The 1994 season had ended with a labor stoppage in August. At the time the season ended, Ken Griffey, Jr. had a league-leading 40 home runs in 112 games and was on pace for 58 home runs. The record at that time was 61. With the addition of the Wild Card in 1994, the AL West had become a four-team division and the whole division was awful in 1994. At the time of the labor stoppage, the Texas Rangers led the AL West with a record of 52-62, but the Mariners were just two games out.
This was also the year that the Kingdome fell apart. Specifically, one hour before a game was supposed to start on July 19, 1994, a four-foot long acoustical ceiling tile fell 180 feet from the roof of the Kingdome. When they inspected the roof, they found severe water seepage that meant 40,000 fiberboard tiles would need to be replaced. The repairs meant that the Mariners were scheduled for a 32-day, 30-game road trip, which would be the longest in modern baseball history. A few weeks later, the season ended because of the labor dispute.
The 1995 season started late and was shortened from the normal 162 game schedule to 144 games. The Mariners got off to a solid start. In early June they were in second place, just a couple games out of first. They hit a five game losing streak in mid-June on their way to a record of 11-17 in the month and fell to last place, five games behind the California Angels. The Mariners were 13-14 in July, but the division-leading Angels went 20-7 and the Mariners were fading fast. On August 20th, the Mariners were 53-53 and 12 ½ games behind the Angels.
After a 12-10 loss to the Twins, the Mariners got back on the winning side of the ledger. Two more home runs by Buhner powered a 14-3 victory on September 12th. On the 13th, the Mariners were down 4-0 in the seventh but the “Refuse To Lose” force was strong in this bunch and they erupted with seven runs in the last two innings. Buhner hit another bomb and Blowers hit his 21st home run of the season. Randy Johnson struck out 13 batters in seven innings. After a day off, the Mariner eeked out a 3-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox behind a 4-for-4 day from Vince Coleman that included two stolen bases. The next day Buhner hit home run #35, but it was Dan Wilson who was the hero. He was 3-for-4 and hit a home run in the ninth inning that put the team ahead and gave Norm Charlton the chance to lock it down with a save. The Mariners had won seven of their last eight games and were now just three games out of first place with 13 to play.
The Mariners lost the final game of a three-game series in Chicago, then came home to face the Rangers, Athletics, and Angels. Randy Johnson was on the bump for the first game and he struck out 10 batters in eight innings to win his 15th game of the year. This was one of those amazing games the Mariners won down the stretch. The Mariners were down by two in the bottom of the ninth when Doug Strange hit a game-tying home run. This was one of just two home runs Strange would hit with the Mariners that year. The score stayed tied until the bottom of the 11th. Felix Fermin grounded out to lead off the inning, but Doug Strange got things going with a single to left. Darren Bragg pinch-hit for Chris Widger and singled to left, moving Strange to second. Joey Cora lined out to right field for out number two, but Ken Griffey, Jr. lined a single through the hole at short to score Strange for another walk-off Mariner win. The dramatic victory pulled the Mariners to within a game of first place.
This was on September 19th and it wasn’t the only important event of the day for the Mariners. A King County referendum to fund a new baseball stadium was voted on that day and failed by 1%. A month earlier, polling showed support for a new stadium was around 33%, but the Mariners crazy run had turned sentiments nearly in favor of the new stadium. County officials met over the next several months and worked out funding for a new stadium despite the failure of the vote. That new stadium, Safeco Field, would open three-and-a-half years later.
After a day off, the Mariners had a two game series against the Angels and led them by two games in the standings. The first game was a blowout 10-2 win that saw Buhner hit his 38th homer and Griffey hit his 16th. The Mariners lost the second game of the series and headed to Texas with a two game lead and four games to play.
EdgThe first game in Texas was tied 2-2 when Griffey hit a grand salami in the bottom of the 8th to put it away. This was one of 10 grand slams the Mariners hit that season, with Mike Blowers leading the team with three, all of which came in August. Randy Johnson got the win and Norm Charlton picked up the save. Edgar Martinez had his 52nd double of the season, setting a new team record. Buhner hit his 39th home run. The Angels also won, so the Mariners’ lead remained at two games.
The Mariners lost the final two games against Texas when Alen Benes and Tim Belcher were rocked by the Rangers. Meanwhile, the Angels won five straight to end the regular season and pulled into a tie with the Mariners. They would play a one-game playoff at the Kingdome to decide the division winner.
The one game playoff was epic. The Mariners had Randy Johnson (17-2) on the mound facing the man he had once been traded for, Mark Langston (15-6). The game was a tight, low-scoring affair into the seventh inning. Leading 1-0, the Mariners got a rally going on a single and a fielder’s choice that put two runners on. Dan Wilson bunted them over and Joey Cora was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Vince Coleman lined out to right for out number two. Then Luis Sojo hit a ground ball over first base that rolled down the right field line. Blowers scored, Tino scored, Cora scored, and Sojo came all the way around and scored on misplays by the Angels. It was officially ruled a double, but four runs were in and the rout was on. The Mariners added four more runs in the 8th and won easily, 9-1. Randy Johnson got the win to run his record to 18-2. The Mariners were in the playoffs for the first time.
The 1995 season was truly amazing. Once the Mariners started winning, fans flocked to the Kingdome. The team had terrific comebacks and epic walk-offs. The big names were right in the middle of the action, but so were Doug Strange and Luis Sojo. The Mariners could beat teams multiple ways. They finished third in the league in home runs and fourth in steals.
Randy Johnson won his first Cy Young Award for going 18-2 with a league-leading 2.48 ERA and 294 strikeouts. Jay Buhner led the team with 40 home runs and 121 RBI. Tino Martinez added 31 homers and 111 RBI.
Ken Griffey, Jr. played only 72 games in 1995, which limited him to just 17 home runs. It was the only time in an eight-year stretch in which he did not hit at least 40 homers. This was in the middle of the best years of his career, when he led the AL in home runs four times in six years. It was these years from 1989 to 2000 that put Griffey in the Hall of Fame and he was at his peak from 1993 to 1997.
He wasn’t the best hitter on the 1995 team, though. That would be Edgar Martinez. Edgar did it all that year. He led the league in hitting (.356), on-base percentage (.479), runs scored (121), and doubles (52). He also hit 29 home runs and had 113 RBI. He was an All-Star and finished third in the AL MVP voting. In the five-game division series against the Yankees, Edgar hit .571 with a .667 on-base percentage. He drove in 10 runs in those five games, including the game-winner that won Game Five on the epic “Double” that scored Ken Griffey, Jr. from first. That’s the video they always show when they talk about the 1995 season. The video ends with the whole team piled on top of Griffey at home plate and Griffey has a huge smile on his face. Edgar hit the double that made it happen. Randy Johnson made the Hall of Fame last year and Ken Griffey, Jr. got in this year. Hopefully, Edgar will be next.
The Mariners were 53-53 and 12.5 games out on August 20th. From August 21st on, they went 26-13. Here are the statistics for the team’s lineup and their top three pitchers during this terrific 39 game stretch: