We are down to 51 days in our Mariners Opening Day Countdown. Number 51 is special to Seattle, just like No. 2 in New York, No. 24 in San Francisco, and so on.
What is crazy is there are two Mariners greats who wore 51. Not many teams can say that about a jersey number. So, let’s take a look back at the first great to wear No. 51 in Seattle.
Do I need to say much more? The Big Unit was a nightmare for left-handed batters, John Kruk knows best.
Randy was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, receiving 534/549 votes. The Big Unit was actually not drafted by Seattle. He began his career with the Montreal Expos after playing at the University of Southern California.
He debuted in 1988 and made four starts. Then in 1989, he started 6 games for the Expos, until Seattle gave them a call. Seattle sent Mark Langston to Montreal for Randy, Gene Harris, and Brian Holman.
As you could imagine, there were some disappointed fans because Langston was the best Mariners pitcher. But, those fans quickly changed their minds.
In his first full season in Seattle, he made his first All-Star game. He finished 1990 with a 3.65 ERA, five complete games, and two shutouts.
After a couple of above-average seasons, he turned things up to another level. From 1993-1997, he made four All-Star teams and won the Cy Young Award. He was also in the Cy Young Award and MVP Award conversation often.
Then 1998 came around. Seattle sent him to Houston after 34 outings for the Mariners.
Putting it all together, Randy posted a 3.42 ERA in Seattle. He struck out 2,162 batters with a 39.0 WAR. The Big Unit set the bar high for the next Mariners player to wear No. 51, and that next player lived up to it.
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I mean how is Seattle going to deal with retiring No. 51? They’ll need two plaques for both Randy and Ichiro.
Ichiro Suzuki will join the Big Unit very soon in Cooperstown. I think he can become unanimous Seattle Mariners Hall of Famer. Why?
Well, he has won MVP, ROY, 10 Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, two batting titles, All-Star MVP, and made 10 All-Star appearances.
Not only did he do all of that, but he also changed the game of baseball in so many ways. Ichiro changed the nature of hitting and proved that power is not the only important thing.
Ichiro also opened the door for Japanese baseball players. He wasn’t the first Japanese player to play in the MLB, but Ichiro certainly was a big trailblazer.
Like Randy Johnson, Ichiro spent a long time in Seattle. Suzuki played 14 seasons with Seattle and owns a .321/.365/.416 slash line.
Ichiro left us with many memorable moments, including his walk-off home run against Mariano Rivera, laser throws from right field and robbing home runs.
There is no doubt that the No. 51 is one of the most important numbers in Seattle history.