The legacy of the 1995 Mariners? Simple, yet powerful — and still felt to this day, every time the roof of Safeco Field is thrown...

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The legacy of the 1995 Mariners? Simple, yet powerful — and still felt to this day, every time the roof of Safeco Field is thrown open and fans fill the gleaming ballpark.

“Clearly, without that season, there would be no baseball in Seattle,” said Chuck Armstrong, the Mariners’ president then and now. “Even now, some mornings, I get to the park early, stand at home plate and think, ‘Wow. Whoever thought this would happen?’ It was a miracle.”

It was a miracle generated by the Mariners’ ferocious comeback from a 13-game deficit on Aug. 2 to win the American League West title in a one-game playoff with the Angels.

Though the stadium initiative on Sept. 19 went down to defeat, the Mariners captivated the region, enough so that Gov. Mike Lowry convened a special session of the legislature to address the Mariners’ stadium.

Facing an ultimatum by Mariners ownership that it would put the team up for sale on Oct. 30 if no funding plan was reached — which almost certainly would have led to the M’s leaving Seattle — a funding package was approved on Oct. 23.

“That was the legislature in its finest hour,” said Armstrong, although that’s a claim many who voted against the ballpark would debate. “If that hadn’t happened, I think the team would have been put up for sale, and who knows where it would have gone or who would have bought it.

“I lived through those Argyros years (George Argyros, the team’s frugal former owner). I might have been willing to say that Seattle isn’t a baseball town. Now we’ve almost become a cult team, in the finest sense of the word.”

Interest in the Mariners throughout the Northwest, negligible to that point, has never waned. They have drawn at least 2.6 million fans every season since, and never less than 2.9 million in a full season at Safeco, which opened July 15, 1999.

Armstrong is proud of the fact that Safeco has been recognized by some sources as the No. 1 tourist attraction in the Pacific Northwest, as he had predicted to the politicians.

The Mariners peaked as the No. 2 revenue-generating team in baseball (behind the Yankees) after the 116-win season of 2001, but now are believed to rank between fifth and eighth.

They also became a force on the field, making the playoffs in 1997, 2000 and 2001.

“I know this: After ’95, the Seattle Mariners were never going to sneak up on anybody again,” said Bill Bavasi, who was general manager of the Angels in 1995 and assumed that position with Seattle last year.

Financial salvation was not immediate for the ballclub, however. Armstrong said the Mariners lost $20 million in ’95, and the total would have been much higher if they hadn’t rallied to make the playoffs.

Early in the season, however, ownership had made what proved to be a prudent decision — to keep the team intact, despite the temptation to trade stars like Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez for payroll relief. They also acquired a key rent-a-player at the trade deadline in pitcher Andy Benes.

After the season, however, the M’s made no effort to re-sign Benes, traded Mike Blowers to the Dodgers and dealt Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson to the Yankees, all budget-related moves.

In subsequent years, they were unable to hold onto their trio of superstars, trading Johnson in the 1998 season and Ken Griffey Jr. after the 1999 season. Alex Rodriguez signed as a free agent with Texas after the 2000 season. Manager Lou Piniella left for Tampa Bay after the 2002 season.

With Edgar’s retirement, catcher Dan Wilson is the only player who has been with the team continuously since 1995. (Nelson is back this year for the third time.) The Yankees, curiously, have three former ’95 M’s — Johnson, Rodriguez and Tino Martinez, as well as third-base coach Luis Sojo.

The Yankees used their bitter loss in the ’95 playoffs as impetus for four World Series titles in the next five years. Team captain Don Mattingly, for whom the ’95 Division Series was his first and only postseason appearance, retired after the season, replaced by Tino. Manager Buck Showalter resigned under pressure and was replaced by Joe Torre. Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter, bit players in ’95, emerged to play key roles in their subsequent title runs.

The Angels felt the psychological sting of their ’95 collapse for years, but broke through in 2002 with a World Series title, as yet unattained by the Mariners. Holdovers Garret Anderson, Tim Salmon and Troy Percival from ’95 were still around in Anaheim for redemption in ’02, but, alas, the beloved Cowboy, owner Gene Autry, had died four years earlier.

As for the Mariners, Griffey had a unique interpretation when he looked back at the magical season of ’95.

“People saved baseball,” he said. “It didn’t have anything to do with us. They were the ones who OK’d the new ballpark, and the tax. What we did helped, but it was probably 10 percent. The people who got it passed were the people who saved baseball. We just happened to be there.”