Listen: Mark McLemore shares how he almost wasn’t with Mariners during record-tying 2001 season
With the Mariners celebrating their 40th anniversary, we will have the opportunity to talk with many Mariners from years past this season. On opening day, Harold Reynolds joined the broadcast for an inning and did his own play by play while telling stories. Willie Bloomquist also dropped by for an inning. Before the game I sat down for a conversation with Ruppert Jones that ran on the pregame show, and Mark McLemore joined us for the roundtable segment (listen here).
McLemore was with the team from 2000 to 2003, so I was interested to hear what his thoughts were before the season started in 2001, which was the year Seattle won a record-tying 116 games. His answer surprised all of us in the booth.
“To be perfectly honest, I was a little bit selfish that year going into spring training. They had signed Bret Boone and I had actually requested that Pat Gillick trade me,” McLemore said. “I was that guy. I was that guy.”
The story was surprising in that we hadn’t heard it before, and from what we knew of Mac, he was anything but “that guy,” someone who would put himself above the team and say play me or trade me.
“Pat gave me the courtesy of calling me and telling me before they signed him,” McLemore said of the addition of Boone. “It was a few days before Christmas that he told me. I remember to this day I was not a happy camper.”
With Boone signed to play second base, McLemore saw his playing time diminished. Gillick did not trade him that offseason and McLemore reported to spring training still a Mariner, and happy about. He was determined not to create a stir in the clubhouse, too.
“I wasn’t that guy going to the press, ‘Oh, they need to trade me.'” he said. “(Manager Lou Piniella) knew about it obviously, he called me into his office and said, ‘Mac, listen. You know my story. Every year I went into camp in New York being the fourth or fifth outfielder and every year I ended up having the most ABs at the end of the year.’ He said, ‘I promise you I am going to get you your 400 or 500 at-bats this year.’ I was like, ‘OK, Lou, fine. I appreciate it.’ And that was it. I believed him, I trusted him and that’s exactly what he did. I told Pat, ‘I want to stay, I’m good, I’m fine.’ The rest is history.”
McLemore was an integral part of the 2001 Mariners, playing every position but pitcher, catcher and first base. True to his word, Piniella got him his at-bats, and McLemore responded with his best season at the plate, hitting .286 with a .384 on-base percentage and .406 slugging percentage in 487 plate appearances.