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Seattle Mariners

Make Robinson Sign Larger, Griffey Says

Thu., April 3, 1997, midnight

Having caught the Opening Night first pitch from Jackie Robinson’s daughter and inscribed the evening with a pair of home runs, Ken Griffey Jr. had some thoughts on how baseball’s 50th anniversary tribute to the man could be improved in Seattle.

Make it bigger, for starters.

The logo for the celebration has been slapped on the Kingdome’s right field fence next to the foul pole, and it is less than half the size of the Bravo Card billboard next to it.

“I hope the Mariners can do better in a tribute to Jackie Robinson,” said Griffey, who was behind the plate for Sharon Robinson’s ceremonial pitch. “Maybe they can find a better place than that for a sign and maybe make it bigger.”

While she didn’t issue any complaints about the sign, Sharon Robinson wondered if baseball had advanced her father’s legacy all that much in the past two decades.

“I think he would say the same thing he said on the 25th anniversary (of his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers,” she said. “That we have plenty of people of color out there on the playing field in baseball, basketball and football, but it’s disproportionate to the number we have in management positions.

“I think we need to keep on looking at ourselves and making changes.”

Speaking of signs

Best bedsheet banner of this infant season was plastered to the concrete wall in the third deck of straightaway center field Wednesday night.

“Buhner 3:16,” it read.

The Indians factor

Not satisfied with what spring training produced in the way of backup infield and pinch-hitting help, the Mariners on Wednesday signed free-agent Alvaro Espinoza and optioned Andy Sheets to Triple-A Tacoma to make room for Espinoza on the 25-man roster.

Espinoza, 35, was released by the New York Mets during the last week of spring training after splitting the 1996 season between Cleveland and New York. He played all four infield positions with the Indians, then hit .306 in 48 games with the Mets.

“It’s great when you have a chance to go to a team with a chance to make the playoffs,” said Espinoza, an 11-year major leaguer.

He becomes the third member of the Cleveland Indians team that beat Seattle in the 1995 American League Championship Series to join the Mariners, following Paul Sorrento and Dennis Martinez.

No-no Tacoma

El Presidente will be making no visit to Tacoma.

Scheduled to pitch the opener of the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate tonight, Dennis Martinez will instead work a simulated game this morning in the Kingdome in preparation for his April 8 start against his former team, the Indians.

The 41-year-old right-hander has been penciled in as the Mariners’ fifth starter - but only in soft pencil. He struggled during spring training, giving up 28 hits and 18 earned runs in 16 innings.

Still, Martinez was miffed that he had been asked to go to Tacoma, and nearly went back home to Miami.

The crowd count

The M’s set a two-game series attendance record against the Yankees with a total of 88,537 passing through the Kingdome turnstiles the first two nights. , DataTimes

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