SEATTLE – One complaint about the Mariners and their fans (and some media, for that matter) is that they live in the past, specifically clinging too tightly to 1995.
But 1995, along with the era closely surrounding it, was pretty darned amazing. So was the cast of characters that populated that vintage of Mariners baseball.
Two of those key figures were pitcher Randy Johnson and catcher Dan Wilson who were inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame on Saturday.
It was hard not to be stirred by the images of Johnson storming off the mound, eyes ablaze after a big strikeout, gesticulating and screaming to no one and everyone. You can count Wilson among those also stirred.
“I think the thing that struck me, as a player you understand that intensity,” he said. “But having been out of the game, to see Randy’s intensity, the fire, I’d kind of forgotten about that, and how awesome that is.
“For me, that’s what struck me – and how fun it was.”
Johnson was asked on Friday at a luncheon about one particular, iconic image: him embracing Wilson after finishing off the Angels in the one-game playoff for the division title at the Kingdome. You know the one.
“That was the most powerful moment while I was here, ’95,” he said. “Had we not won the division, we never would have played the Yankees. We got more fan support, more attention, when we won that one-game playoff. We gave fans and national media more time to figure out who we were up in Seattle.”
What they discovered, among other things, was an endearing battery comprised of two guys who couldn’t have been more polar opposite. Wilson was mannered and smooth, so baby-faced that Ken Griffey Jr. joked in a video message Friday that “when Dan was traded here from the Reds, Jay (Buhner) and I looked at each other and said, ‘Did they throw in the bat boy, too?’ With that boyish look you had, we thought you were part of a boy band.”
Johnson was rough around the edges, mulleted and mean, someone you didn’t want to cross on game day – or any other day.
“I wasn’t the easiest to work with, I’ll admit that,” he said. “I wouldn’t change that, because that’s what made me me, and why Dan is him, because he could handle me back then. Some catchers couldn’t.”