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Groz’s favorite opening day: Mariners’ Big Unit nearly no-hits Cleveland

Randy Johnson took a no-hitter into the eighth inning on opening day 1994 for the Mariners. (AP)

Getting ready to cover my 28th Mariners opening day, I was thinking about memories from opening days past – and to be honest I don’t have a whole lot of them. But the most memorable is easy.

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It happened in Cleveland. It was 1994, Lou Piniella’s second year, and there was an optimistic feeling around the club after just the second winning season in franchise history. And you had the Big Unit Randy Johnson on the mound.

It was exciting to see the brand new Jacobs Field for a kid who grew up going to the old cavernous Cleveland Stadium. The problem, however, was snow. A lot of it fell and the game was snowed out.

The next day was cold but clear and 41,000 packed Jacobs Field. They saw President Bill Clinton throw the opening pitch, then Randy Johnson at his best. He was unhittable – literally – through seven innings, and astonishingly President Clinton left with the Big Unit still pitching a no-no to watch Arkansas in the NCAA basketball championship game that night.

The irony of this particular no-hit bid was not lost on me. The only no-hitter in opening day history was pitched by Indians Hall of Famer Bob Feller, and the man known as “Rapid Robert” himself was in the press box at one point trying to put the whammy on Johnson.

Eventually it worked as Cleveland catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. singled to right in the eighth. Feller danced with joy and a few hits later Johnson was gone.

The game went into extras, and while the Mariners took the lead in the 10th they were done in by the world famous Wayne Kirby, who drove in two in the bottom of the inning.

The Mariners went on to lose their next five games and another forgettable season came to an early end with the player’s strike. But the near no-no in front of the President? Now that was memorable.

Looking for more on the start of the Mariners’ season? Click on the links below.

Bob Stelton: How to make sense of the Mariners
Tom Wassell’s over-under for the 2018 Mariners
Danny O’Neil: Felix’s turn to prove the Mariners right
Shannon Drayer: M’s try to stay ahead of curve with pitching tech
Table Setter: Can M’s keep up with a contender in opening series?
Jim Moore’s reasons for hope, possibilities and concerns for M’s
Mike Salk: Top 10 reasons to be excited about the Mariners