The 1995 Seattle Mariners had some great individual talent in Ken Griffey Jr. in centerfielder and Randy Johnson, who would go 18-2 and win the Cy Young Award on the mound. But it didn’t look nearly enough when the Mariners trailed the then-named Anaheim Angels by 12 ½ games in the AL West on August 15. Nor was Seattle in the picture for the wild-card spot, then its rookie year.
Then the Mariners started to play well, going 21-13 up until September 20. Even more important, the Angels completely collapsed, going 8-25 in that same stretch and Seattle pulled even, eventually led the race by as many as three games and would end up in a one-game playoff.
The Mariners sent Johnson to the mound against the Angels’ good lefty in Mark Langston. Seattle led 1-0 after six, and then Luis Sojo broke the game open with a bases-loaded double and Anaheim melted down one more time, as Seattle took the AL West with a 9-1 win.
Up next was the New York Yankees, who’d taken the wild-card spot—even though Seattle had the worst record of the three division winners, MLB was using an idiotic formula that predetermined which division champ would face the wild-card. Hence, the Mariners and Yanks played, while the best two teams, the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox also matched up.
It might have been a lousy way to pair up teams, but it created an epic Division Series. New York won the first two games in the Bronx before Seattle countered and did the same out west. The decisive fifth game would be played in the old Kingdome and while the monstrosity of a park didn’t see too many memorable moments, Game 5 was certainly its biggest.
Seattle first rallied from a 4-2 deficit to tie the game in the eighth inning, after David Cone was left in to throw 147 pitches. A then-young manager named Buck Showalter didn’t have confidence in closer John Wetteland and at the time we really didn’t know much about this kid in the setup role named Mariano Rivera. The Yankees took a 5-4 lead in the 11th, but the Mariners rallied one more time.
With two on and no outs, Edgar Martinez doubled. The speedy 25-year-old Griffey was on first and he took off on a mad dash for home with the winning run. It was a fitting conclusion to the team’s run, first to the AL West and then to their first postseason series victory. The dream ended with a six-game loss to Cleveland in the ALCS, but the magic of the 1995 Seattle Mariners captured imaginations across the country.