From the wreckage of the early 1980s, a star-studded cast emerged that would set the tone for the Mariners' golden age.
April 8, 1986
Entering the second half of the 80s, Jim Presley's days in Seattle were numbered. The third baseman would soon give up his post to Edgar Martinez and finish his career with consecutive stints for the Braves and Padres.
In 1986, however, Presley was still making history for the M's. On Opening Day, the Angels led the Mariners by two runs in the 9th, in front of a sold-out crowd of 42,121 in the Kingdome.
Presley stepped up to bat against right-handed reliever Donnie Moore. On second base, pinch-runner Barry Bonnell waited for the right pitch. Presley launched a game-tying home run, but the bottom of the order found three more outs and sent the game to extras.
In the bottom of the 10th, the M's found themselves still knotted 4-4 with two outs and the bases loaded. Presley faced closer Ken Forsch, a right-hander in his last major league season. Then, for the third time in his career to date, the 24-year-old third baseman smashed his second home run of the game -- a walk-off grand slam.
It was a sign of good things to come for Presley. Later that season, he produced the first three-homer game of his career, represented the Mariners in the All-Star game, and earned a bid for American League MVP.
September 12, 1987
It seems crazy to say it now, but Seattle took a while to warm up to Edgar Martinez.
The 24-year-old emerged from five seasons in the minor leagues after signing a contract with the M's in 1982. In 1987, he completed his second go-around with the Triple-A Calgary Cannons, producing an all-time best slash line of .329/.434/.473 with 10 home runs, 31 doubles, and a call-up to the major leagues.
Martinez got his first taste of MLB on September 12, 1987, a bright spot in the M's waning season. Seattle took the visiting Chicago White Sox to task, hammering 12 runs on 18 hits. In the 6th, backed by a 10-run lead, Jim Presley drew a walk. Edgar subbed in as a pinch-runner, but his efforts were in vain -- Dave Valle ground into a double play in the next at-bat to end the inning. Two innings later, Edgar would get his first plate appearance in the majors, only to meet equally fruitless results.
In the next series, Gar gave Seattle something to remember. During his first at-bat of the game, the rookie ripped a triple to center field. He finished the year batting .372/.413/.581 in his first 13 games, but wouldn't see a full season of play until 1990.
July 25, 1988
We're familiar with the trades that have taken talent out of Seattle, or, even worse, turned seemingly mediocre players into superstars. This wasn't one of them.
On July 21, 1988, designated hitter Ken Phelps was traded to the New York Yankees for Jay Buhner, Rich Balabon, and Troy Evers. Buhner, 23, was a poor-hitting centerfielder who had batted under .200 and contributed 0.0 bWAR to the '88 Yankees in 25 games.
Four days after the trade, Buhner made his first positive impression on the Seattle fanbase. In the middle of a lengthy losing streak, the M's faced Chicago southpaw Jerry Reuss, who was crafting his best winning record in three seasons. Buhner squeezed a single up the middle in his first at-bat, but the M's failed to capitalize on the opportunity. A three-run rally in the 9th came too late, and the team fell 6-5 to the Sox.
Like Edgar, Buhner didn't get a shot at a full-time position for a few years. Eventually, he stopped the revolving door of right fielders, replacing Greg Briley and Darnell Coles in 1991.
April 10, 1989
In August 1990, the Inquirer ran a piece by M.G. Missanelli with the following quote from Ken Griffey, Jr.: "I'll be here [Bellingham, Wash.] one week, then move to San Bernandino, then double A the week after that. I've got to be in the show when I'm 18."
A year behind his personal schedule, Griffey made his major league entrance at the ripe old age of 19. He broke camp with the team after two monster minor league seasons, totaling 27 home runs, 83 walks, and 49 stolen bases (in 66 chances) over 129 games. He never touched Triple-A.
His first at-bat came in a 3-2 loss to the Athletics, a double ripped off of RHP Dave Stewart. When the Mariners returned home a week later, the Kid showcased his power again, taking Chicago righty Eric King deep to left field in his first at-bat.
The next night, Griffey hit his second home run, again displaying a penchant for first at-bat heroics. At the conclusion of his rookie season, however, accolades were all the teenager lacked. He placed third in Rookie of the Year voting, losing the bid to Baltimore reliever Gregg Olson and his "Uncle Charlie" curveball.
June 2, 1990
In the 6th inning, the bases were loaded for Chet Lemon.
It was the first legitimate threat the Tigers had posed all evening, the latest in a long string of scoreless innings. On the mound, Randy Johnson snarled at the 35-year-old right fielder.
Lemon had made two outs already that day. In his previous at-bat, he grounded out to M's third baseman Edgar Martinez to end the inning. Now, faced with two outs and the opportunity to spoil history, he drew a 2-2 count… and swung hard on the final pitch, keeping Johnson's no-hitter intact.
Before this day, the Mariners had brushed noses with a no-no three times. Mark Langston, Mike Trujillo, and Jim Beattie all had their chances, each allowing a single hit and no more than eight baserunners. The 'Big Unit' would do it with seven, walking six Tigers and allowing an additional runner on a throwing error by shortstop Mike Brumley.
In the end, the game was perfect. Johnson sent Cecil Fielder down swinging on three strikes. Lemon popped out to first baseman Alvin Davis in foul territory. Mike Heath chased three consecutive pitches on the eighth and final strikeout of the game, swinging his way out of the inning and giving Randy -- and the Mariners -- his first career no-hitter.