The Mariners of the 1980s began the long trek from irrelevance to the glory days of the 90s. Boosted by performances from Gaylord Perry, Alvin Davis, Floyd Bannister, and Bruce Bochte, the M's dipped into 100+ loss seasons just twice from 1980-1985.
September 22, 1980
The batter: Willie Wilson, center fielder for the Royals, who had one strikeout on his card already that evening. The pitcher: Mariners' southpaw Floyd Bannister, who had stockpiled eight strikeouts so far and was one shy of 150 on the year.
Floyd finished the game with 11 strikeouts, stopping one short of his career-high 12. Not only did Wilson go down swinging, but he was caught looking in his next at-bat, and finished the game off with the 10th golden sombrero of his career.
It was the performance of the year for Bannister. He notched 155 strikeouts by season's end, a record high for the Mariners' franchise. Not only was it the most strikeouts by a single pitcher in a single season, but it was the first time a Seattle pitcher had logged over 150 strikeouts.
To sweeten the moment, the M's won on a walk-off RBI single by designated hitter Willie Horton.
May 27, 1981
Sometimes, the best highlights have nothing to do with the win-loss column. The Mariners were once again paired up with the Royals, and faced a deficit of three runs in the 6th inning.
With two outs and a runner on first, Seattle's Larry Andersen faced center fielder Amos Otis. Otis had done plenty of damage in earlier innings, scoring on a walk and driving in the Royals' 7th run with a sac fly.
It was understandable, then, that when Otis slapped a single down the third base line, the fielders scattered to determine if it was a foul ball -- save for third baseman Lenny Randle. Randle ran towards the ball, flopped onto his belly, and started scooting alongside it, blowing it over the foul line until home plate umpire Larry McCoy called it foul.
In a predictable turn of events, this was challenged by Royals manager Jim Frey, and McCoy overturned his own ruling to credit Otis with a single and put a ban on "illegally altering the course of the ball."
May 6, 1982
On Opening Day, 1982, the Mariners succumbed to the newest fad in MLB: bullpen cars. Unlike the dressed-up golf carts of the Pirates, Orioles, and Mets, Seattle fashioned a tugboat bearing the name "Seattle M.S. Relief" to carry pitchers from the 'pen to the mound.
While this may have been the greatest invention in franchise history, it was fated to last just a few weeks into the season. Closer Bill Caudill made off with the key on Opening Day, leaving the tugboat stranded along the foul line to delay the start of the game.
The car hardly grew in popularity from that moment. According to ESPN's Paul Lukas, reliever Ed Vande Berg was so loathe to ride on the back of the ship that he raced the tugboat to the mound.
Fortunately (or, for fans, unfortunately), the tugboat wasn't needed on May 6. Newly-signed Gaylord Perry donned his M's uniform with 297 career wins under his belt, and needed just six starts to record his 300th win.
The first pitcher to reach 300 wins in nearly 20 years, Perry found his footing against the New York Yankees, who split the series 2-2 during their trip to Seattle. He pitched the 297th complete game of his career, allowing three earned runs, a walk, and striking out four Yankees in a 7-3 win.
Seven weeks after his record-setting performance, the 'Ancient Mariner' was designated for assignment.
September 27, 1983
The Mariners continued their pattern of standout pitching with Jim Beattie's one-hitter against -- you guessed it -- the Royals.
Fueled by a four-run lead, Beattie flirted with a perfect game until the 3rd inning. He allowed a single baserunner, Royals' shortstop U.L. Washington (whose legal given name is, in fact, 'U.L.'), and topped off the outing with seven strikeouts.
For the Mariners' part, right fielder Dave Henderson fell a double short of hitting for the cycle, scoring on both a home run and a single. Second baseman Harold Reynolds and pinch-hitter Pat Putnam contributed a sacrifice fly and RBI single to secure the shutout.
The M's wouldn't see another such performance for three years, when RHP Mike Trujillo took the 1986 Royals to task again with a 3-0 shutout.
June 7, 1984
Off the mound, the Mariners found their first Rookie of the Year. 23-year-old Alvin Davis took over at first base, appearing in 152 games to start his major league career.
Batting .284/.391/.497 with 27 home runs and 116 RBI, Davis contributed a career-high 5.9 bWAR and earned bids for the All-Star game, American League MVP, and Rookie of the Year.
Even more impressive, perhaps, was the rookie's on-base streak. On June 7, Davis reached base for the 47th consecutive game. Despite his first-inning home run, however, the Mariners squandered their lead and lost 8-9 to the Royals.
Davis was almost unanimously voted AL ROY, getting 96% of the votes needed for the award. In second place? Seattle left-hander Mark Langston.
April 14, 1985
Under the captaincy of former M's third base coach Chuck Cottier, the Mariners settled under 90 losses for the second consecutive season. To kick off the year, they accomplished something never done before -- or since -- in Seattle's history: They won six games in a row.
On April 14, the Mariners cemented their two-series sweep, finishing off the Twins 5-1. RHP Mike Moore found his second win of the season, striking out five and issuing seven hits, two walks, and a run. Against Minnesota starter Frank Viola, the Mariners fashioned a five-run inning from a pair of singles and Phil Bradley's 3-RBI triple.
The streak was punctuated by three one-run wins and one 14-6 blowout against the A's. Thanks to the hot start, the Mariners remained in first place for 12 whole games before slipping behind the California Angels for the rest of the year.
Since that day in April, the Mariners haven't come close to establishing a winning streak to open the season. The last time they gave it a good try was in 1995 with three consecutive wins against the Tigers.
Do you remember the bullpen tugboat? What stood out to you from the Mariners' escapades of the 1980s?
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