We were living in Leavenworth and I can remember that entire fall like it was yesterday. I think the first thing I remember was driving south to teach a seminar in the Tri-Cities and coming home in the afternoon with one of those mid-week Mariner matinees on the radio and Dave and Rick talking about Refuse to Lose. It was mid-September and they were putting the post-season tickets on sale the next day. Unfortunately, I had another another seminar to teach–this one in Wenatchee. My kids (at that time my son was 16 and my daughter 14) were in school so there was no way for them to buy tickets. My wife (at the time) hated baseball with a passion but it has always been a way for me and my kids to connect. Even today, 14 years later, my son and I e-mail about the Mariners on a daily basis. We still do games together. My daughter a little less, but it’s one of the few things we have in common and we still find the time to do at least one game each year.
So how was I going to get tickets. We had made the trip over from Leavenworth six or seven times that summer. We had grown totally distraught early in the year when Junior broke his wrist and we had watched unbelieving as the rest of the team sucked it up and played better than they ever had. I knew that we just had to be in the stands if they went to the playoffs.
So, I was standing in front of about 200 people in an East Wenatchee auditorium when tickets went on sale at 10:00 am. I told my audience we would take a short break while I made a phone call. I dialed and prayed. Ten minutes came and went and I was still on hold, 20 minutes and the crowd I was teaching had filed back in. I was still on hold but I had to start speaking again. So I handed my cell phone (it was huge compared to what we all use today) to someone in the first row and I told them to let me know if anyone picked up. About 10 minutes later someone did. I excused myself and told the crowd I had to take a phone call again and I was sorry, got on with the ticket agent and scored three tickets in the 2nd deck right over Junior in centerfield.
When I got off the phone no one in the audience of 200+ could figure out why I was jumping up and down and screaming until someone said, “You just got playoff tickets? Didn’t you?” I admitted that I had and the crowd started applauding. It was beyond cool.
Jump forward a few weeks to the night of the one game playoff against California. I wasn’t able to get tickets to that game. I was sure we would have it won long before that (because I was a total believer) but a good friend went and we sat in the pizza parlor he owned in Leavenworth (me and my kids) and watched that game. When they finally won we went nuts.
But the next two games were two of the worst of my life. Watching the games from Yankee Stadium with my kids as we lost both of them and knowing that if you couldn’t get Jay (still my all-time favorite baseball player) to win for you in Yankee Stadium then maybe things were over. It made me hate the Yankees and that bastard Jim Leyritz more than any group of people before or since. I still hate the Yankees. Maybe the Mariners were just too tired. Maybe my kids and I would only get to use one of those precious tickets I had bought in front of 200 audience members.
So two days later, I went to my kids schools and picked them up around noon and we made the drive to the Dome (sorry, I have always capitalized it–it was kind of shrine to me) and watched them win. OMG! It was incredible. We did Refuse to Lose. We got lost leaving the Dome that night but we didn’t care–we had won. Did I mention I had one of the worst colds of my life. So here I am driving over Snoqualmie Pass twice a day for three days and not able to take any cold medication. My kids and I talked more in those three days of traveling than we ever had before. (I guess five days if you count the Cleveland games).
The next day my kids went to school and I went to work. Thankfully I work for myself so I could go in at 4:30 am and get my days work done and then I picked them up again at noon and we headed west. The second night was even more unbelievable than the first. When Edgar makes the Hall, it should be more about that game than about The Double. A three run homer and a grand salami. Our seats were just above where that ball (the salami) went out and we couldn’t see it go. (Remember how bad the sight lines were in the Dome looking down from the upper decks.) We had to wait for the rest of the Dome to go NUTS when the ball went out to know he had done it.
That third night. Oh geez! I still get tears in my eyes when I think of it. Nothing makes me emotional like that game. Up and down, up and down. The whole night. Still today, I count it as one of the five best days in my life, maybe top three. I remember so much of it. And when Joey pulled off that wonderful bunt and then Griff pushed him on to third we just knew that there was no way we were going to lose. It wasn’t possible. I don’t care if Babe Ruth (or any other of the Yankee legends of the past) had come back from the dead and pitched that inning or got to bat first in the next one, we knew there was no way we could lose. If you were there when you saw Edgar come up, you knew too. There was no way for us to lose. We didn’t even have to refuse at that point. It was destiny.
I can still see that swing in my mind. It was so sweet. That ball bounding into left field. It didn’t even look like it was hit that hard. But we knew we were tied. I was watching the ball and my son grabbed my arm and screamed that Junior was going for it. OMG! I had never, NOT EVER, seen him run that fast. Even after a fly ball in centerfield. When he scored—pandemonium.
If you were there and as into the Mariners as we were you will understand when I say that I am sitting here in my kitchen right now, typing this, with tears streaming down my face. That was it. I could die happy. Now don’t get me wrong. I lead a GREAT life. I have remarried (to a woman who likes baseball) and I have moved to Redmond so I don’t have the Leavenworth drive to get to Safeco and my kids have grown and are two of the best people you could ever want to meet but that night was beyond special. That night stands out. It is perhaps my most vivid memory. And not just the game. The exhilarating drive home with my kids. I look back now at those five games (the three with the Yankees and the two with Cleveland) and the trips to and from the Dome and I think that’s when we truly connected. We had been close before but my son and I found a common ground that we have kept going for all these years. And it’s a memory that I can replay over and over again of the best of times with my kids. For that I am truly thankful.
I want to mention the other two games. Well, really only one. For the life of me, I can’t remember the first game with Cleveland. I remember that Hershiser pitched for them and that we had a young kid on the mound who loaded the bases in the first and then got out of the jam but I can’t remember his name. Was it Dave Fleming? (My son would know but it’s too early to call him.) [It was Bob Wolcott.] I do remember that, of course, Cleveland won. And I remember they won the next night too. And that we were done. But you know what? If you are like me, that last night…when it was over…that was the second best night of the playoffs. Sure Joey cried in the dugout while Alex comforted him but if you were there you remember that we in the stands didn’t Refuse to Lose, we refused to leave. We screamed, cheered, applauded and just kept going until the team came out. My kids and I had a two and a half hour drive to go home after a loss but we stayed for almost an hour until they came out and we thanked them for what was perhaps the best month of baseball in the history of the game.
I grew up in Southern Cal. I learned baseball from Vin Scully listening to Dodger games on my bedside radio after my parents had told me to go to bed. Before 1995, the best game in baseball history had been the night Gibson hit the home run off Eckersley to win the first game of the World Series in 1988. And then my boys in blue going on to win in just five games from the Mighty A’s. Well September and October of 1995 made that look like little league. It was magic. Truly magic. Thank you so much for putting this site together. It made me write this down which I have never done before.