Mariners Best Game of the Year: Big Dumper's Big Blast

By Tyler Alsin
Seattle Mariners v Cleveland Guardians
Seattle Mariners v Cleveland Guardians / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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Number one on our countdown is a game that lasted only two hours and 47 minutes. It had only nine combined hits. It was only 2-1. The Seattle Mariners also needed only one swing to end the longest-running playoff drought in major sports.

How a second-year catcher did what no Mariner could for 21 years.

An individual game is simply that; a game. But sports as a whole, especially for those who partake day in and day out, over the years, that is a different world altogether. It's why we use terms like "cinderella", "underdog", and "hero", followed by one word that encapsulates the larger reach of sports.

"Story"

And truly, on that Friday night at the end of September, each big moment seemed to break Seattle's way in a narrative that would be difficult to beat with an entire team of scriptwriters.

Just hours earlier, the Baltimore Orioles had beaten the New York Yankees - also 2-1 - to keep that most magical of magic numbers at one. It could have been that Baltimore lost and the game meant nothing for the Mariners, but it didn't.

Instead, after Ty France put one up in the first and Shea Langeliers responded in the second, the game remained tied for seven innings. Very little got accomplished, but Logan Gilbert was absolutely dealing.

The only instance even approaching a threat after the Langeliers homerun came in the seventh inning. A baserunner had finally reached, and with one out Seth Brown attempted to steal second base. Connor Capel hit a slow rolling grounder up the middle, which J.P Crawford fielded while standing on the bag to turn an inning-ending double play.

It was a risky play, as they barely made the out at second, yet Seattle proceeded and remained tied until the final out of the ninth inning.

Nobody writes the unwritten rules of baseball. Nobody teaches kids how to have an imagination. People aren't often told what to dream of, or what goals to set in their childhood. Yet with 44,000 fans in attendance, I wonder how many have pretended to do the exact thing that Cal Raleigh was about to do.

Because there's not a bigger sports moment - by that I mean there's not an individual sporting action that surpasses the baseball walk-off scenario. There are some that rival it, to be sure - a buzzer-beating three, a 30-foot putt for the major win, an ace to take the final fifth set at Wimbledon.

And so it was that second-year catcher, Cal Raleigh, who came off the bench to what millions of kids have dreamed of. Bottom of the ninth, two outs, full count.

One slider. Another. Then, Raleigh got a third consecutive slider, and this time, he boomed it. No doubt about the distance; the only question was if it was fair.

It was, and people were not quiet for the next 45 minutes.

I had the privilege of attending this game, and it was unlike any sporting event I've ever been. There have been louder Seahawks games, and more impressive performances, but this game was never really about anything except the swing and the aftermath.

At one point this spring, Cal Raleigh was batting .082. By the end of the season, he'd put forth arguably the best season by a Seattle catcher.

To see him running the bases, a young star at an incredibly difficult position, with a look of "what did I just do" plastered on his face, and the team selflessly celebrating with him, was simply awesome.

It didn't stop there, as the celebration inevitably transitioned from Raleigh, to the entire team, and ultimately to the people of Seattle. Players mobbed Cal for a solid 10 minutes, then they got their shirts, and took the team picture out on the infield.

Nobody left.

I forget the exact order of everything that transpired, but there was an interview or two, all while we were hugging strangers and saying the word "drought" more than I've heard in five years.

Nobody left.

Eventually the cameras came on, and we were given a window into the clubhouse. Scott Servais gave a speech, Julio Rodriguez popped his champagne too early, and Eugenio Suarez did his "are you ready you ready?" thing.

Nobody left.

Eventually families came out onto the field, and many of the players either gave interviews on camera from the locker room, while several came back out to address the fans, including Servais again.

And still, the pent-up emotion of two decades, slowly trickling out through shock and joy and more shock, like a river of therapy, kept the overwhelming majority of fans right where they were.

I finally took stock around 35 minutes after the game had officially been won. Maybe 10,000 people had left, leaving most the people to continue celebrating long, long after the fireworks were over.

What's fun about this team is that people will remember the Cal Raleigh home run for their entire lives. That's what will end up on the trivia cards.

But a weight was lifted off the fans and players of the Seattle Mariners, one that not even the Big Dumper could lift on his own. This was a young core, peppered with signings and trades that worked to various degrees, filled to the brim with will-power. They overcame every amount of stigma, pressure, curse, limitations, or whatever else you want to call it.

It was by no means the best game the team played all year. But sports are a series of moments, and it may have been the best moment that many fans of the Seattle Mariners have experienced in their entire lives.

The drought is over. Long live the Big Dumper.

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