12. Safeco is Born
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265 12 Safeco Is Born “Nobody cared about the Mariners, but then they kept winning and winning. If they had not been in the playoffs, the job of getting a new stadium would have been impossible.” —Washington State Representative Steve Van Luven It was pandemonium inside the Kingdome. The stands shook, the walls vibrated, and the press box swayed back and forth. “We won, and all hell broke loose,” said Lou Piniella.1 Beneath a pile of teammates at home plate lay Ken Griffey Jr., smiling from ear to ear. Many of his former teammates said they had never seen Griffey run faster than he did on that play. Other Mariners scattered across the field, some so excited they didn’t know where to go. Tim Belcher, who had been warming up in the bullpen, ran toward the infield still carrying his glove and ball.2 Chris Bosio headed toward home plate, pushing and shaking Andy Benes along the way. Then he switched courses and headed toward second base.3 Fireworks went off, and “Shout” blasted from the PA system. Fans danced in the aisles, hugging and kissing one another. One held up a sign reading “Start Spreading the News—Yankees Lose.” Radio announcer Dave Niehaus stood in the broadcast booth with his arms raised in triumph.4 ABC tried to interview Griffey and Edgar Martinez on the field, but it was so loud that both could barely be heard. “I thought 266 • BASEBALL’S GREATEST SERIES that last night was the greatest game I ever played,” said Edgar. “Now I’ll tell you, this is the best game I’ve ever played.”5 The players made their way into the clubhouse where beer and champagne awaited them. There, they put into context what had happened. “This whole series was unbelievable and I can’t imagine any series ever being played that was more exciting than this one,” said Mike Blowers.6 “What these two teams did in this series was act as ambassadors of baseball,” said Piniella. “The game lost fans with the strike last year because there was so much anger, so much pain surrounding the game. This series ought to remind fans of what they love about baseball.”7 The fans, agreeing wholeheartedly with Blowers’s and Piniella’s assessments, would not leave the Kingdome. “Look at this,” said Griffey. “They’re there and it’s 20 minutes after the game.”8 Eventually, many players made their way back to the field to continue the celebration with the crowd. “I made a point of going back out to be with the fans, drinking beer and champagne with them,” recalled Jay Buhner.9 Inside the clubhouse, Edgar Martinez celebrated with his children. He then joined Griffey, Buhner, Blowers, Randy Johnson, Rick Griffin, and Norm Charlton in the team’s whirlpool. All seven were still fully clothed, some drinking beers and smoking cigars. Joey Cora stood on a sofa taking pictures with an instamatic camera.10 “I got through this with the help of all my teammates, for no individual stands out in our room . . . or if anyone does, it should be Edgar Martinez for his game-winning hit,” said Johnson. “Now, I’m going to have to go out and find a gas station for a fill-up.”11 Johnson was not kidding. He had pitched nineteen innings in over three appearances in just six days. Johnson’s performance did not stand alone in terms of Division Series achievements. The series, remarkable just for its intensity, also set or tied an amazing sixteen postseason records. Among them were most combined home runs in one series (22), most combined runs in a five-game series (68), and the highest combined batting average in a five-game series (.288).12 As Johnson celebrated inside, another celebration ensued outdoors as thousands of fans poured out of the Kingdome and headed north to Seattle’s Pioneer Square. Although it was a Sunday, and many of these people had work or school the next morning, the party continued for hours into the night. Car horns honked up and down Seattle’s First Avenue. Police officer Tim Pugell complained of a sore shoulder SAFECO IS BORN • 267 because so many people were high-fiving him.13 Many in the crowd were chanting “Ed-gar! Ed-gar!”14 “Jim Kaat drove me back to the hotel and we could hardly move, with the fans celebrating and horns honking,” said Brent Musburger.15 The...


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