Emmett Watson on the ’95 Mariners

A little bit ago I picked up Digressions of a Native Son, Emmett Watson’s old collection of some stories about Seattle. I’d heard of Watson, and thought of him as the standard-bearer for the old, pre-Microsoft, pre-Amazon city: the time when Boeing was the corporate king of the town and practically no one knew about Starbucks. Anyway, reading through the stories, I noticed a preoccupation with sports and baseball in particular, including tales about Watson’s boyhood days rooting for, covering, and, briefly, playing for the Seattle Pilots. So I went on to look for what the booster of Lesser Seattle had to say about the Mariners’ ’95 run.

Here’s most of his column from Tuesday, October 17, the day the Mariners lost the ALCS to Cleveland:

Invincible Summer: It’s Here At Last

For all these turbulent baseball-nutty weeks, I have sat by my window and watched the crowds pouring toward the Kingdome. Sometimes, I admit – sentimental slob – to shedding a tear or two.

You see, I live in Pioneer Square. I can see these crowds, full of joy and hope, chanting our victory slogan, “Refuse to Lose.”

They carry placards and defiant homemade signs. They wear baggy shorts, cutoff jeans, baseball caps on backward, carrying seat cushions and backpacks, bringing their own food to the games because they can’t afford a Kingdome hot dog.

There are young moms and dads, a lot of them pushing baby strollers. Some chip in and travel proudly in horse carriages.

I’ve lived among these people, I know them. All during those dreary, losing years when their hopes were betrayed by dumb management and penurious owners, these people were there – always hoping for a better break.

Watching people in those awful, draining years, cravings crashed, expectations bamboozled, you think of Albert Camus, the French philosopher, who once said: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” The invincible summer. It has finally come to these loyal, happy people going past my window to the Kingdome. Joy just radiates up from the sidewalk at First and Jackson.

Millionaires may own baseball, millionaires may play it, but the working people, men and women, make the game possible.

Because baseball is a game of hope, it is also a game for losers. Good teams often lose more games than they win. Yet fans stay loyal. Hope is the pursuit of happiness, isn’t it? What else is there?

It is the game for every guy who lost a good account. It is the game for waiters who get stiffed. It is the game for every guy who goes to work for short dough at a job he hates.

It is the game, as Jimmy Breslin once wrote, “for every woman who looks up 10 years later and sees her husband eating dinner in a T-shirt and wonders how the hell she ever let this guy talk her into getting married.”

We are up in the clouds with euphoria, and our kings and heroes are named Edgar and Tino and Jay and Junior and Mike; our guardian angel is a giraffe-tall, turkey-necked, scowling, tired-armed fellow named Randy Johnson.

This mostly naive, silly thing called baseball has given us a close-knit, intimate kind of community hope. And there’s always next year.

And here, from Tuesday, September 26, is Emmett’s column on why the “Vote On Stadium Was A Vote About Our Happiness – Period”: it struck me as the best argument for building a replacement for the Kingdome Watson made during the whole year.

I wish every day could be like last Wednesday and the days that followed. The afterglow is still there, and I am so delighted I might sing a song.

Later in this column I will toot my own horn. We should all toot our own horns, for, as Jimmy Breslin once wrote, “If you do not blow your own horn there will be no music.”

Last Wednesday I awoke to find that the baseball-stadium ballot measure had won, or was winning.

This was good for several whoops, followed by a celebratory walk with Tiger Too. I couldn’t stop laughing with joy. Even if the mail-in ballots beat the stadium tax measure, it would be very hard on the Mariner owners. With a vote as close as that, can you imagine all these rich guys saying they still planned to sell the team out of town?

Hell, if they tried that, they might as well send somebody down to Debo Rent-A-Clown on 42nd Avenue South and hire a new team spokesman.

Even as this is written (before the latest vote count showing the stadium proposal trailing by 1,500 votes) you know these owners will not sell the Mariners to Orlando, Memphis or any village in southern Rhodesia. Happily, they are stuck with this team.

If they tried to bail out now, they wouldn’t be safe on the streets after dark. They’d have to wear disguises just to enter a lunch counter.

I do not mean to be unduly hard on these rich owners. Basically, they are as good as rich guys ever get – and they deserve credit for keeping the Mariners here.

I am now ready to toot my own horn.

The only toot worth mentioning is my constant, repetitious, redundant, continual, endless, often boring notion that the only issue about a new baseball stadium was – happiness!

The Mariners proved how happy baseball can make a city. You would need a pipe wrench to get fans down from the chandeliers.

We are not so rich a city that we can export fun beyond the county line; we can’t act like a bunch of bean-counters cutting down on the paper clip overhead.

All last week I watched as the Mariners, bless their hearts, fought fiercely into first place. They hung on even more fiercely. God, it was wonderful!

The TV cameras panned into the crowd, as well they might. There you saw fun being had. You saw young moms and pops holding up their babies while they cheered. Baseball is like that – you don’t take babies to a football game; you don’t drag them to a symphony. This is family fun, as only baseball provides it.

All during the stadium vote campaign, I kept saying, “Don’t complicate it! The issue isn’t economics, jobs, tourist dollars, recycled money, salaries, wealth, or anything else that isn’t worth a grunt.”

The idea was to vote ourselves some fun. How much fun do YOU have? Every day you hear of the homeless, shrinking Medicare, AIDS, fires, earthquakes, dirty movies. Life is full of miseries, more than enough to keep our per capita joylessness much too high.

So baseball, like a lot of other silly things we enjoy, helps pacify the sad glands. We must keep it. Do it. Have fun.

That’s all this baseball team means to us. When this team wins, it takes the whole city on a joyride. It takes us all together.


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