(Jubilation ensues as Ken Griffey Jr. slides in safely on Edgar Martinez’s double 15 years ago today. Photo by Elaine Thompson, Associated Press).
All the playoff excitiement this week, delirious crowds in San Francisco and Philadelphia (not so much in Minneapolis or St. Petersburg), just reinforces what the Mariners have been missing in the nine years since their last playoff appearance in 2001.
It was 15 years ago today, Oct. 8, 1995, that the moment I’m sure most, if not all, of you would agree was the greatest in Mariners’ history occurred: Edgar Martinez’s 11th-inning double off the Yankees’ Jack McDowell to score Joey Cora from third and Ken Griffey Jr. from first, giving the Mariners a 6-5 victory in the game and a three-games-to-two Division Series triumph. For those who care, here’s a long oral history I did five years ago (for the 10th anniversary) on the 1995 season, with considerable focus on that game.
By coincidence, I got a call last week offering up an interview with Tino Martinez, who is a spokesman for Frosted Flakes and is promoting a program to get kids involved in sports, and share the experience with their dads. Part of that is a “Share What You Love” contest, in which the grand prize is a VIP practice session in your hometown with you, your child, Tino, and Tony The Tiger. Find all the details here.
Tino, who went on to win four World Series championships with the Yankees when the Mariners traded him to New York (along with Jeff Nelson) after the 1995 season, rates the Edgar double game near the top of his career highlights.
“Besides winning a World Series, the last game of the World Series, that game was one of the best games I ever played in,” he said. “I’m sure the Yankees would say different, but for us, that was a phenomenal game, to battle back and forth, and to win the way we won, in extra innings, was incredible.
“I remember it vividly, like yesterday, I remember exactly where I was at. I was already out of game because I got pinch-ran for — by Alex Rodriguez, actually. I remember just running out of dugout as soon as he hit it. We were all out of the dugout watching Junior come around second base towards us in our dugout. It just seemed as if the whole team ran with him from third to home, at the same time. What an unbelievable moment. What a great feeling that was for us at that time. I’ll never forget that whole year. That last month was a great, great time. And those playoff games were some of the best playoff games I’ve ever been involved in.”
Rodriguez, hitting in Tino’s spot in the batting order, was on deck when Edgar got his walk-off hit.
“I couldn’t believe they pitched to him to begin with,” Tino said. “He was on fire. It was crazy. He had just finished facing Jack McDowell a few innings before. He struck him out. I said, ‘There’s no way this guy is striking him out again.’ I couldn’t believe they left him in there.”
Tino’s father grew up on the same block in Tampa as Lou Piniella, who would become his third major-league manager with the Mariners (following Jim Lefebvre and Bill Plummer). Both now reside in Tampa, but Martinez says he hasn’t seen Lou since he walked away from the Cubs in August.
“He’s taking care of his mom back home there, playing golf, fishing, doing what he loves to do. I just think, he was ready to retire. He got tired of the frustration of losing, and also his mom was not doing well. He was going back and forth from Chicago to Tampa, for the most part. Instead of going back and forth, he just asked the Cubs to go home.”
Martinez calls the decline of the Mariners “totally disappointing. When Lou Piniella was there, they really built that team up to be a World Series contender, and it seems like ever since then, they’ve gone downhill. You thought last season by signing Cliff Lee and (Chone) Figgins, they were about to get back on track again. It’s sad to see, because I know how great the fans are back there. Hopefully, they get it together.”
With the Mariners looking for a new manager, Martinez put in a good word for his former teammate Cora.
“I really think he’s going to be a good one. The thing about being a good manager, first of all, Joey’s tough. He knows the game very well. He’s a winner. And having spent all those years with Ozzie Guillen in Chicago as a third-base coach and as a bench coach, that’s how you learn. You know the game, and when you spend all those years sitting there day in and day out by a manager, going through spring trainings, seeing what works and doesn’t work for teams, that’s where you learn. I’m sure he’s well prepared if he does get a job.”
Martinez now works as a broadcaster on the Yankees’ YES network as well as serving as an advisor to Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman. He hopes to accelerate his executive career once his children, currently in high school, graduate. Martinez was among those marveling at Roy Halladay’s no-hitter on Wednesday.
“He was awesome. He’s always great, whether he throws a no-hitter or not. He’s got dominant stuff. He’s like Felix Hernandez. Those guys are capable of throwing a no-hitter every time out. It was great to see in the playoffs, but not really surprising.”
Maybe one day we’ll get to see Felix Hernandez pitching in the postseason, too.