations, in bullet point format:
–Randy brought us to The Jungle.
Even on television, Randy Johnson’s entrance as a relief pitcher was spectacular. I mean really, how was Lou Piniella supposed to deny bringing the guy into the game when the entire crowd was chanting “RANDY RANDY RANDY” with Norm Charlton on the mound. It just wasn’t possible.
When Randy stepped off the bullpen mound and Welcome to the Jungle came blaring down from the Kingdome speakers, you couldn’t help but go nuts. One of the greatest entrances ever, even to this day.
–Everyone and their mother knew about Bobby Ayala.
“Where,” said Brent Musberger, “is Piniella going to go next?” This was in reference to who Lou Piniella would tap in relief if Randy Johnson had to exit the game. Ultimately it never came to that, but Musberger, astute broadcaster that he is, knew of one reliever that Sweet Lou wouldn’t lean on: “He’s lost confidence in Ayala.”
57,000-plus people stood and chanted “Donnie Strike-Out!” at Yankee first baseman Don Mattingly in the final at-bat of his career. Naturally, he struck out. Randy Johnson was the culprit.
–Where’d all those signs come from?
Office Depots around the Seattle Metro area must have had record business days with all the poster board and magic markers they sold to Mariners fans on their way to the game. Hanging from every conceivable point within the Kingdome was a poster with words of inspiration scrawled in bubble letters across it.
On top of that, there were hundreds, if not thousands of people holding signs in their seats. It looked like something out of a movie, or perhaps the busiest street corner in town during election season. Must have set some kind of record for most signs at a sporting event. Too bad the Guiness Book wasn’t on hand.
–Chris Widger’s mullet.
It wasn’t nearly as obscene as the Big Unit’s SuperMullet, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
Widger, a 24-year-old rookie catcher who replaced starter Dan Wilson in the late innings, had one of those Florence Henderson-type mullets. You know, where the hair barely starts to flip up in the back. The kind of mullet that says, “Yeah, I’m here to party for a few minutes, maybe have a drink or two, maybe dance a little bit, but then I gotta go. Gotta wake up early tomorrow morning and get to work.”
By contrast, Randy’s SuperMullet would say, “I’m here to party all night, bitches!!!! Where’s the keg?!?! Where’s the motherf****** keg?!?! Don’t keep me waiting! I’m thirsty!! I’m f****** THIRSTY!!!! LET’S DO THIS!!!!!”
–Tony Fernandez was pretty good.
We tend to overlook Tony Fernandez’s contribution to baseball in the annals of history. Maybe we shouldn’t. The Yankees shortstop was better than we give him credit for.
–Brent Musberger, honorary Seattleite.
Eight-and-a-half years after Griffey’s slide, Musberger was on the call when the ’03-’04 Washington Huskies men’s basketball team upset the undefeated, No. 1 ranked Stanford Cardinal at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Musberger can be a part of our city any day.
–Felix Fermin’s mustache.
Shortstop Felix Fermin just sat there on the bench with what appeared to be a giant pet caterpillar perched neatly on his upper lip. That ‘stache is worth a shout-out even after all these years, in spite of all the other ‘staches populating the Kingdome on that day (Don Mattingly, Randy Johnson, Vince Coleman, to name a few).
–Darryl Strawberry was good.
He had his battles with drugs, but people often forget that Darryl Strawberry used to be one of the best players to ever put on a big league uniform. By 1995, he was relegated to bench duty with the Yankees but still could hit the ball a long ways. This isn’t something you could get from the telecast, but I remember watching batting practice and witnessing Strawberry blast dinger after dinger into the right field upper deck seats at the Dome. That was territory rarely visited by even the most powerful left-handed hitters.
–Even the police loved it.
Right after Joey Cora led off the bottom of the 11th inning with a bunt single, a camera shot of the Yankees left field bullpen showed a Seattle police officer cheering right along with the fans. It was one of those days where professionalism could take a back seat to passion.
–14 years later, nothing has changed.
It’s still impossible to not get goosebumps as soon as you see the close-up camera shot of Jack McDowell during the final at-bat of the game.
Once the lens closes in on McDowell, with the count 0-1 to Edgar, you know what’s coming next. Edgar hits the double, Musberger announces the game is tied, Junior comes barrelling around second and in seemingly no time at all is halfway around third. The camera pans out, Leyritz lines up for the throw, Griffey slides, and all of a sudden absolute chaos takes over.
For me, personally, there is no greater moment in sports.