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Mariner Flu Becomes Epidemic

Marc Buck minced no words as the Seattle Mariners game began Monday afternoon at Tony’s Tavern on Sprague. He hated commercials. He wasn’t thrilled about the California Angels.

He’s a Mariners fan. He’s also a realist.

“Losers!” Buck shouted at the TV screen. “Losers! They’re not gonna win, they’re gonna lose. Nothing new there.”

Actually, there was. A pennant race rarely comes down to a one-game playoff, as it did Monday. It hasn’t happened in the major leagues since 1980.

The Mariners have never won the big one. Until Monday, when the team proved the pessimists wrong, topping California 9-1 and going into post-season action for the first time in its 19-year history.

Across Spokane and North Idaho, those fans who couldn’t find tickets to the playoff game did what they could to follow the Northwest’s Cinderella team. They camped around TVs in malls, TVs in bars and radios at work. They feigned illness, postponed work until later and walked out on staff meetings.

It’s unusual for shoppers at Montgomery Ward and Co. to whoop and cheer, even on the best sale days. But they did Monday, clustered around the big screen TVs in the back of the Coeur d’Alene store.

A half-dozen spectators lined up when Mariner shortstop Luis Sojo hit a bases-loaded, broken-bat double. That hit, mixed with an error, scored four runs.

“Oh God!”

“Did that just happen?”

“Let’s see replay!”

Not all the people in Montgomery Ward’s were shoppers.

Jim and Julie Sheeks were driving by, listening to the game on the radio, when it just got too exciting for the Kellogg couple.

“We pulled off the road and said, ‘Where can we find a TV?”’ Julie Sheeks said.

Other fans just took sick days, claiming pennant fever.

“Everyone’s into it,” said Jay Sporn, a real-estate appraiser who slacked off Monday afternoon to watch the game. “We’ve declared it a Washington holiday.”

Bar tables were a graveyard for empty glasses, crusted plates and cellular telephones.

Dominic Galianese left a note on his door, locked up his barber shop and walked next door to Tony’s Tavern. There’d be no haircuts this afternoon.

“I just hope they win is all,” Galianese said as the game started. “Seattle’s had its bad luck, with the Supersonics and the Seahawks. I thought this might be their chance to redeem. They can’t keep losing in Seattle forever.”

Diehard optimists watched the game at Finnerty’s Red Lion Sports Bar & Barbecue on Division. About 150 people sat around television sets, drank beer and soda pop, and ate nachos and barbecue wings.

Dan Franklin left work and went to the bar. He considered killing his brother.

“My brother has season tickets,” he said. “He took my dad instead of me. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if he hadn’t called and told me.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: GAME TODAY Mariners face Yankees at 5:07 p.m. in game to be broadcast on NBC TV and KXLY radio.

This sidebar appeared with the story: GAME TODAY Mariners face Yankees at 5:07 p.m. in game to be broadcast on NBC TV and KXLY radio.

Tags: baseball

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