Ten years at Safeco Field: Ichiro broke an 84-year-old record and two days later, Edgar Martinez played his final game. The Mariner Moose almost flattened Coco Crisp, wrestling fans packed the place and Ken Griffey Jr. made triumphant returns — twice.
1 Groundbreaking, March 8, 1997
With Ken Griffey Jr. flying in from spring training in Arizona to wield the shovel, the Mariners broke ground on what Dave Niehaus called “The House that Griffey Built.” A crowd of about 8,000 on a chilly, windy day heard Sen. Slade Gorton say, “Today, we begin a high that’s going to last for the lives of all of us here.” But still hanging over the project was a Supreme Court decision on whether the ballpark funding was legal.
2 First game, July 15, 1999
With a somber commissioner Bud Selig on hand — one day after a tragic crane accident killed three workers helping build Milwaukee’s new park — a well as a streaker nabbed by police during the seventh-inning stretch, the Mariners inaugurated Safeco Field with a 3-2 loss to the Padres. A crowd of 44,607 witnessed the ceremonial first heartache: Jose Mesa blowing a 2-1 lead in the ninth.
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3 All-Star Game, July 10, 2001
With eight Mariners on the American League team, plus Lou Piniella as one of Joe Torre’s AL coaches, the night had a real Seattle flair. One of the highlights was Ichiro’s infield single off Randy Johnson in the first inning — but the night belonged to 40-year-old Cal Ripken Jr., who had already announced he would retire at the end of the season. Ripken took the field at shortstop at Alex Rodriguez’s behest, and clinched the MVP award with a first-pitch homer off Chan Ho Park in the third.
4 Mariners clinch AL West, Sept. 19, 2001
On one of the most bittersweet nights in team history, the Mariners, en route to their record-breaking 116-win season, wrapped up the AL West title a mere eight days after 9/11, and just two days after the season resumed from a weeklong hiatus. The emotional highlight was Mark McLemore and Mike Cameron grasping a large American flag and leading the Seattle team around the bases after the 5-0 win over the Angels.
5 WrestleMania, March 30, 2003
Safeco Field has hosted numerous non-baseball events — FC Women’s Gold Cup soccer, state high-school baseball championships, the Seattle Bowl football game, a Beach Boys concert among them — but none flashier than WrestleMania XIX. The largest crowd in the history of the venue, 54,097, watched Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H go at it. Rock group Limp Bizkit performed live, and Ashanti sang “America the Beautiful” to kick off the mayhem.
6 Ichiro’s 258th hit, Oct. 1, 2004
In the midst of a brutal, 99-loss Seattle season, Ichiro achieved baseball history by breaking George Sisler’s 1920 major-league record of 257 hits in a season. In an 8-3 win over Texas, Ichiro tied the record in the first, then drove the ball hard on the ground to the left of second base in the third inning for hit No. 258 (en route to a final total of 262). Manager Bob Melvin (who would be fired three days later) led the Mariners team to first base, where they hugged Ichiro. The crowd of 45,573 serenaded Ichiro with a five-minute standing ovation, after which he trotted to the stands to greet Sisler’s daughter, three of his grandsons, and a great-grandson.
7 Edgar Martinez’s last game, Oct. 3, 2004
Two days after Ichiro broke Sisler’s record, the Mariners bade farewell to one of their legends, Edgar Martinez. The two-time batting champion, who will be forever remembered for The Double in 1995, hit into double plays his final two at-bats, but was remembered as the ultimate hitting craftsman — and a true gentleman. “There will be a hole here now, not just in the batting order, not just in the clubhouse,” said teammate Raul Ibanez. “But in our team, our organization.”
8 Ken Griffey Jr.’s return, June 22, 2007
In his first Seattle appearance since he was traded to Cincinnati after the 1999 season, Griffey had genuine doubts about the reception he would get. He needn’t have worried. It was a nonstop lovefest during the Reds’ three-game series, which Griffey capped by hitting two homers in the final game, and telling FSN, presciently, “I think I owe it to the people of Seattle, and myself, to retire as a Mariner.”
9 The Mariner Moose nearly KOs Coco Crisp, Aug. 5, 2007
In what could have been a gruesome moment but fortunately resulted in merely a humorous anecdote to retell for perpetuity, the Mariner Moose narrowly avoided a harrowing collision with Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp. In the fifth inning, Crisp (who had doubled twice in the game) was innocently headed out to center field. The Moose, meanwhile, was driving an all-terrain vehicle as the PA blared the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around.” As he approached the Red Sox dugout, he nearly flattened Crisp. When The Boston Globe asked Crisp afterward if he might go out to dinner with the Moose the next time the Red Sox came to Seattle, he replied, “Yeah, and we’ll eat moose jerky.”
10 Ken Griffey Jr.’s return, Part II, April 14, 2009
A new era in Mariners baseball kicked off in Seattle, featuring new manager Don Wakamatsu and several new players assembled by new GM Jack Zduriencik. But the sellout crowd of 45,958 was there mainly to see Griffey, now 39, back in a Mariners uniform after 10 years away. Greeted with one standing ovation after another, Griffey fittingly singled in his first at-bat off the Angels’ Shane Loux. He also gave a hint that his season wasn’t going to be all heroics by striking out in the eighth inning of a 2-2 tie. Seattle pulled out a 3-2 win when the Angels botched a bunt.