Dan Wilson, Jay Buhner, and Norm Charlton on ’95

On August 25, 2009, Mitch Levy of the KJR sports talk radio station interviewed Wilson, Buhner, and Charlton about the ’95 experience. About a week ago I contacted the Mariners’ front office, and they sent me a cd recording of the interview. Here, from the interview, are some key excerpts of the three players talking about different elements of ’95:

When asked “What’s your favorite year?,” Charlton replied: ’95 is the season. In ’95 we weren’t supposed to do it in the fashion in which we did it. It was a whole lot of fun. The underdog. . . and I was only here for half a season. It was a pretty good half, for everyone involved, because of the way it came about, . . . the things John Ellis did behind the scenes to keep baseball in Seattle.

Wilson: ’95 had such an impact. Not just here in Seattle, but in baseball generally, because we were coming back from the strike, and we really put baseball on the map here. I get people all the time telling me, “I wasn’t a fan until the ’95 season.” When you have that kind of impact, it’s a powerful thing.

Charlton: Everybody mixed together, everybody matched. I don’t think there was one time during that season when someone sitting on the bench was saying, “I hope Jay strikes out so I can get a chance.”

Dan Wilson on Griffey’s injury in May: Immediately when you saw Rick Griffin and Junior walking in, you knew something was wrong… his bone was almost out of his skin. But that’s when our strength came in. . . guys like Amaral holding onto his position until he came back.

Buhner: Confidence bred confidence. It didn’t matter who it was. It seemed like every night there was a new hero. You couldn’t script games to win the way we were doing.

Junior always loved to hold court, especially with the media. But he was still around, still going to do that part of it. I think he took it on himself to continue to do that.

Lou knew who he was going to count on, who he could lean on to pick up for Junior.

In response to the question of what lit a fire for the ’95 Mariners, Charlton said: I think it was the way the guys who replaced him [Griffey] picked it up, the team gelled into an actual team. Nobody really gives a damn about what they do tonight, as long as we win this game.

Wilson: I remember having a conversation with Lee Elia one of those days. I remember Lee saying, “We’re only eight games back in the wild card.” We still had a chance at that, we really do have some hope.

Buhner: There was extra hope, no doubt about it. I don’t know what it was that clicked, but we kept producing, and Anaheim kept losing.

I think our mentality whenever we lost a game was we didn’t lose tonight, we just ran out of outs.

Charlton: The wild card saved baseball in this city. We were basically out of the division race. Without it, we wouldn’t have gone out and gotten the pieces we needed to get back in the wild card race. If we wouldn’t have done that, done a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes, we were going to Tampa.

Wilson, talking about the distraction of that rumored move to Tampa: There were a lot of questions. I mean, we were in Tampa, they had a stadium down there ready for us. There were occasions when they’d bring a city, a state official into the clubhouse, and we’d shake hands. So it was there, no question. Occasionally they’d ask us to go down to Olympia and rally a little bit. But no question, we were there to play baseball.

Buhner: The only thing we could control was what we were doing on the field. We were willing to do whatever it took to save baseball. On flights we had house, apartment locaters from Tampa, wondering where are we going to live next year, where’s spring training going to be.

Buhner on the home field advantage: The Kingdome, Bill the Beer Man, that crowd noise, that played so much to our favor, that place was so loud. We were talking to other guys, they’d say holy crap, it was crazy. You throw in the fireworks, everything else.

Charlton: I came from an open air stadium in Cincinnati, the crowd was more business like, expecting you’re going to win. Here it was nuts, like a college frat party, the enclosed place, all that noise. Other guys [on other teams] would come in and say, “We’ve got no chance.”

Buhner on the atmosphere on the team during the run: We made a pact, who’s going to be the first one in the ballpark. We had so much fun. Every day, 1:00 we’re going to meet, have lunch at the ballpark. By the middle of August it was the entire team meeting at 1. Normally, you stretch at 4:15, 4:20, get to the ballpark at 3 for the most part. We had lunch, talked baseball, went out for early bp. It was just real togetherness.

Buhner on the playoff vs. the Angels: I remember, the Kingdome parking lot, it’s packed at 1:00.  We had that trump card [Randy Johnson].

If you’re not nervous, something’s wrong with you. The biggest celebration I’d ever had was when Jimmy Lefebvre was the manager, the year [1991] we first finished above .500. There was a champagne toast. I’m thinking, “You’re crapping me, we’re celebrating finishing above .500?”

Wilson: We had Randy on the hill, we were very confident in his abilities. Lou, before the ballgame, giving a pretty good speech, the playoff he’d been through [in 1978 with the Yankees], it put us at ease, to know we’re not the first.

Buhner: Piniella, normally he didn’t say a whole lot. He’d let his veterans police the clubhouse, he was real great about that. When he did say something it got everyone’s attention.

When I saw Mark Langston, at home plate, slamming the barrel of Sojo’s bat down, we knew we’d pretty much beat them mentally. That was the nail in the coffin.

On the Yankees series, Charlton said: It would’ve been nice to not have to play a playoff. We would have had set up Randy in New York, for game 1. That crippled us, in terms of the rotation.

Buhner said: We were still riding so high, had that adrenaline rush [coming into the Yankees series]. I know I was tired when the third game happened. Once I came off that cloud a little bit, I was exhausted [for the third game].

Wilson I think coming home, everyone knew we had Randy, we were going to come back. We had the dome.

Buhner: The Yankees knew Randy was coming, they had a big task on their hands. We still believed we were going to win it.

Wilson: Johnson, he was a guy that could dominate a ballgame. In ’95 he had the physical tools, intimidation, he was in it mentally, locked in. He stayed mentally strong, then again in the playoffs, mentally was so tough.

It was his mental concentration, he was intimidating to catch, let alone hit; he’d throw it by you, or he was going to throw a slider at your back foot.

And on game 5, Buhner said: When he [Randy] walked down to the bullpen, the whole place went absolutely nuts.

I was nervous [before game 5], so many things are going through your head, don’t want this to end, you’re thinking this is the greatest time of my life. The game was such a blur, get myself ready, get to the ballpark, get going.

Wilson: I do remember Randy’s entrance, what that meant for the guys, to see him come in.

Buhner on Edgar’s double: I think they [the Yankees] were scared to death about that. They knew Edgar was going to put the play in play, hit the ball hard, it was just a question of where.

I’ve never seen, I mean it’s a ball down the line, goodness gracious, to watch him, on a ball down the line that was a smoker, and it comes right to the left fielder, it comes right up to Gerald Williams, who had a great arm, and Junior’s still safe, by four-five steps, it’s unbelievable.

Wilson: Wolcott being 17 feet off the ground, and the guys kind of split off, some going out to second, to Edgar, peeling off from Junior.

And Charlton on the Cleveland series: They were a pretty good ballclub, and we were pretty spent, our rotation, the pitching, that Yankees series, it did a lot of damage to our club.

Then one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen happened: we go into the locker room, nobody’s left. Piniella gave a little speech, we hear the crowd, and we all came back out onto the field, nobody gone. It was like a rock concert, the fans, like they kept their lighters going, for one last song.

And finally, a few miscellaneous comments from these three.

Buhner on Piniella’s impact on the Mariners: Lou brought credibility, accountability. Lou was not afraid to pull the trigger. He challenged everyone.

Charlton on how he felt about relieving for Randy Johnson: It was more of a challenge coming in after Randy, because hitters were facing that same kind of velocity [from me]; they didn’t have to adjust. It was much easier coming in after Bosio, Benes: guys changing speed, right handers.

Buhner: After the season ended, my thought was, “Let’s get back out there, I want to get right up to the buildup immediately.” That experience, the playoffs, that’s why you bust your butt so hard all winter, to get back to that moment.

Wilson on the years after ‘95: What had happened that season lessened the blow when those guys [Johnson, Griffey, Rodriguez] left. We understood that we can still win. All of us realized the winning wasn’t necessarily over just because those guys left.

Buhner: Baseball, it’s a business, even if you don’t want to see it that way. Sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do [trade players]. Randy, he was my roommate the first couple of years with the Mariners, and you never want to see your buds leave, but that’s what you’ve gotta do, it’s a business.

Buhner on Edgar Martinez: He spoke with his bat. Edgar, he never wanted the spotlight, ever; he was always very uncomfortable being there, being involved, being around the spotlight.


Singing About the ’95 Mariners

Recently Tim Hunter wrote to me. He said, “I was working the morning show at KLSY radio in Seattle back in 1995 when our program director, Bobby Irwin, was contacted by ‘the people’ representing a new singer, Sari. They were offering to go back into the recording studio and sing new words to her single they were pushing, ‘Faith.'”

Tim explained: “I hurriedly wrote some lyrics, we shot ‘em off…..she went in, recorded as promised and that gave us a song that we played to death during that playoff run. We added some clips” of Dave Niehaus game calls, “and the rest is history.” He sent along the mp3 file of the song, called Faith in the Mariners. I uploaded it to Archive.org, where you can download it.

Also, I found a Seattle Times article, “Grand Salamimeister Spices Up M’s Songs Across The Radio Dial,” by Janet I-Chin Tu, from October 12 of ’95, a few days after the ALDS ended. Here’s a couple excerpts:

There’s Dave screaming about grand salamis while country singer Tim McGraw drawls his chart-topping tune “I Like It, I Love It” on KMPS 94.1 FM.

Turn the dial. There’s Dave, my, oh, my-ing through R & B singer Montel Jordan’s dance hit “This Is How We Do It” on KUBE 93 FM.

And wait. Isn’t that Dave lending his crackling explosions to Sari’s adult-contemporary ballad “Faith” on KLSY 92.5 FM?

Dave! Have you left the land of Edgar and Randy to join Madonna and Michael?

Not to worry, Mariner fans. Niehaus hasn’t abandoned the field of miracles. But these days, the voice of the Mariners’ play-by-play announcer can be heard up and down the radio dial, thanks to local stations that are writing Mariners-touting versions of hit songs, often with Niehaus’ announcements thrown into the mix.

It’s a town in collective ecstasy, and what better way to express strong emotions than through song?

Tu added this:

A few notches up the dial, KING 98.1 FM, a classical station, plays Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” in honor of the Mariners. KBSG 97.3 FM has “Seattle Mariners Are On A Roll” to the tune of Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock n’ Roll.” STAR 101.5 FM features “We Will Cheer For You,” sung to the Rembrandts’ theme from the TV show “Friends.” KISW 99.9 FM has a slew of song parodies. There’s “Randy Johnson’s Fastball,” sung to AC/DC’s “Big Balls” and “Pennant Fever,” a version of “The Fever” by South Side Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.

Bob Rivers, writer of the Mariners-version lyrics and morning host at KISW, has penned at least 12 song parodies about the Mariners in the past six years. Highlights include “Will They Stay Or Will They Go,” sung to the Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” during the tenure of former owner Jeff Smulyan; “Lou Pi-niel-la” sung to the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s “Messiah;” and “Bye-bye To Those Mariners Guys,” sung to Don McLean’s “American Pie,” before the recent stadium-funding vote.

Mariners President Chuck Armstrong on the Meaning of ’95

Last year Armstrong spoke to student at the University of Washington about the business of running the Mariners. You can read the full transcript here, but presented below is him talking about one connection with a ’95 fan. Armstrong said:

Here we were in November of 1995. My wife and I were out here, getting ready to go to a Husky-USC football game. This woman recognizes me. She runs up, gives me this big hug, and starts sobbing. My wife says, “Who’s this woman?”

So, she said, “The Mariners saved my father’s life.” In August of 1995, her father had suffered a major stroke, lost most of his faculties. He was going to be consigned to being, perhaps, a vegetable the rest of his life. The doctors didn’t think he would get his faculties back. So, because we play every day, they would wheel the radio or the television in, and he started to watch Mariner baseball.

And if you remember, and I’ll get to this one later, our fans coined this phrase, “Refuse to Lose.” He got into this. He says, “The Mariners are going to refuse to lose. I’m going to refuse to die.” And he says, “Besides, I want to see how this turns out.” So, here we were, a week before Thanksgiving, and he had regained most of his faculties.

He was out of the hospital. He was coming over to her house for Thanksgiving dinner, and she and he said, “That’s because of the Mariners.”

A Game 5 Story

The following story is reprinted from Edgar and the Hall, a website “On Edgar Martinez and a quest for the Hall of Fame” that began at the start of the year. You can find the original story here, with a couple of asides that I’ve left out of the reprinted version below:

I was at Game 5.

Yep, I was there. In the third deck down the right field line. It was bedlam. It was amazing. It was seminal. But, honestly, I barely remember it. It was all a blur. No. My most vivid memory of Game 5 came nearly five years later, on the morning of March 26, 2000, on a stranger’s floor in Washington D.C.

Here’s the story.

I moved to D.C., from Seattle, in October, 1999, after graduating from law school. I was a brand-new baby-lawyer at the Department of Justice and I didn’t know a soul. Well, I did have a friend from the fraternity house at the University of Michigan who lived there. But this was it. I was on my own for the first time. It was exciting and challenging, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss home.

Six months after starting work, I’d become friends with some of the new lawyers who’d started at Justice around the same time. I was out drinking with a group of Justice newbies on the night of Saturday, March 25, and we all ended up at some random stranger’s apartment early Sunday morning. As people snatched up spare beds and couches, I was left with the living room floor. There was no chance I could sleep.

So, instead, I turned on the TV. And, to my everlasting delight, ESPN Classic was airing the “Best games ever played at the Kingdome,” in anticipation of the Kingdome demolition later that morning.

Lying on that floor, I watched the game again for the first time. Extra Innings. Randy Johnson out of the bullpen. “Black” Jack McDowell. Stupid Randy Velarde. Yankees take the lead. Joey Cora bunts and slides around Mattingly. Junior’s line drive single. Runners at the corners . . . .

Up comes Edgar . . .

Wow. Things were changing in Seattle. Edgar’s double led directly to the demolition of the Kingdome. Safeco Field was open. The next year, that beautiful new stadium would play host the 2001 All-Star Game, a rookie named Ichiro, and a winning streak the likes of which no one had ever seen.

And one drunk M’s fan, lying on a stranger’s floor three-thousand miles away, felt like he was home.

Some Data/Trivia About the ’95 Season

A few days ago I looked through the Mariners’ media guide for 1996 and came up with some pieces of information about the ’95 season I thought people might be interested in. So, here they are:

The smallest home crowd was 9,769, vs. Oakland, on June 27.

The largest home crowd was 54,573, vs. Oakland, on September 23.

The Mariner with the most RBI in a game was Mike Blowers, with 8 vs. Boston on May 24.

The team made its most errors in a game, 5, vs. Toronto on July 13.

The Mariners most runs scored in a game was 15, four different times: Tuesday, May 2, Wednesday, May 24, Saturday, August 5 and Sunday, August 6.

The Mariners’ most steals in a game was 5, on May 29 vs. New York.

The longest hitting streak was 14 games, by Edgar Martinez, from August 13-26. Edgar also had a 37-game streak of getting on base.

Edgar’s OBP peaked at .504 on August 25, and at the end of August, he was hitting .369 with an OBP of .501 and slugging percentage of .661.

He played seven games at a position besides designated hitter (third base in four games, first base in three games; and he made an error at each position).

Felix Fermin was the worst Mariner hitter, by a sizable margin: he had 39 hits in 200 at-bats, for a .195 average, and his six doubles gave him a .225 slugging percentage. He also drew six walks, for a .232 OBP: his OPS+ was 20. Fermin started 60 games at shortstop and second base: ’95 was his last full year in the majors.

The longest losing streak for a pitcher was Dave Fleming’s 6, from May 5 through June 19.

The most consecutive scoreless innings for a starter was 18, by Randy Johnson from August 16 to September 8.

The most consecutive scoreless innings for a reliever was 15 2/3rd, by Jeff Nelson from July 3 to August 1.

The Mariners were 52-30 on turf and 27-36 on grass fields in 1995.

The Mariners threw eight shutouts, six of them when Randy Johnson started the game.

The team was 33-40 in one-run and two-run games.

The best record against another team was 10-3 vs. Texas; the worst record was 5-7 vs. Boston and the Royals.

Seattle was 9-4 vs. New York (6-1 at the Kingdome). For the entire season (counting the ALDS), the Mariners were 12-6 vs. the Yankees, with six of the 12 wins coming in the team’s last at-bat.

Attendance in August was 310,114, over 13 games at the Kingdome, for an average of 23,854.

Attendance in September was 449,736, over 14 games at the Kingdome, for an average of 32,124.

The last day of especially low attendance was 12,102 for a game on Tuesday, Sept. 12, vs. the Twins.

Kingdome attendance was still only 26,524 on Wednesday, Sept. 20 vs. the Rangers, but it doubled the next day to 51,500, with the Mariners tied for the division lead and playing the Angels at the Dome.

Attendance was higher for the three Oakland games in late September, which was a weekend series, than for the two-game Angels series in the middle of the week that followed the A’s series.

The Mariners had 43 comeback wins in the regular season, 12 of them in September, and made comebacks in 8 of the last 11 wins.

The 182 homers in ’95 set a new club record.

August 2 was the only time that the Mariners were 13 games back, but they were 12.5 games back on August 16, and 11.5 games back as late as August 24.

The Mariners were 17-5 in their last 22 games.

Raul Ibanez was the team’s minor league player of the year for ’95; Bob Wolcott was the minor league pitcher of the year.

The Mariners were 25-11 after August 23; the Angels were 12-23 over the same time.

The team made up six games on the Angels in 13 days, from August 24 to September 6, despite going just 7-5.

For the season, the Mariners had eight home games that drew under 12,000; another 14 drew under 15,000.

On the other hand, nine home games drew over 40,000, and four of the last six home games drew over 50,000.

The Mariners were 27-3 in the Big Unit’s starts, and 52-63 in all other games.

Johnson (18-2) set an A.L. record for best winning percentage in a season in ’95 (minimum 20 decisions), breaking Ron Guidry’s .893 mark (25-3) for the ‘78 Yankees.

He also set a then-major league mark for Ks per 9 innings with a ratio of 12.35, breaking Nolan Ryan’s 11.48 mark in 1987 with Houston.

Johnson equaled a career-high in pitches with his 160-pitch complete game at Cleveland on July 7.

He had 14 games in which he allowed one run or no runs.

Nineteen different times Johnson threw over 120 pitches in a game, including each of his last five starts.

Johnson was 7-0 with a 1.45 ERA for his final 10 starts.

Joey Cora was the lead-off hitter in 43 games.

Norm Charlton was the A.L. pitcher of the month for September.

Charlton became the closer in late August; he had a .89 ERA in his last 19 games.

Charlton had his first save in two years on August 3 of ’95.

The Mariners’ team ERA in June was 5.44; the team went 11-17 that month.

Blowers had three grand slams in 15 days in August; Buhner had two grand slams that month too.

Here are some more items, this time from the 1995 post-season media guide:
Buhner set a new MLB record for the highest single-season RBI to hits ratio, at 121 to 123: 40 of the 123 hits were homers.

Randy Johnson missed three starts in August and early September, and was second on the M’s in starts, with 30: Bosio made 31 starts.

Griffey was playing in late ’95 with seven screws and a metal plate in his wrist.

Edgar was 18 for 46 against the Yankees in the ’95 regular season, with 7 homers and 20 RBI in 13 games.

Jeff Nelson spent seven full years in the minors before joining the M’s in 1992.

The M’s hit 10 grand slams in ’95, and had 8 shutouts. Their home attendance, 1,640,992, was lower than their road attendance, 1,777,159. They only lost 1 game to the Yankees at the Kingdome all year.

Johnson’s 294 strikeouts were more than triple the second-best M’s pitcher, Bosio, who had 96 Ks.

The M’s had 43 come-from-behind wins in ’95, 12 of them in September, and 8 of their last 11 wins were comeback jobs. They had 16 wins in their last at-bat, two of them from Chad Kreuter singles.

The M’s David Arias (now known as David Ortiz, or Big Papi) led all Mariners rookie league players with a .332 average, 37 RBIs in 48 games, and an OBP of .403. He played mostly at first, and stole two bases.

Other notable M’s minor-leaguers in 1995 who didn’t play for the Seattle club included Derek Lowe, Jose Cruz, Jr., Shawn Buhner, Jay’s brother, Raul Ibanez, Craig Griffey, Ken’s brother, Jason Varitek, and Don Wakamatsu.

Finally, a list of some players you probably don’t remember being on the 1995 team: Chad Kreuter, Gary Thurman, Greg Pirkl, Arquimedez Pozo, Warren Newson, Marc Newfield, Bill Risley, Bob Wells, Darren Bragg, Rafael Carmona, Tim Harikkala, Jim Mecir, Jim Converse, Dave Fleming, Steve Frey, John Cummings, Tim Davis, Kevin King.

Some Slogans and a Poem from ’95

Here are a few fan slogans from 1995, followed by a poem about the season and an article about the “Refuse to Lose” slogan, and Chuck Armstrong talking about the legal issues around the slogan.

At the start of the season, the signboard for the Greenlake Ale House read “Boycott M’s Opening Night”

Six months later, fans came up with some slogans for game 3 of the ALDS:

25 Yanks Can’t Beat Our Johnson
Yank This!
Welcome Back to Civilization
Here We Let Our Pitchers Do The Throwing
Hey George, We Have Fans, Not Animals in the Stands
LEYRITZ: 0-0, 4 Hit By Pitches
Begin to Win
Ken Griffey, Jr.: Mr. October The Next Generation

For game 4 of the ALDS, the fans chanted, about Donnie Mattingly: Don-nie Strike-out! Don-nie Strike-out!

Some slogans for game 5 of the ALDS:

Bring on Cleveland
This is What It’s All About Man
Saint Edgar
We’ll Take The Yankees To The Cleaners With Our 24 Hour Martinizing
Griffey: That’s Our Boy
It’s Too Late For You NY
Today’s Menu: Yankee Noodles
Start Spreading the News – Yankees Lose
Let’s SnoCone
Yanks Choose to Lose
Keep the Magic Alive
Edgar: Grand Slam Superman
Yanks are Sweepless in Seattle

For games 1 and 2 of the ALCS:

Senior Octubre
Planet Edgar
In the big inning, Edgar creates
Just Lou it
We adora Cora
No stadium=No Edgar
Corkless in Seattle
Saint Edgar’s cathedral
Better pray, Indians, you’re in St. Edgar’s Cathedral
America the Buhnerful

Here’s a poem printed in the Seattle Times just after the season ended, called “Hail, Mariners”:

Hail, Mariners, craftsmen of summer, now autumn warriors,
You beckoned us from darkness and ashes,
Out of the death of baseball and its forged return,
To the summer light of our ritual, national myth.

Hail, Mariners, when your leader fell, his wrist broken,
Our doom was complete, our epic undone.
Yet the undoing was your becoming, and you beckoned further.

Hail, Mariners, and that raucous, joyous September night,
When Texas fell, and with our tears and cheers
Your banner was marched into first place,
For the first time in autumn.

Hail, Mariners, warriors, champions,
From the fulcrum of the plate your bats blistered,
From the rampart of the mound your mighty arms hurled.
Now, the battle is done, and the shadows are long,
But when the season returns
We will raise the glorious banner,
Western Division Champions 1995

John Littel, Seattle

And finally, here, from October 14, 1995, is a Seattle Times article by Eric Pryne on the Refuse to Lose mantra, headlined ” ‘Refuse To Lose’ Catchy Battle Cry But Not Exactly An Original One”:

Refuse to lose.
Simple, catchy, tripping off the tongue as the perfect sports slogan should. Why didn’t someone think of this before?

Someone did.

The Mariners’ playoff motto isn’t an original. “You mean the motto the Mariners borrowed,” says Bill Strickland, sports-information director at the University of Massachusetts.

“Refuse to lose” has been the battle cry of UMass’ nationally ranked basketball teams for several years, he said: Coach John Calipari “blurted it out at a post-game press conference a couple years ago, and everyone just picked up on it.”

It also was a motto for Eatonville High School’s 1992 state Class A football champions. “I remember us using it,” said George Fairhart, then an assistant, now head coach, “but I don’t know where we got it. I just thought it was a common phrase.”

All this was news yesterday to Mark Schupisser, the Redmond entrepreneur who claims a proprietary interest.

Schupisser says he and his girlfriend painted and hung the “Refuse to Lose” banner that first appeared over center field in the Kingdome Sept. 24. His company, Never Quit Sportsgear, was the first – at least locally – to market T-shirts with the slogan.

Schupisser said he has filed papers to register “Refuse to Lose” as a company trademark. He said he has tried – unsuccessfully – to get other manufacturers to stop using the phrase.

Never Quit produced the first “Refuse to Lose” T-shirt last February, before the Mariners’ dream season even started. “It came from watching a ball game,” Schupisser said of the motto’s origin. “I heard something, and it just popped.”

A UMass basketball game? Schupisser said he doesn’t remember.

Strickland, the UMass spokesman, said he thinks Coach Calipari already has the rights to “Refuse to Lose” for a clothing line with which he’s affiliated.

Schupisser seemed unaffected by the news. “We’ll just have to negotiate with them,” he said.

In his talk at the University of Washington Law School in 2009, Mariners president Chuck Armstrong added some new details about “Refuse to Lose.” He said:

We thought, “Hey! Maybe we can do something with this.” So, being the good lawyer I am, I said, “Research ‘Refuse to Lose’!”

I didn’t know you could copyright, trademark this stuff. So, we found some guy in South Carolina had actually copyrighted “Refuse to Lose.” We contacted him and bought a license for $25,000. Boom! We started to put it on shirts and banners, and made a lot of money on it.

So, here we are in the playoffs, and I’m called to the front desk. A process server serves me that the Mariners are being sued, Major League Baseball is being sued, and I’m being sued, by John Calipari.

At the time, he was a coach at the University of Massachusetts, and he’s now been named the head coach at the state school in the state where I grew up, at the University of Kentucky.

Apparently, between the time when we got a license from this guy in South Carolina, Calipari went down there and actually bought it from this guy. The guy didn’t tell him that he’d already licensed us.

So, Calipari’s suing us for half a million dollars for violating “Refuse to Lose.” So, I said, “We’re not paying this guy a damn farthing. Nothing for him.” It goes on, goes on, goes on.
To make a long story short, the Mariners paid him nothing. I paid him nothing. Major League Baseball ended up paying him $6000. So, when Calipari left UMass to become coach of the Nets, he lost a lot.

So I sent him a note, John, what about “refuse to lose”? I didn’t get anything back from him.

An Interview With “Baseball’s Greatest Series” Author Chris Donnelly

After receiving word of Chris Donnelly’s book on the 1995 ALDS, Baseball’s Greatest Series: Yankees, Mariners, and the 1995 Matchup That Changed History, I wrote a quick summary of his book and printed an excerpt describing Edgar Martinez’s grand slam in game 4. I’ve followed up by asking Chris some questions about his project of researching the ALDS and writing the book on it. Here’s our exchange:

Arne: You came to this project as a Yankees fan, right? I’ve always assumed this ALDS was the province of Mariner fans, so I’m curious to find out why you decided to write about it from over in New Jersey.

Chris: I was born in 1981 so the ’95 series was the first time I had seen the Yankees make the playoffs. They have seemingly made it to the postseason every year since, but back in ’95, this was a huge deal in NYC. Plus, like many Yankee fans, Don Mattingly was by far my favorite player, so there was an overwhelming sense of relief that he finally made the postseason. The games were beyond anything baseball fans could have hoped for and despite the outcome, I often thought back upon the series and how exciting it all was. As I got older, I learned more and more about it and found there was more to the story than just the five games, so I thought it would make for a good book.

Arne: Your book’s to a large extent about the swan song of Don Mattingly. Could you talk a little bit about how he figured in the ALDS. It seems that him striking out three times against Randy Johnson in game 3 was an emotional turning point in the series.

Chris: I think for many Yankee fans, it was almost more about Don Mattingly making the playoffs and winning the World Series than about the Yankees doing so. Very few people knew for certain if he was returning after that season, so for fans, it became crucial that the Yankees win it then and there. Additionally, his performance during the series (10 hits, 6 RBI and a home run) reminded many of the dominating player he had been during the 1980s. Mattingly was the only left handed batter in the lineup against Johnson, showing Showalter’s faith in him. Unfortunately, it did not work out well for Mattingly and even Seattle fans, who had been mostly cordial to him, began taunting him after the three strikeout performance.

Arne: The N.Y. vs. Seattle baseball dynamic really got going in ’95, then it became a recurring rivalry for the next six years. And of course a lot of Mariner fans are still disgusted by Alex Rodriguez leaving town, so he’s helped make the Yankees a continuing object of dislike in the Northwest. It’s somewhat well known here that Seattle’s first name was “New York Alki,” or “New York by and by,” and Seattle still seems to emulate itself on New York City in some ways. What are your thoughts on the sports rivalry between the two cities?

Chris: From 1995 to 2001, the Yankees-Mariners was possibly the best rivalry in baseball. Most of that was driven by the Division Series, but you had dynamic players on both sides and there were always NY/Seattle connections, whether it be Lou Piniella, Tino Martinez, Jay Buhner, or Luis Sojo. I think just about every city takes pride in defeating the Yankees, but especially Seattle because they had a one up on everyone because of what happened in ’95.

Arne: What take does the average Yankee fan have on the ’95 ALDS?

Chris: I don’t want to speak for all fans, but for me it’s mostly bittersweet. I think the Yankees had an excellent chance of beating the Indians in the ALCS that year and getting to the World Series. Had they done so, it would have been very difficult for Steinbrenner not to have brought back Buck Showalter and other members of the team. It was disappointing for fans that off season to slowly see their favorite players start leaving for other teams, and then to not have Mattingly return was almost unthinkable. Yet the Yankee dynasty of ’96-’01 does not happen if the Yankees don’t lose that series, so in a twisted way, you almost seem grateful that Edgar hit that double (although the pain of watching that and reliving the moment, as a Yankee fan, never goes away).

Arne: What do you think was the biggest mistake the Yankees made during ALDS to help the Mariners come back?

Chris: I wouldn’t call it a mistake, but not utilizing Mariano Rivera. It’s not a mistake because no one knew just what Rivera brought to the table. He hadn’t pitched well during the regular season, and yet he dominated Seattle in the playoffs. Had Showalter known then what we all know now (a fact Buck admits), Rivera would have been brought in sooner in Game 5, possibly pitched out of that 8th inning jam without letting the Mariners tie the game, and today we would be talking about the Tampa Bay Mariners. But it would be unfair to blame Showalter for that because no one had a clue and anyone who says otherwise is simply not telling the truth.

Arne: I’ve always thought Yankee fans have a grudge against Randy Johnson because of his feats in the ALDS and the ’01 World Series, and because he then didn’t do too well in New York. Do you agree?

Chris: Again, I don’t want to speak for all fans, but I think that is probably fair. What is odd about that is that the Yankees actually performed very well historically against Johnson during the regular season. I don’t have the exact stats, but I believe few teams did better. But when it came playoff time, he simply dominated them in two separate years. Johnson came to NY with high expectations and, in the minds of fans anyway, never lived up to them.

Arne: How did the interviews for the book go? Who did you talk to, what did they say, and what were your impressions of them?

Chris: I spoke to approximately 70 people for the book. They ranged from umpires, to team personnel, people who had been on the teams in the ’80s, and of course, the coaches, managers and players who were there in ’95. Just about everyone was very supportive of the concept and for those who took part in the series, they all loved talking about the experience (even the Yankees). On the NY side, many of those guys had great memories of their teammates and coaches, many of whom they never played with again after the Game 5 loss. For Seattle, most of the players simply couldn’t stop talking about what a great experience it was and how Seattle baseball really came to life that year.

Arne: Along the same lines, which Mariner players and/or officials were the most interesting to research and to interview?

Chris: Researching the Mariners’ early history was fun because, frankly, the team was so bad. They were just so many oddities that I kept discovering, like Wills trying to make the batter’s box bigger, or a guy who gave up a home run on the first pitch he threw in the majors. Everyone I interviewed, and I sincerely mean this, was fantastic. No one hesitated to share stories or memories. Jay Buhner and Chris Bosio stick out most of all because I spent the most time with them. They are both open and frank guys who not only shared stories of the series, but also gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation for little aspects of the game (how to pitch certain hitters, what to do against a David Cone slider, etc.).

Arne: The trade of Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson after the ’95 season was, along with the trade of Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe two years later, one of the great Mariner missteps that kept the team from doing more with its amazing talent in the ’90s. Did you have the chance to talk with Nelson and/or Martinez about the trade? Also, did any of the Mariners officials you talked with describe the reasoning behind it?

Chris: While I was able to interview more than half of the players who took part in the series, unfortunately, Tino and Jeff Nelson were not among them. Obviously, from the Yankees side, the trade became necessary once Don Mattingly made clear he was not returning for 1996.

Arne: There were so many themes and subtexts to the Mariners/Yankees rivalry in the ’90s and early ’00s, with all the players, and Piniella, having experience with both teams in their careers, and the re-emergence of the Yankees as a team good enough to be worthy of rooting against even if you were three thousand miles away. What was the attitude toward those Mariner teams in and around New York City?

Chris: I think Yankee fans always held a resentment against the Mariners for what happened in ’95, at least until the 2000 and or 2001 seasons. The Kingdome always seemed to be a nightmare for the Yankees, and players like Junior, Edgar and Randy Johnson were easy for New Yorkers to pick out as villains because they handled the Yankees well. After the 2000 and ’01 ALCS, I think that bitterness died away, not just because the Yankees won those series, but because so many of the key players were gone from both teams.

Arne: Stepping away from the ’95 ALDS for a final question, how do you remember the ’01 ALCS? It’s obviously overshadowed by that year’s World Series, but that was such a uniquely important and moving time, to have playoff baseball about 10 miles north of the World Trade Center site.

Chris: That entire playoff run for the Yankees was obviously a special moment in New York. It seemed like the one time when people, at least not collectively for a change, weren’t praying for the Yankees not to win again. The Yankees played many fantastic games that postseason, including Game 4 against Seattle, and to be able to clinch the League Championship at home meant a lot to the city that year. Additionally, at least from the fans’ perspective, the Yankees were trying to prevent the 116-win Mariners from eclipsing the ’98 Yankees as perhaps the greatest single season team in history, so to beat them and maintain that aura was especially satisfying.