Ken Griffey, Jr. and the Emotions that Come with Mariners Baseball


I was 4 years old when my grandmother brought me into the living room with her and sat me down in front of the TV to watch the Seattle Mariners play the Cleveland Indians. The Mariners lost that game, but I got to see Ken Griffey, Jr‘s sweet swing and homer for the first time that season. Immediately not only was I a fan of Mariners baseball, but Jr became my hero, my role model, my idol.

I have been a fan of the Mariners going on 21 years now, and through all those years I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly side of Mariners baseball. Sports has a weird way of bringing out the good, the bad, and the ugly out of me in an ironic way. I’ll be watching either the Seahawks or the Sounders and I’ll be hollering and cussing like crazy but when it comes to the Mariners there’s just something different.

1995 saw the Mariners first shot at the playoffs, and my first games at the old Kingdome. During that season my parents and my grandmother took me to 10 games including games 4 and 5 of the American League Division Series, and games 2 and 6 of the American League Championship Series.

The Mariners won every game I went to except for Game 6 of the ALCS. 95’ was the season where the Mariners not only saw their first playoff berth in franchise history but it also showed just how much the fans and the people of Seattle cared about their team.

My first Mariners game ever saw the M’s begin their journey to take the AL West title. Down 7-6 in the bottom of the 9th inning me, my mom and dad, and my grandmother were on the edge of our seats. With two on and two out, Jr. came up to the plate and took John Wetteland deep to win the ball game. Right then and there my family went nuts, I began to cry and started hugging and kissing my grandmother and my mom. Right there was the first time my emotions got the better of me and it happened because of the Mariners.

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The Mariners brought so much joy during the 95′ season. My grandma pulled me out of school for the one game playoff to watch the Mariners clinch the AL West. After Randy Johnson threw that final strike the tears came.  The same thing happened when Edgar Martinez drove in Joey Cora and Jr. in that same series.

When the amazing Refuse To Lose ended in Game 6 of the ALCS my grandma had to actually hold me because I couldn’t stop crying. As a 5 year old I wanted to see more baseball and I wanted to see the M’s go to the World Series and it broke my fragile little 5 year old heart to see it come to an end like that. I wasn’t the only one crying; plenty of people around me including my grandmother were in tears, and we all remember A-Rod holding Cora on TV.

The years went by and I saw plenty of emotional games and seasons, the M’s won the AL West one more time in the 90s and that came in 1997. Boy that was an ALDS to forget. The M’s powerhouse lineup couldn’t do crap against the Baltimore Orioles as they lost in 4 games and my 7 year old heart was broken to see that team get booted out of the playoffs that early.

After 1997 it would be 2 stressful playoff-less season and then on February 2, 2000 my heart was not just broken but it was ripped out and chopped up into little pieces when I heard that Ken Griffey, Jr., was traded. 6 years of watching his sweet swing and him hitting monster home runs were gone in a flash. The emotions got the better of me again. Couldn’t stop crying and I nearly stopped being a Mariners fan, if it wasn’t for my stubborn ways.

The following day after Jr’s trade my dad told me to write a letter to Jr. and to send it to the Mariners front office. 4 weeks later I got a letter from the Mariners. Griffey decided to take it upon himself to write me a personal message on a special baseball card he sent to me. Griffey probably didn’t respond to me personally but it was still exciting to receive one back from the Mariners with best wishes from Jr.

I decided not to give up with being a fan of the Mariners and continued to support the team. I still liked to hear what Griffey was doing too. 2000 saw a new center fielder not named Griffey in Mike Cameron. During the 4th game into the season Cameron robbed Derek Jeter of a home run that not only made me forget about Jr., but every M’s fan in Washington too!

The Mariners won the Wild Card that year and swept the White Sox in the ALDS, though my happiness turned to another heart breaker after the Yankees beat the M’s in 6 games in the ALCS. So, 2001 came and what a ride that was! Went to 17 home games and the M’s never lost a game and I saw a couple good comebacks as well. Then tragedy struck not just baseball but the entire United States. On September 11th America was attacked and lost 2,977 innocent lives.

A week later baseball returned, and I attended the game where the Mariners had a chance to clinch the American League West title, and boy they didn’t disappoint. The Mariners shutout the Anaheim Angels and secured the AL West and their 106th win of the season. Following the final out Mark McLemore and Cameron grabbed an American flag, the whole team then made their way to the mound and held a moment of silence.

In that moment, 45,459 fans including myself became silent and honored those who were taken a week before in a terrible act of terror. Tears came from not just my eyes but many other patriotic Mariners fans in Safeco. That moment showed how the game of baseball can bring people together even during a time where our country was hurting and healing from such a horrendous act of violence.

The Mariners tied a major league record with 116 wins in 2001 but during the postseason didn’t play like a 116 win team. Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking endings to a season that had amazing potential for the M’s to make a trip to the World Series. 95′ was tough but when your team wins 116 games and nearly loses in the ALDS and fails to get their bats going in the ALCS and lose in 5 games it hurts just as badly. 2002 and 2003 saw the Mariners win 93 games but fall short in both the AL West and Wild Card, then everything went south.

Ichiro brought some excitement to a difficult 2004 season by breaking George Sisler‘s 84-year hit record. 04′ saw the Mariners go from a team who won 93 games the previous year to a 99 lose season. Mediocrity had hit the Mariners again just as it did when they began their franchise. From 2004 up until this past season saw the Mariners only have two winning seasons.

2007 was the first winning season the M’s had since 03’. That season saw the return of Ken Griffey, Jr., coming back to Safeco Field for the first time since he was traded to the Reds seven years before. I went to all three games and saw 45,000+ back in Safeco was such an amazing thrill. I know most of them were there to watch Ken Griffey, Jr., but there were Mariners fans just as well.

Sep 28, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano (22) and Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) shake hands after Cano left the game during the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Jr. decided to save some real excitement for the final game of that three game series. Griffey hit two home runs which made not just myself but 46,063 fans go insane. Two years later fans were treated with Jr. again. This time Griffey was a Mariner again. 2009 saw the M’s come so close to the postseason but they just fell short and in the final game of the season they beat the Rangers and at the end of the game Griffey and Ichiro were carried off the field. In my opinion Jr. should have retired the day after that cause that was going out with pride and glory.

2010 was a huge let down. Griffey thought he would try one more season but he ended up being a distraction and he retired in a bad way. Griffey left the Mariners the day after he walked the game off with a game winning single, he simply got on a plane and went back to Orlando.

The Mariners lost 101 games and during that season I probably dropped over a million F-bombs. One month after the 2010 season was over I saw a tragedy that hit not just me hard but the whole Mariners fan base and family. Dave Niehaus was preparing some ribs to grill when he had a massive heart attack. He was taken to a nearby hospital but sadly on November 10, 2010 Niehaus died at the young age of 75.

This death hit me hard along with so many Mariner fans. I couldn’t stop crying, I went to Safeco Field the next day to lay flowers at the gates of Safeco. Broke down and cried and couldn’t stop crying for about 10 minutes. A few M’s fans were there to comfort me but nothing could heal the ache in my heart. I didn’t know Niehaus but I had met him a couple times. This was a man that saw more losing seasons than any M’s fan and was there from day one.

Mariner baseball hasn’t been the same in the broadcast booth since. Not much excitement came to Safeco for the next couple years, but there was only two times where M’s fans like myself could act like we just won it all. On June 8, 2012 Kevin Millwood and the M’s bullpen went up against the powerhouse offense that was the LA Dodgers. That Dodgers lineup did nothing that night as the Mariners threw the first combined no-hitter in franchise history.

Earlier that year in 2012 the M’s were a victim of being perfecto’d by White Sox pitcher Phillip Humber, but on August 15 Felix Hernandez decided to make team history. For 27 outs and 9 innings I was glued to the television as Felix threw the first perfect game in Mariners history in a 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

This past year the Mariners made noise in the offseason by signing Robinson Cano to a 10-year $240 million dollar contract. The M’s weren’t picked to make the postseason (as usual) but the M’s made a ton of noise and came within one game……ONE LOUSY STINKIN GAME, of making the postseason for the first time since 2001!!!! Can you believe that?!

This team has seen me get as angry as Lou Pinella, cry like Joey Cora, and has seen me jump up and down every time a big play happens acting like they won it all. This year looks promising for the Mariners. With the signing of Nelson Cruz and trading for Seth Smith, the M’s are 10 to 1 favorites to win the World Series. With Felix, Kyle Seager, Cano, and a whole group of young talent both hitting and pitching wise I do believe that this is our year.

I know everyone says that but most of them say it optimistically like “Yeah they are going to win it all, but not getting my hopes up”, no that’s not me I truly believe that THIS is the year for the Mariners. With the Seattle Seahawks coming off their 2014 Super Bowl winning season , we saw the Sounders come close to winning it all and the M’s come close to the postseason. This is, and this WILL be the year the Seattle Mariners have Joe Buck or whoever the hell is calling the World Series say “Its taken nearly 40 years but the Seattle Mariners are the champions of the baseball world!”

GO Mariners!!!!!