Mariners Analysis: Have A (Birth)day

Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /
5 of 6

#2 Vince Coleman Has A Grand Celebration (9/22/95)

It wasn’t until 1991 (my birth year) that the Mariners had their first 80+ win season and it was 4 years later, in 1995, that the Mariners made their first playoff appearance. Vince Coleman’s game-deciding grand slam on his birthday was vital to keeping the M’s in the hunt for the final spot in the American League Division Series. When it was all said and done, it was only one game that separated the Mariners from elimination, none bigger than the day Coleman hit his grand slam.

This was not just a match-up that was deciding the Mariners post-season fate but had added intensity because it was an inter-division grudge match with Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson and the Oakland Athletics. Those big names took advantage of a poor start by Mariner starter, Tim Belcher, who allowed a 3-RBI double to Henderson in the top of the 3rd followed by a 2-run homer by McGwire in the 4th to put the Mariners in a 5-0 hole. Another run was added later in the inning but the big names put up devastating numbers that should have won the game and demoralized the Mariners ending the their playoff hopes right there. But the spirit of this squad is what propelled them into those wondrous comebacks and later, to the all-important mid-October games.

More from SoDo Mojo

Ken Griffey Jr. started a rally for the Mariners in the next inning with a solo dinger that was crushed deep into the night. A Mike Blowers double brought home the Mariners 2nd run in the home-half of the 4th, but this was all just the appetizer for what was about to be served up.

With Blowers on 2nd, Luis Sojo stepped to the plate and strategically forced a base on balls after seeing 8 pitches. A week single from the 9-spot in the order from Mariner great, Dan Wilson loaded the bases for Coleman who was looking to become the only Mariner to hit a grand slam on his birthday, not to mention one of the rare times in baseball a grand slam was hit by the lead-off batter.

A first pitch ball from A’s pitcher Todd Van Poppel set the tone for the next pitch, as he did not want to fall too far behind in the count with no place to put Coleman. The next pitch was placed right in the wheelhouse of the former Rookie of the Year speedster, who connected with similar accuracy to Griffey Jr. and deposited the ball several rows deep, tying the game up and capping off the improbable 6-0 comeback.

Coleman’s heroics were invaluable, but unfortunately the Mariners were not out of the woods yet. After a lull in the action for a few innings, the A’s regained the lead with a single in the 7th- Henderson was the run that scored. The must-be-hall-of-famer, Edgar Martinez again tied the back-and-forth affair with a solo blast of his own in the 8th before another unlikely hero, pinch hitter Alex Diaz, hit a 3-run knock to ultimately put the Mariners ahead for good- it would be one of Diaz’s 8 career long balls in as many years.

The game ended at 10-7, and while Diaz’s dinger put the M’s ahead to finish the game, it was the 4-RBI grand slam that made the biggest difference in this heated home match that was witnessed by over 51,000 fans (3rd most all season). Coleman, sadly would not have another momentous moment like this the rest of his playing days, but in the late September battle he was able to produce his most memorable- and one of the clubs special moments on his birthday.

Next: Phelps is The Ultimate Birthday Boy