Looking Back at the Seattle Mariners to Steel Myself for the Pittsburgh Pirates

With spring training fast approaching, I’m steeling myself for another (nineteenth consecutive) losing season by my hometown Pittsburgh Pirates.

Looking for comfort wherever I can find it, I recall that I have seen worse baseball, or at least as bad, as the Buccos of the last few seasons.

I lived in Seattle during the Mariners’ early years from 1977 to 1986 when the team was as painful to watch as the Pirates. During that ten-year period, the M’s average winning percentage was about .400

The M’s had some good players like Leon Roberts and former two-time All Star Richie Zisk. In 1982, Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry had a cup of coffee with the Mariners. Perry’s stop over was long enough for him to record his 300th career victory over the New York Yankees. I still have my ticket stub to prove that I was one of the 27, 369 fans in a stadium that held 59, 438. As an indication of fan indifference, two nights later the Mariners drew 36,716 for Funny Nose Glasses Night.

Most Mariner players however were rejects with limited skills. A good example is one-time Bucco shortstop Mario Mendoza whose batting ineptitude created the term “Mendoza Line,” a reference to hitting at least .200

The M’s bumbling play drove another Hall of Famer, manager Dick Williams, out of baseball. After managing the team in 1986, 1987 and half a season in 1988, Williams left baseball for good.

A more insurmountable problem for Seattle baseball fans than the Mariners’ pitiful play was the team’s venue, the awful Kingdome.

On beautiful Pacific Northwest summer evenings, when the sun didn’t set until 10:00 PM, a fan’s entertainment choice was between enjoying free of charge Puget Sound’s magnificence, complete with a panoramic Mt. Rainer view or pay to enter the gloomy, empty Kingdome to watch the M’s lose again.

For most of the Mariners’ first 18 years, their inept play (they didn’t have a winning season until 1991) combined with the Kingdome’s design, led to extremely low attendance. Most games I saw had less than 5,000 fans.

At one point the Mariners covered “the Tombs,” the right-center field seats in the upper decks, to make the stadium seem “less empty”. The Kingdome’s acoustics created problems for radio announcers Dave Niehaus and Bill Freehan who had to deal with significant echo issues.

At least Pirates fans don’t have to worry about ambiance when they go to PNC Park. While the Kingdome was the dreariest place I have ever watched baseball (with Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers and Cleveland’s Municipal Stadiums close behind), PNC is at the other end of spectrum.

Despite the Pirates’ epic struggles, a game at PNC—voted “America’s Best Ballpark”— is the best way to enjoy a summer afternoon or evening. Tour PNC Park here, then compare it the Kingdome here and tell me where you’d rather watch a losing team play baseball.

2 Replies to “Looking Back at the Seattle Mariners to Steel Myself for the Pittsburgh Pirates”

  1. I lived in Seattle from 1985 to 1989 and attended more than a few M’s games in the concrete confines. One game I attended was the 1988 home opener at which the giveaway was a Mariners calendar. Calendar night quickly morphed into paper airplane night. Although the folded calendar pages were aimed at the playing field, most of the “flights” were restricted to the stands. Some planes made it to the on deck circles, others a little farther. Seattle won the game, but nothing they did on the basepaths drew cheers any louder than those that greeted the three or four airplanes that landed on the infield.

  2. As a three year M’s season ticket holder, at the age of 22, I can honestly say this is the worst time of my Mariners-random-life. Very few of my memories reside in the Kingdome. I was there the night Edgar hit the double, and I remember a Frank Thomas homerun nearly taking my head off. Beyond that, my love for the Mariners has grown in Safeco, a wonderful park. I hate the city of Seattle, it’s bandwagon community, and I would have left here for Stanford 4 years ago if it weren’t for knowing I’d miss the M’s… so pathetic.

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