Groz Remembers 2001 Mariners: ‘The Bone’ Jay Buhner sends out his last HRs
2001: A Baseball Odyssey – a weekly look back at the record-setting 2001 Mariners and the players who made them who they were.
As the 2001 season wound down, the Mariners tied the 1908 White Sox for the most wins in a single season with their 116th victory in Game 161. They would go for the record and get help from a Mariner who had a little left to give.
Jay Buhner is one of the most popular players ever to wear a Mariners uniform – and always will be. He arrived in one of the Mariners’ most lopsided trades, acquired from the Yankees for Ken Phelps (made infamous by Frank Costanza on an episode of “Seinfeld”). In the early 90s he became the first Mariner to hit for the cycle, hit booming homers like the one off the ambulance in Yankee Stadium in 1991, and showcased his rifle for an arm out of right field.
He also became best buds with Ken Griffey Jr, shaved peoples’ heads on Buhner Buzz Cut Night (the team’s most successful promotion), did a memorable Sports Illustrated cover with his son, and famously said in 1995 to “(blank) the wild card, let’s win the division.” He also raked 40-plus home runs three years running.
But his aggressive plays like going over the wall in Boston to make a catch in ’97 started catching up with “Bone,” and in 2001 it caught him. Buhner had hit 26 home runs in 2000, but with Ichiro arriving the plan was to shift Buhner to left field, where he would be spelled by Al Martin. It never came to pass.
Problems in the arch of Buhner’s foot necessitated a spring training shutdown, and surgery in June made a comeback seem unlikely. But Buhner never gave up hope, and lo and behold he was back in September at the age of 37.
Buhner was in the lineup Oct. 7 as the Mariners went for win No. 117 against Texas. The M’s had fallen behind 3-2 when Buhner found that old magic and homered off Darren Oliver for his 310th and final regular season home run in the major leagues. The Rangers scratched across one more run, however, and the Mariners’ regular season ended at the record-tying 116 wins as it was on to the postseason.
As for Buhner, he added a home run at Yankee Stadium in the playoffs, tormenting the Yankees one last time. His career was over, but as a true Northwest icon he will always live on.
More 2001 Mariners memories from Groz
• Carlos Guillén takes over at SS after ARod leaves
• Seattle’s special moment after baseball’s post-9/11 return
• On Sept. 10, M’s were still doing what they did best
• Hometown hero John Olerud’s big year
• Solid and steady David Bell
• Mike Cameron pulls off the impossible
• Kazuhiro Sasaki, Mariners’ man of mystery
• The infamous Cleveland comeback
• When Ichiro became Ichiro
• The curious case of Al Martin
• Freddy García replaces the ace he was traded for
• Kaz Sasaki and Seattle’s incredible bullpen
• Seattle hosts an All-Star Game for the ages
• The bounceback year of M’s Hall of Famer Dan Wilson
• Mark McLemore, the all-important 10th man
• Edgar Martinez cements his legacy with his last great season
• Aaron Sele, the pitcher who ‘fell from the sky’
• Bret Boone gave Seattle a huge, surprising boost
• Paul Abbott, the forgotten hero of the historic ’01 M’s
• Introduction: Celebrating the 2001 Mariners, 20 years later