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Drayer: Griffey, Mariners sent the Kingdome off with a bang

Mariners superstar Ken Griffey Jr. homered in his final Kingdome at-bat. (AP)

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 Ken Griffey Jr.’s last game in the stadium he played most of his career. Here’s Shannon Drayer’s preview of the airing of the final Mariners game in Kingdome.

June 27, 1999

The final game at the Kingdome, and to what should be the surprise of absolutely nobody, Ken Griffey Jr. played a major role in the contest, landing this game firmly in Griffey Week.

A Sunday afternoon finale for the old grey dome. The 1,765th game on turf and under concrete in Seattle. The unique sights, sounds, even smells of where baseball grew up in this town soon to be but a memory as across the street a palace was being built.

If you grew up here you most likely have fond Kingdome memories.While I spent my youth moving around the globe, my grandparents lived in Puyallup and every summer we would visit. I saw a game at the dome in its first year. My grandfather even caught a ball one-handed at that game while holding me up to see with his other. Years later I would choose the University of Washington as my college based largely on its proximity to baseball, which I took full advantage of. Growing up a Cubs fan two hours outside of Chicago, I was stunned when the gang from my dorm stopped by my room and said, “Come on, it’s opening day.” I couldn’t fathom getting to go to opening day without having secured tickets beforehand but that was no problem at the time in Seattle.

Like many we would get 300 level tickets and sneak down into the lower level as the game went on. I remember making paper airplanes out of the calendar on Calendar Night and trading baseball cards on card night. I remember getting to buy my first King Beer when I turned 21. Then there was of course the baseball, and who would have thought we would be in the middle of it all with the game’s greatest player and biggest star right in our back yard.

Of course the greatest memory I have of the Kingdome is getting to set foot on a big league field for the very first time. Covering baseball had been my dream since junior high school and being able to get that close to the game I love was an unbelievable experience. My favorite part of every work day was leaving the park. To get out of the building we had to walk across the field to a door in the left center-field wall. I would always stray a little bit to my right and then about 30 feet in front of the wall would turn around and look back at home plate and think, “This is what Ken Griffey Jr. sees every night.”

These memories made the final game at the Kingdome bittersweet for me. Thankfully the Mariners put on a show that night complete with Ken Griffey Jr. fireworks during the game and a laser show and confetti cannon after. They left the building, appropriately, with a bang.

LINEUPS!

Rangers

Tom Goodwin, CF
Mark McLemore, 2B
Rusty Greer, LF
Juan Gonzalez, RF
Rafael Palmeiro, DH
Todd Zeile, 3B
Lee Stevens, 1B
Gregg Zaun, C
Royce Clayton, SS

Aaron Sele, P

Mariners

Brian Hunter, LF
Alex Rodriguez, SS
Ken Griffey Jr., CF
Edgar Martinez, DH
David Segui, 1B
Butch Huskey, RF
John Mabry, 3B
David Bell, 2B
Dan Wilson, C

Freddy Garcia, P

The 37-37 Mariners, four games out of first place, taking on the division-leading Texas Rangers at 42-33, with 22 year old Freddy Garcia on the hill as he was for many of the bigger games that took place in his tenure on the club.

Of note with the lineup: Instead of Griffey Jr./Sr. back-to-back home runs, it was another first with David Segui starting the final game at the Kingdome 22 years after his father Diego Segui started the first game in the building.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

Previously: Griffey kicks off ‘Refuse to Lose’ with earlier epic M’s win over Yanks