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MARINERMANIA HOW A TOTTERING TEAM'S BID FOR A WILD-CARD BERTH TURNED INTO A LATE-SEASON FRENZY-- AND SAVED BASEBALL IN SEATTLE

Feb. 05, 1996
Feb. 05, 1996

Table of Contents
Feb. 5, 1996

MARINERMANIA HOW A TOTTERING TEAM'S BID FOR A WILD-CARD BERTH TURNED INTO A LATE-SEASON FRENZY-- AND SAVED BASEBALL IN SEATTLE

The wedding reception for Gayle Frink and Randy Schulz at the
Seattle Yacht Club will have to carry on without at least one
guest, who sits in his car in the parking lot with the engine
off and the radio on. He dares not leave, not as long as the
Mariners have one last turn to bat, one last turn to alchemize
imminent defeat into another magical victory.

This is an article from the Feb. 5, 1996 issue

It is Sept. 24, a Sunday afternoon. Yes, this is a blessed,
once-in-a-lifetime event. It's the first time the Mariners have
been in first place this late in the season in their 19 years of
existence. Cripes, they had never been in first place even as
late as Memorial Day. Gayle's wedding? It's her second.

So the radio and the listener cannot be separated, as if the
connection is magnetic. Seattle, trailing by a run, has one man
on against Oakland A's closer Dennis Eckersley in the bottom of
the ninth. The voice of Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus
crackles through the car's speakers: "Here comes the pitch to
Tino .... Swung on and belted! .... Deep to rightfield .... And
that will be .... Flying away! The Mariners win it, 9-8, in
perhaps the most incredible game in their history! And 46,000
fans are losing their minds in Seattle! Tonight, I guarantee
you, it will be sleepless in Seattle for everybody who was here
today, including me!"

Holy matrimony! The Mariners have done it again. Now the guest
can join the wedding party. He takes the keys from the
ignition, slips out of his car and shuts the door. And this is
what he hears: the whoomp of about 20 other car doors closing at
almost the same time. Other guests have been captivated by the
Mariners too. Soon they are high-fiving in the yacht club
parking lot. The party has just begun.

Legend is history's big brother. Derived from the Latin word
legenda, meaning "to be read," legend has come to define events
so large that the recounting of them occurs mostly by spoken
word over years, even generations. Until last August, the term
was virtually inapplicable to anything having to do with major
league baseball in Seattle.

What play, game or event, for instance, could move Seattle's few
faithful baseball fans to recite exactly where they were when it
occurred? The time in 1981 when Lenny Randle, a stand-up comic
who also played third base, tried to blow a rolling baseball
foul? Funny Nose Glasses Night in '82, which outdrew Gaylord
Perry's 300th win two nights earlier? The evening in '86 on
which the Mariners struck out a major league record 20 times
against Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox? The first time the
Mariners sold out the Kingdome--in their 1,019th home game, on
April 13, 1990? The only two seasons ('91 and '93) that Seattle
had a winning record?

What about the time in '69 that righthander John Gelnar of the
Pilots, the Mariners' deadbeat major league forefathers in
Seattle, lost two games in one day? Well, that was the day Neil
Armstrong walked on the moon. All the more amazing. They could
put a man on the moon but not a team into a pennant race in
Seattle. One year, '83, the Mariners played in front of 3.9
million empty seats at home.

"For obvious reasons, baseball in Seattle never caught on," says
ace pitcher Randy Johnson, who joined the Mariners in 1989.
"It's because we never won. When you're on the mound and you can
hear the popcorn vendor guy going, 'Popcorn!' and someone in the
stands is having a conversation with someone else and you can
point them out, that's bad."

"It was so quiet," says rightfielder Jay Buhner, a Mariner since
1988, "that you could hear a bird chirp."

The Library of Congress catalog shows 77 books under the subject
of the Boston Red Sox. The Seattle Mariners' listing stops at
four. Not much legenda.

All that changed in eight manic weeks late last summer and early
last fall, during which the Mariners replaced the double latte
as the locals' daily jolt of choice. "Spontaneous combustion,"
Buhner calls it. Roars not heard in Seattle outside of Boeing
Field reverberated off the concrete walls and ceiling of the
suddenly packed Kingdome. To say that the Northwest fell for the
Mariners is like saying America expressed some interest in the
Beatles in 1964.

Marinermania was about more than wins and losses, though the
team repeatedly lived up to its apothegm, which hung from
storefront windows, motor vehicles and even the top of the
605-foot Space Needle: REFUSE TO LOSE. Marinermania was about
baseball becoming a guidepost in the lives of people in the
Northwest.

In Boston, fathers have become grandfathers telling the legend
of how people would stop their cars at the entrances to the
Callahan and Sumner tunnels during Red Sox rallies in 1967
rather than lose radio contact with their pennant-bound team.
Now Mariners fans, too, can tell their children exactly how
baseball held them spellbound in '95, if not exactly in the same
learned manner as a veteran fan of the "Sawx."

"I like to see the Mariners win," says Kit Ford, Gayle Frink's
sister, "but I really pay attention when they go into overtime."

Ah, yes. It was at once both sweet and awkward, like a first
kiss. When the Mariners reached the playoffs, The Seattle Times
saw fit to run a two-page baseball primer complete with a
glossary of terms, an explanation of how to keep score and
descriptions of various pitches.

"It's like your first love," Buhner says. "It will never happen
again that special. I'm going to go out and buy one of those
highlight tapes of the season. And whenever I get down a little
bit, I'm going to pull out that tape and watch it.

"What I'll always remember is how I couldn't wait to get to the
ballpark. And then when the game was over I couldn't wait to get
home. Because I knew that as soon as I put my head on my pillow,
I was that much closer to another day and getting to do it all
over again."

The Mariners won games and saved marriages. Ron Anderson of
Brier, Wash., told The Seattle Times that his "marriage was
going through a very rocky time at the start of this, and we got
caught up in the hype and hoopla, and she developed into a
sports fan, and it kept our five-year marriage together.
Thanks, Mariners. I have my wife."

When John Ellis, the Mariners' chief executive officer, visited
his in-laws at a nursing home, the home's director stopped him
and said, "Look, I've been here nine years, and I've never seen
these people get so excited over anything. The Mariners are all
they want to talk about. We've got people in their 90's here.
They have fixed ideas. They don't like change. But they came to
us and told us they wanted dinner moved to 4:30 so they wouldn't
miss a pitch. It's incredible."

At a black-tie auction to raise money for the Boys and Girls
Clubs of King County, a man bid $1,000 to put the event on hold
so everyone there could watch a Mariners game on televisions in
the hotel ballroom. The bid was gladly accepted.

Baseball, especially the way Seattle used to play it, seemed
frivolous in a region that likes to worry about spotted owls and
likes to, as the bumper stickers advise, VISUALIZE WORLD PEACE.
But in these eight weeks baseball became important. It became
life and death.

In the middle of the madness a couple named their newborn son
Randy Jay, after their two favorite Mariners. And then there was
the stranger who stopped Mariners president Chuck Armstrong at a
University of Washington football game on Oct. 28. "She got real
teary-eyed and thanked me and thanked the Mariners for helping
to save her father's life," Armstrong says. "It turned out that
in the first part of September her father suffered a massive
stroke. The doctors told her and the family that there was
little chance for recovery. It was just a matter of time before
he died.

"Well, he knew all about Refuse to Lose. His motto was going to
be Refuse to Die. She said he drew strength from the team. It
turns out he recovered nicely and is almost back to normal. She
was crying when she told me he would not have had the will to
continue if it had not been for what we were doing. I'm telling
you, I'm getting goose bumps just talking about it."

Legends. Mariners fans snapped up 18,000 copies of Seattle's
1995 highlight video in the first three days they were on sale.
The first run of 30,000 videos sold out, as did the second run
of 20,000, so 50,000 more were ordered up for holiday shoppers.
(Only 10,000 remained by the New Year.) In the Seattle suburb of
Issaquah, people waited in a hardware store when they heard
about an impending video delivery and then snatched the tapes by
the handful straight from the shipping carton. The videos never
made it to the display stand.

People still drive around with those REFUSE TO LOSE signs in
their windows, except that now they have been amended to read
REFUSE TO LET GO.

Amazing? Sure. All of that. What may be most amazing of all,
though, is how close the Mariners came to bolting Seattle.

On the first day of spring training last year, Ellis gathered
the Mariners in the brightness of an Arizona morning and laid
out their mission: Put the strike behind us, win our division
and, oh, yeah, get us a new stadium for the city.

"Do you know what kind of pressure that is?" Buhner says.
"Knowing that if you don't win, the team's going to skip town?
That the future of the franchise is on your shoulders? Man,
that's pressure."

There were only two years left on the Mariners' lease at the
Kingdome, a dreary facility that has all the ambience of a
port-a-john. The club was losing so much money, Ellis said, that
unless it extracted a promise from the local electorate of
public funds to finance a new ballpark, it would be sold--almost
certainly to someone smart enough to move it out of Seattle.

Ellis and the board of directors gave general manager Woody
Woodward a budget of $30 million, about $4 million less than
what the Mariners already had committed to players' salaries
alone by spring training. Rumors abounded that Johnson or DH
Edgar Martinez would be traded. Says Woodward, "I had enough
interest from other clubs that I knew I could have made a deal
to get the dollars down. I don't mind admitting now that I did
drag my feet a little bit."

Woodward and manager Lou Piniella eventually persuaded Ellis to
leave the team intact, that this shot at saving baseball in
Seattle had to be a damn-the-budget effort. Then the cause
appeared lost in one horrifying instant on May 26, when Ken
Griffey Jr. broke two bones in his left wrist while making a
spectacular catch against the Kingdome's centerfield wall.

By Aug. 2, the Mariners trailed the first-place California
Angels by 13 games in the American League West. Only two teams
in history had ever come back from a greater deficit to win a
league or division championship: the 1951 New York Giants (13
games) and the '78 New York Yankees (14), whose rightfielder was
Piniella. The Mariners found encouragement, though, in a more
realistic, if newfangled, goal: the wild card. Had it not been
for the expanded playoff format, which was put into use for the
first time in '95, Woodward would have sold off some of the
Mariners' top players, effectively handing the franchise a
one-way ticket out of town. "There's no doubt about it,"
Woodward says. "If there's no wild card, we get into a mode
you've seen in years past: Move some salaries and get young
talent in exchange."

Griffey returned to the lineup on Aug. 15, but a loss that night
left Seattle 12 1/2 games behind California. By Aug. 24, the
Mariners were playing so poorly--four losses in five games had
dropped them to 54-55, four games behind the Texas Rangers in
the race for the American League wild-card slot--that they
conducted a players-only meeting before a game against the
Yankees. The meeting appeared to have been a waste of time by
the ninth inning that night, when the Mariners found themselves
down to their last out against closer John Wetteland with nobody
on base and New York leading 7-6. Up to that point in the
season, Seattle had trailed after eight innings in 43 games and
lost all of them.

What happened next triggered the turnaround of baseball in
Seattle, the way the first slide of snow sets an unstoppable
avalanche in motion. It began with a walk to Vince Coleman,
whose acquisition on Aug. 15, like that of righthander Andy
Benes on July 31, marked the first time the Mariners had ever
added to their payroll in the second half of a season. Coleman
swiped second base and then third. He scored when Yankees
shortstop Tony Fernandez failed to glove a soft liner hit by
Joey Cora.

So the game was tied when Griffey came to bat, with a metal
plate and seven screws still fastened to the bones in his wrist.
Wetteland tried pounding an inside fastball past him, but
Griffey's quick, sweet stroke met the ball with such force that
Griffey knew instantly the game was over. He thrust his arms
above his head and raised both index fingers as the baseball
whizzed like a comet into the rightfield seats. "That was the
one that got us going," Piniella says. "It wasn't just how we
did it, but because Junior did it. We had him back."

Starting with that win, Seattle went 25-11 over the rest of the
season. Each victory seemed more preposterous than the last. On
Aug. 31, a 21-year-old rookie named Bob Wolcott was standing
around the Fenway Park visitors' clubhouse in shorts, searching
for a pair of lost socks, when somebody told him Johnson could
not pitch because of a stiff shoulder. Wolcott, who had pitched
two other games in the major leagues, would replace Johnson
against the East Division-leading Red Sox. He threw six solid
innings as Seattle won 11-2.

In Chicago on Sept. 15, the White Sox put the tying run at third
base with no outs in the eighth inning and their fourth, fifth
and sixth hitters--Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura and Lyle
Mouton--due up. Piniella brought in Jeff Nelson, who struck out
Thomas; then Lee Guetterman, who struck out Ventura; then Bill
Risley, who struck out Mouton. Three pitchers. Three punchouts.
After Seattle wrapped up that win, White Sox broadcaster Hawk
Harrelson poked his head into Piniella's office and said to his
old friend, "If y'all get in the playoffs, you're gonna look
back on that inning."

Fact is, you could heave a dart blindly at the Mariners'
day-to-day log for those wondrous eight weeks and chances are
you'd strike some important, cliff-hanging win. In one
eight-game span that began on Sept. 19, Seattle cracked four
game-tying or game-winning home runs in the eighth or ninth
innings, including the Tino Martinez shot heard round the
Seattle Yacht Club parking lot. The Mariners came from behind to
win 43 times in 1995, including 12 times in September. "We went
into every game at home anticipating some kind of miracle or
something," Johnson says. "For the most part, something
miraculous did happen."

Still, Seattle fans were slow to respond to the first meaningful
baseball September in their city's history. The Mariners were
never lovable, even as expansion losers, mostly because they
were thrust upon the city in a shotgun wedding. After one season
in the Pacific Northwest, the Pilots were sold and moved to
Milwaukee on April Fool's Day 1970. The state of Washington,
King County and the city of Seattle sued the American League,
accusing its leaders of making false statements, breaking
promises and cutting secret deals that resulted in the Pilots'
departure. As the trial was getting under way in '76, the
American League made a deal with the plaintiffs: Drop the suit,
and we'll give you an expansion team in '77.

Four ownership groups, 11 managers and 16 losing seasons (out of
19) later, King County residents weren't exactly jumping at the
chance to raise the county sales tax one tenth of 1% to finance
a retractable-roof stadium for the Mariners. On Sept. 1, just 18
days before the vote, a poll showed only 33% of the respondents
favored the measure, which effectively became a referendum on
whether the franchise should stay or leave. Wrote Seattle Times
columnist Terry McDermott on Sept. 5, "Why are we asked to build
a new stadium to further enrich the very rich men who control
major league baseball?... I think voting to give tax money to
these guys is dumb."

An obituary appeared that same day for 80-year-old Thomas E.
Fallihee. It concluded, "In lieu of flowers, a Yes vote on the
new baseball stadium would be appreciated."

One week before the Sept. 19 vote, a game against the Minnesota
Twins drew only 12,102 to the Kingdome. It was during that
homestand that some workers, under orders from Mariners
management, rearranged the rightfield banners that always had
been hung in an order reflecting the standings in the American
League divisions. Now the workers placed the team banners in the
order of the wild-card standings. "Buhner went ballistic," says
Randy Adamack, the Mariners' vice president of communications.
"He cursed the workers up and down, called them every name in
the book. The next day the wild-card arrangement was gone."

Says Buhner, "I didn't want us to sell ourselves short, to
settle for shooting for the wild card. You compete to win, to
finish first. If we set our sights on California, we'd keep
pushing harder."

In the heat of a pennant race, Buhner and other Mariners were
meeting with politicians and labor leaders to find out how they
could help drum up support for a new stadium. "In between taking
batting practice and taking infield," Buhner says, "we'd have
these meetings with them in our clubhouse. It was crazy."
Catcher Dan Wilson, Seattle's player rep, solicited support from
local union leaders at Boeing and other businesses. "I always
knew the fans would respond," Armstrong says, "because our radio
ratings were always very high, among the highest per capita in
baseball. The fans were out there, they just weren't coming to
the park."

Says Buhner, "I had my doubts."

On the night of the vote--and another Seattle ninth-inning
comeback victory--the Mariners rushed into the clubhouse between
innings to get election updates. They went to bed thinking the
measure had a good chance of passing. They woke up to the news
that absentee ballots were turning the tide. The measure wound
up losing by 1,082 votes out of 491,918 cast. Fifty-two percent
of King County's voters turned out, more than any other primary
in the county's history.

Playoff tickets went on sale the day after the vote. The
Mariners' phone lines jammed. The team sold 120,000 tickets, in
strips of 10, in one day. But that night 26,574 fans came to
watch Seattle beat the Texas Rangers and tie California for
first place, having made up the last six games of its deficit in
the standings in eight dizzying games. "If the vote had been one
day later," Ellis says, "I guarantee you they would have passed
the darn thing."

On Sept. 22, when the Mariners beat the A's and moved ahead of
the Angels, a crowd of 51,550 showed up, starting a 12-game run,
including the postseason, in which Kingdome paid attendance
averaged 54,045. Still, after the last of the absentee ballots
were counted nine days after the vote, Ellis planned to notify
baseball officials of his intent to put the franchise up for
sale. "But then I received a request from the governor and
county executive to wait 30 days to see what they could work
out," Ellis says.

Of course, the Mariners would have to stay. They were loved.
They were supported. Heck, they were recognized.

"I'd always been able to walk around malls and stuff without
anyone recognizing me," says third baseman Mike Blowers, who
grew up and still lives in the area--and will continue to do so
even though the Mariners traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers
on Nov. 29. "It was kind of neat to see that change, to have
strangers come up and say, 'We're pulling for you. Good luck.'"

When Johnson drove up to the drive-thru window at a fast-food
restaurant, the cashier shouted, "Go Mariners!" and waved him on
without collecting a cent. When a mechanic brought back
Johnson's Jeep after having worked on it, Johnson asked, "How
much do I owe you?" Said the mechanic, "Forget it. Just sign a
couple of hats for me and we'll call it even." When Cora picked
up a load of dry cleaning, the person behind the counter told
him to keep his money in his pocket. "Man," Buhner says, "it
felt great to be a Mariner."

Seattle needed every one of its improbable wins--it finished the
regular season tied with California--and one more. The Mariners
sold 52,356 tickets in about seven hours for the hastily
arranged Monday afternoon one-game playoff against the Angels on
Oct. 2. Seattle put away the game in the seventh inning on a
broken-bat, bases-loaded double by Luis Sojo, who also scored on
the play, on an errant relay by Mark Langston, the pitcher the
Mariners had traded to the Montreal Expos in 1989 for Johnson.
"I'll always remember Langston lying there in the dirt across
home plate, looking up at the ceiling with that look on his
face," Armstrong says.

The Mariners past was buried in that dirt. When the reedy, 6'10"
Johnson ended the 9-1 victory by striking out Tim Salmon, he let
out a shout and raised his arms, curving his long body back at
the waist until he looked like an open parenthesis. "I guarantee
you," Johnson says, "if the fans hadn't come out in the numbers
they did and been as loud as they were, we would not have
accomplished what we did. I know whenever I was getting tired
and I heard them chanting Ran-dee! Ran-dee! I motivated myself
to a level I otherwise wouldn't have reached."

Johnson, a lefthander, is a man with blood in his adrenaline.
How else to explain that after missing three starts with a sore
left shoulder and while pitching with a torn ligament in his
left knee, Johnson won three games in seven days, beginning with
the one-game playoff--two of them fraught with win-or-go-home
urgency. Until Johnson finally ran out of gas in the seventh
inning of a Game 6 loss to Cleveland in the American League
Championship Series, the Mariners had been 30-3 whenever he
pitched.

"It wasn't until I was watching the World Series on TV that I
realized how mentally and physically drained I was," says
Johnson. "I've talked to family and friends who told me in that
last game against Cleveland they could see it in my face, how
stressed I was. They said it looked like I was drained."

On the evening of Oct. 8, a flight attendant on United Airlines
flight 1197 from Denver to Seattle carried an urgent message
from the passengers to the cockpit: Could you ask traffic
control for a score? The pilot responded with frequent updates
of the deciding game of the American League Division Series
between the Mariners and the wild-card Yankees, who had split
the first four games. By the time the aircraft flew over central
Washington, Niehaus's play-by-play was being piped over the
plane's audio system. Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your
seat belts.

On the ground, Game 5 attracted the highest concentration of
television viewers ever recorded in western Washington: 78% of
households with their TVs on tuned in to the Mariners. At a
house in Issaquah, neighbors joined hands in a "circle of life"
in front of a set. At a bar in Northgate, two fans promised
victory and vowed to shave their heads a la Buhner when the
joyous moment arrived. Baseball had suspended life in Seattle.
Somewhere on one of the city's many quiet streets sat a car
freshly stickered with the latest civic cause: VISUALIZE WORLD
SERIES.

The Mariners fell behind three times, with all the deficits
coming with a former Cy Young Award winner working for New York:
2-1 in the fourth inning and 4-2 in the sixth inning with David
Cone pitching, and 5-4 in the 11th inning with Jack McDowell on
the mound. "Yankee Stadium was the loudest place I've ever
heard," says Buck Showalter, who was then the New York manager,
"but the noise bounces around in the Kingdome. We felt coming in
that we didn't want to play a close game in that ballpark."

Finally, with two runners on in the 11th, Edgar Martinez smashed
a pitch into the leftfield corner. Cora scored easily from
third, and Griffey, with unprecedented haste, did likewise from
first with the winning run. Fireworks burst and a great, joyous
noise fairly shook the walls of the huge concrete cavern. At
that moment Daniel Clark, one of 57,411 fans at the Kingdome,
turned to his girlfriend, Mary Ogdon, and told her to take her
earplugs out. "Will you marry me?" he asked. Of course. She
later gave thanks to the Mariners "for giving me the most
exciting, magical and romantic moment of my life."

In Northgate the two bar patrons climbed upon stools and gladly
surrendered themselves to a bartender's scissors. All over
Seattle people opened their doors and windows to holler or bang
on pots and pans. The New Year had arrived early.

Ten minutes after the game had ended, the noise in the Kingdome
still rolled like thunder, and Cora, clad in his undergarments,
ran out to the pitcher's mound with a disposable camera. He
pointed the little box toward the joy in the stands and snapped
the shutter.

M'S DO IT! screamed the next morning's edition of the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer in 240-point type. It was the paper's largest
headline since World War II ended.

The state legislature found a way to come up with 86% of the
money for the $320 million ballpark. (The Mariners will scrape
together the other 14%.) The first shovel doesn't go into the
dirt until 1997. Ominously, the county and the Mariners have an
escape hatch if the project appears to be underfunded on Dec.
31, 1996. If all goes well, the park will open in 1999.

Three Seattle players finished among the top six in balloting
for the American League's Most Valuable Player, and none of them
was named Griffey: They were Edgar Martinez, Johnson and Buhner,
who tore up plans for his dream home in Texas after the ballpark
funding came through. Now he's looking for land on the plateau
east of Seattle. "This," he says, "is my home now."

Says Ellis, "When we got the funding, I walked into the office
and told people, 'We've lived a day-to-day existence. Now I want
you to start thinking long-term--three, five, 10 years down the
line.' I can't tell you what it meant to be able to say that."

Piniella was named the league's Manager of the Year, not bad for
the former outfielder whom the Pilots dumped in a 1969 trade
with the Kansas City Royals that brought "Double-L" Gelnar to
Seattle. "When I took the job in 1993, a lot of people I talked
to in baseball told me baseball couldn't work in Seattle,"
Piniella says. "This was a pivotal year in Seattle. What I'm
happiest about is Seattle became a baseball town. I'm more proud
about that than I am about the awards or winning the division,
because those things could be done next year or the year after
that. This couldn't wait."

Even though the World Series didn't involve the Mariners, it
pulled in its biggest TV rating (outside of Atlanta and
Cleveland, the home markets of the Series participants) in
baseball-mad Seattle. The Mariners did more to lift the
poststrike gloom from baseball than anybody but Cal Ripken Jr.
Their stretch run spurred sales of postseason national-TV
advertising time. Seattle found out for the first time what the
rest of us needed to be reminded of: There is nothing in sports
as captivating as the day-by-day unfolding of a pennant race.

The Mariners story ended with a Game 6 defeat by Cleveland in
the American League Championship Series, only Seattle's fifth
loss in 22 games at the Kingdome following Griffey's
game-winning home run off Wetteland. On Oct. 2, before the
one-game playoff, Piniella had asked Ellis to speak to the
Mariners in the locker room after the game if they were
eliminated. Ellis prepared some notes. Every day for two weeks
he would stuff them in his pocket as he left his home for work.
Every day they stayed tucked away as the Mariners refused to
lose. It wasn't until Oct. 17 that he needed them.

When Ellis was done speaking, Piniella extended his own thanks
to the club. The players listened, but they also could hear
sustained applause through the door of the clubhouse. Director
of public relations Dave Aust then walked in and said, "They're
still out there!" Said Piniella to his team, "Fellas, there's
one more thing I want you to do." They knew what that was. In
various stages of undress and with ice bags taped to some of
them, the Mariners walked back onto the field. The Kingdome was
still full. The fans were still on their feet after 15 minutes
of cheering a team that had just lost the pennant. It went on
for five minutes more.

"I have never in my life seen a city respond quite the way
Seattle did," Piniella says. The manager wept. Cora buried his
head into Edgar Martinez's shoulder and bawled. Buhner cried. "I
don't know anyone who didn't," he says.

"I'm a sports fan," Johnson says, "and that was something I've
never witnessed in any sport. It was as close as I've been to
being in the rock band I've always wanted to be in. It was like
they wanted an encore. They were waiting for another song to be
played. But the lights came on and the show was over. But there
will be a '96 tour. With me still on the drums."

Listen. The ovation lingers still. Funny, isn't it, how the
noise from inside the Kingdome echoes.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY DREW FRIEDMAN The Kingdome erupted after Griffey barreled home with the run that beat the Yankees in Game 5. [Drawing of Ken Griffey Jr. sliding into home plate]COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY DREW FRIEDMAN Guests celebrated another improbable Mariners win before toasting the bride and groom. [Drawing of people in parking lot celebrating]COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY DREW FRIEDMAN The team's motto found a home on the Needle. [Drawing of Space Needle with "REFUSE TO LOSE" written on it]COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY DREW FRIEDMANPlayoff-game hero Sojo left former Mariner Langston in the dirt. [Drawing of Mark Langston lying on ground and looking up at Luis Sojo]COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY DREW FRIEDMAN Upon beating the Angels, Johnson shouted, raised his arms and curved his body like a parenthesis. [Drawing of Randy Johnson]COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY DREW FRIEDMANPassengers on United flight 1197 asked for Mariner-Yankee updates from the cockpit. [Drawing]COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY DREW FRIEDMAN In a season-ending encore, Piniella led his troops back onto the field to salute the fans. [Drawing of Lou Piniella and Seattle Mariner baseball players]