Mariners Interview: Author Michael Emmerich

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Mar 3, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Former MLB shortstops Bert Campaneris (left) and Maury Wills prior to the start of the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers spring training game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

BH: You do a great job of expanding our knowledge base of the Mariners’ legends, but I really enjoyed reading about the early years of the M’s that we do not hear much about. Do you have a favorite character from the 70’s or 80’s?

ME: My favorite parts of the book are those that mine the early years. I’m not sure there’s another book that devotes as much space to the pre-Griffey Mariners. Now, there’s an obvious reason for that. But all those losing years made the success of the mid 1990s even sweeter, and for that M’s fans owe, in a twisted sort of way, a debt gratitude to those who tried but failed most spectacularly to bring winning baseball to Seattle before 1991.

The period burst with characters, the type you rarely find in baseball these days, who make for entertaining reading—but only well after the fact. Bill Caudill, an effective relief pitcher in the early 80s, may have been my favorite. He was a hijinks addict who mixed in as much fun as business. He once stole the keys to the Mariners tugboat, a garish and loathed vehicle used to bring relievers into the game at the Kingdome for a season, causing a lengthy delay to the start of the game. He entertained fans during rain delays (on the road of course), spent a summer handcuffing (why handcuffs? It’s a long story shared in the book) Mariners teammates and employees, including the manager’s son and owner’s wife, to various structures throughout the Kingdome, and was famous for saying “Even Betty Crocker burns a cake once in a while,” after blowing saves.

M’s manager Maury Wills is another memorable character, in an infamous way. He replaced Darrell Johnson, who had shepherded the M’s through their first 3 and a half years of their existence, in August of 1980. Wills had no major league (or even minor league) managerial experience but had written a book four years earlier in which he shared his recipe for success, which was heavy on small ball. He only lasted into May of 1981, posting a .317 winning percentage. Losing games was only part of the reason why the Mariners fired him so quickly. Wills was a complete flake as a manager. Among his crimes and missteps: sending up to pinch hit a player who had already pinch hit earlier in the game; taking a lineup to the umpire to start a game that included two players at the same position; telling reporters that he planned to invite a certain player to Spring Training who the Mariners had traded two weeks earlier; leaving the ballpark during a Spring Training game to hop a flight to California without telling anyone.

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