The story of the Seattle Mariners team, and baseball in general, began thousands of miles away from the American mainland. There are documented accounts of games being played in Britain as early as the mid-1700s. With such a lengthy history, baseball is certainly a noble tradition and one that is, rightfully, still extremely popular.
Some time in the mid-1800s, baseball arrived in the United States and the first recorded game happened in Hoboken, New Jersey, in June 1846. It was a bad day for the New York Knickerbockers, who were defeated by the New York Nine 23-1 in only four innings. The sport rapidly turned into a local area craze and soon, the game became a nationwide pastime.
In this guide, the history of the Seattle Mariners will be revealed, along with descriptions of the most coveted memorabilia associated with the team. The guide also includes information how to collect Seattle Mariners memorabilia, on eBay.
History of the Seattle Mariners
The history of the modern Seattle Mariners began, unusually enough, with a lawsuit resulting from the loss of the city’s previous team, the Pilots, who were created in 1969. They were subsequently relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1970 and became the Milwaukee Brewers. As a result of the relocation, which was due to financial issues, the City of Seattle and the state of Washington sued Bud Selig, who would later become Commissioner of Baseball for the Major League, for breach of contract.
The suit went on for six years. Finally, in 1976, the American League settled at trial, offering Seattle an expansion baseball franchise. In return, Seattle dropped the suit and the new Seattle Mariners team debuted on April 6, 1977, to a crowd of almost 58,000 at the Kingdome.
The Early Years
The Mariners were not immediately successful. In fact, they lost their first, sold-out game against the California Angels without scoring once. However, four days later, Juan Bernhardt hit the team’s first home run, on April 10, 1977. The team finished the season with a 64-98 record.
In 1979, Seattle hosted the 50th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, though the performance of the team was not considered to be exemplary; their losing record continuing throughout the 1980s. Nevertheless, the club produced some valuable players, including the 1984 American League Rookie of the Year, Alvin Davis, three-time American League strikeout champion Mark Langston and two-time All Star winner Harold Reynolds. Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, also known as "The Ancient Mariner," was also a part of the lineup in the 1982 and 1983 seasons, before moving to the Kansas City Royals.
A Change of Fortune
In 1987, the Mariners picked Ken Griffey, Jr. during the first round of the amateur draft. It would mark the beginning of a new era for the Mariners. Though Griffey Jr.’s rookie season in 1989 and the team’s performance in 1990 were both unsuccessful, 1991 saw the first victorious season in the Mariners’ short history. They placed fifth in the American League West with an 83-79 record.
In mid-1992, the team was purchased by a group of Seattle-based businessmen, including Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi. During the offseason, Lou Piniella was hired as the Mariners manager, to the great delight of fans. Piniella had driven the Cincinnati Reds to a convincing World Series win in 1990, and went on to head the Mariners until 2002.
Home Run Records and "The Double"
After a fractured 1994 season, which was affected by the Major League Baseball strike, which lasted 232 days and canceled the World Series, the Mariners bounced back in 1995, achieving a 79-66 winning streak. Though they did not win the World Series that year, the 1995 season was a memorable one because of a now legendary play which became known as "The Double."
"The Double" took place on October 8, 1995, during Game 5 of the American League Division Series held at the Kingdome. The Yankees were the opposition and had taken an early 4-2 lead against the Mariners, before the home team caught up and forced the game into extra innings. At the top of the eleventh inning, Yankees infielder Randy Velarde scored a run on an RBI single and found themselves only three outs from the ALC Series.
When the Mariners went to bat in the bottom of the eleventh, Yankees player Jack McDowell pitched against three of the Mariners’ greatest batsmen: Joey Cora, Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez. Cora successfully reached first base, before Griffey Jr.’s hit enabled Cora to arrive safely at third base. Martinez sealed the Yankees’ fate by doubling down the left field, allowing Cora to score the tying run and Griffey Jr. the winning run. The Double rejuvenated interest in the team, which had been flagging in recent years, with 1995 considered the "Magical Season" for the Mariners.
The Mariners achieved an all time record for the most home runs in a team season in 1996. However, while the offense shone, the rest of the nineties saw little progress in pitching, a weakness which was compounded by a series of injuries and the trade of Ken Griffey, Jr. in 1999. Consequently, the Mariners had a losing record in the last few years of the century.
A 21st Century Comeback
In 2000, the Mariners picked up the spirit they’d dropped in 1995, and the club was declared the wild card winner from the American League West. Gold Glove winner Mike Cameron had been picked up to replace Ken Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, who had been a team member since 1994, became the new face of the franchise.
In 2001, the Mariners set an American League record, winning 116 games despite Rodriguez’s departure from the team in favor of a lucrative contract with the Texas Rangers. The club won the AL West with ease and their newest team member, Ichiro Suzuki, was named the American League MVP, the AL Rookie of the Year, and also received a Gold Glove award.
2003 to 2012 saw a series of major staffing changes, which started with the replacement of coach Lou Piniella with Bob Melvin in 2003, who was fired after the 2004 season and replaced with Mike Hargrove. A short slump in performance took place between 2004 and 2006, before a comeback in 2007 which was followed by a disappointing 2008 season, with a 62-101 losing record. Hargrove resigned unexpectedly in July of 2007, and bench coach John McClaren was announced as his replacement.
Jack Zduriencik was hired as general manager in the fall of 2008, and appointed Don Wakamatsu as the new field manager. The pair then went on to employ a completely new coaching staff and also resigned Ken Griffey Jr., who was even reissued his old number, 24. The result was a new and improved Mariners team, who won 24 more games than the previous season.
In 2010, the Seattle Mariners dramatically fired field manager Don Wakamatsu, along with most of the rest of the coaching staff, hiring former Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge instead and replacing the rest of the staff accordingly.
Legendary Seattle Mariners Team Members
Despite the team’s relatively short history, there have been a number of notable additions to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. These include Pat Gillick, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, and Dick Williams.
In 1997, the Seattle Mariners announced the creation of their own Hall of Fame. Inductees have included Alvin Davis, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Edgar Martinez, and Randy Johnson.
Seattle Mariners Memorabilia Types
Seattle Mariners memorabilia types include a wide range of items, some of them more valuable than others. For fans of the club, the objects carry significant meaning, because they are tangible evidence of the history of the team. Some individuals stick to only one or two types of memorabilia whereas others collect a large array items, though baseball jerseys, cards, bats, and baseballs are the four most collected categories.
Autographed Baseball Jerseys
Despite the young age of the club in relation to others, there have been a number of uniform changes during its tenure as Seattle’s resident baseball franchise.
The first season, 1977, saw the Mariners playing in a white home uniform and a powder blue road uniform. The style of the shirts changed a little in 1981, particularly the Road uniform, which gained thick yellow shoulder stripes. A slight modification to the home uniform followed in 1987 before the Mariners settled on a more permanent style in 1993.
The most collectible baseball jerseys are usually the rarest, and if they are signed by a famous Mariners player, they can be worth several hundreds dollars. The very rarest jerseys are those worn by players during games. If these are autographed by sought-after players, they can command a very large sum. Ken Griffey Jr. jerseys, for example, have been known to sell for almost a $1,000 at auction.
Collectible Baseball Cards
Baseball cards are some of the most widely traded forms of sports memorabilia in America. From their foundation in the 1800s to their mass production in the 20th century, the cards have provided fans of every age with an exciting pastime.
The number of National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees in the short Seattle Mariners club lifetime has been considerably higher than average, so there are already highly collectible cards available. Some of the most valuable include Goose Gossage trading cards by Upper Deck and Topps. They are particularly valuable if they also feature a signature.
The most coveted Seattle Mariners bats are those which hail from the team’s successful seasons as well as those which originate from memorable events such as "The Double" in 1995. Some of the most expensive Mariners memorabilia items ever sold have been Ichiro Suzuki signed bats, some of which have been auctioned for well over $1,000. Other valuable bats include those signed by Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey, Jr.
A Seattle Mariners keepsake collection would not be complete without a signed baseball. While certain signatures are certainly more easily sourced than others, the most desirable ones include Felix Hernandez, Ichiro Suzuki, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Randy Johnson. Naturally, if play balls can be found with multiple signatures on them, they will be worth significantly more.
How to Buy Seattle Mariners Memorabilia on eBay
Seattle Mariners memorabilia is as popular as the team and as a result, it can be difficult to locate locally. The best thing about the eBay site is its ability to bring buyers and sellers together from different parts of the world, allowing transactions to take place that could not otherwise have been made. Memorabilia items are regularly sold at well under market value, making eBay the number one place to shop for Mariners memorabilia. To find Seattle Mariners memorabilia, a customer can go to the Collectibles & Art section, then the Sports Mem, Cards & Fan Shop and finally, filter the listings by subcategory using the list on the left of the page.
Before buying an item, it is always a good idea to check the seller’s feedback rating and comments to ensure that they are trustworthy, communicative, and ship items within a reasonable time period. Buyers considering autographed memorabilia would do well to read up about eBay’s policies concerning authentication services and certificates of authenticity. If the memorabilia does not arrive, eBay Buyer Protection will cover the cost of the purchase, plus any related shipping costs. However, some terms and conditions do apply.
The Seattle Mariners has had a short but complex history as a team. It was formed as the solution to a lawsuit in 1976 and propelled into the Major Leagues without the long tenure of many other prominent baseball teams. Nevertheless, the franchise picked up a following of loyal fans in a very short space of time.
The Seattle Mariners has produced a formidable number of Hall of Fame inductees in its short time as an MLB franchise, including Alvin Davis, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, and Edgar Martinez. Memorabilia items signed by key players continue to sell successfully on sites like eBay, with certain items and players more sought-after than others.
In the end, expanding a Seattle Mariners memorabilia collection should be fun and fascinating. Shopping on eBay makes it so, allowing avid Mariners fans to relax at home as they find hidden gems to add to their baseball treasure troves.