Drayer: Griffey, Mariners started ‘Refuse to Lose’ with earlier epic win over Yanks
With baseball season delayed for the foreseeable future, 710 ESPN Seattle is broadcasting classic Mariners games throughout the spring. It’s Griffey Week now, so at 7 p.m. tonight we turn to a game after Ken Griffey Jr.’s return from a wrist injury and against a team the M’s would get plenty familiar with a few weeks later. Here’s Shannon Drayer’s preview of the airing of a big Mariners-Yankees matchup from 1995 in the Kingdome that usually gets overlooked.
Aug. 24, 1995
Big news all over town.
Across the bridge in Redmond, it was the day Windows 95 was released. At the Dome, a battle of wild-card hopefuls on tap with the Mariners four games out, a half-game ahead of the Yankees, with Texas and Milwaukee ahead of them both. We were set to go with a 3:37 first pitch on a Thursday afternoon.
The Mariners are 11 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West with 34 games to play, unless of course an extra game would be required to determine the division winner. Ken Griffey Jr. had returned from the wrist surgery just 10 days before. Wrist injuries for hitters are tricky. Could he still turn on a 96 mph fastball? All eyes were on The Kid.
The Yankees come into town with a record of 52-56, 14 1/2 games out of a first place in the AL East they would never touch after May 12 with the Red Sox taking the division by seven games. The Yankees were about a week away from heating up, however, with the Mariners and their division foes being a massive speed bump for the Bronx Bombers, who went 2-8 on a swing through Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle. But after returning home, they would go 24-7 on their way to a second-place finish in their division.
As for the Mariners, at 54-55 they were looking to heat up with the return of Griffey. In his absence the team went 36-37. Was that enough? Did they manage to hold on?
They were about to find out.
Wade Boggs, 3B
Bernie Williams, CF
Paul O’Neill, LF
Ruben Sierra, DH
Darryl Strawberry, RF
Don Mattingly, 1B
Mike Stanley, C
Tony Fernandez, SS
Pat Kelly, 2B
David Cone, P (13-7, 3.31 ERA)
Yankees with a five-game losing streak heading into Game 1 of the four-game series and doing so with bad Kingdome memories as they were swept there the last time in Seattle. Cone on the hill a positive, however, as he to that point proved immune to the Kingdome’s, er, charms, accumulating a 0.31 ERA in his four starts in the building.
Vince Coleman, LF
Joey Cora, 2B
Ken Griffey Jr., CF
Edgar Martinez, DH
Tino Martinez, 3B
Jay Buhner, RF
Mike Blowers, 3B
Dan Wilson, C
Felix Fermin, SS
Andy Benes, P (2-1, 6.23)
You like dingers? Well this was the game for you. This is the game that by many accounts is the one that got the Mariners going and believing. They weren’t quite yet to Jay Buhner’s infamous “*Bleep* the wild card” statement, which was made a couple of weeks later when he saw posters urging them on to the wild card being put up in the Kingdome, but they were getting there.
And refuse to lose? They got an assist from Yankees shortstop Tony Fernandez, who badly mistimed a jump in the ninth inning to let a Joey Cora liner fall behind him in short left, enabling the tying run to score. One pitch later Griffey would come up with a career first and Mariners win with one swing.
It this was the game that got the Mariners going in ’95, and in the opinion of longtime NY Post writer Joel Sherman it also ultimately contributed to getting the Yankees going once and for all, contributing to manager Buck Showalter being forced out and Joe Torre brought in.
THEY SAID IT
• “What if Tony Fernandez had caught that line drive on August 24, 1995, to end a Yankee victory, rather than miss it and ignite one of the greatest runs in major league history by the Mariners to make the playoffs and turn their home field – a baseball mausoleum for 18 years – into a tremendous advantage in Year 19?” – Joel Sherman in “Birth of a Dynasty: Behind the Pinstripes with the 1996 Yankees”
• “This has to be one of the most dramatic wins the Mariners have had here in the Kingdome.” – MSG Network announcer Dave Cohen