Mariners, Cubs turn back the clock in retro uniforms
Clubs pay tribute to baseball's early years throughout ballpark
SEATTLE -- The Mariners were so committed to Turn Back the Clock Day they gave up their designated hitter in the 9th inning, losing the position by subbing in Charlie Furbush by necessity when center fielder Dustin Ackley sprained his thumb diving for a ball. The game ended when Joe Saunders, a member of Seattle's starting rotation, flew out to center field as the Mariners fell, 5-3.
Seattle hosted Turn Back the Clock Day on Sunday afternoon, taking the field wearing the uniforms of the 1909 Seattle Turks, while the Cubs wore their uniforms from the same year. The Turks only played for one season before changing their name to the Giants in 1910. In 1908 they were the Seattle Siwashes.
"I think the throwback is pretty cool, the jerseys are a little simple, but you'd expect them to be," Lamont Franklin, a fan from Seattle, said. "Baseball's been around for a long time, and I think it's cool that they're appreciating that. It's part of America's heritage."
Of course, the illusion wasn't perfect. The player's union would doubtlessly take issue with any attempts to make Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija resemble his 1909 counterpart, Hall of Famer Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown.
Before the game, Samardzija turned back the clock on himself, watching video of a Notre Dame vs. Washington game from 2005 when he caught eight passes for 164 yards and a touchdown.
"The last time I was in Seattle was that game, and I figured I'd watch it and get a little good juju from it and see what happens," Samardzija said. "It's kind of funny to watch. It's kind of funny to see that as I get older. I thought I was still pretty young, but that's changing in a hurry."
Mathematically, it's going to be hard for either Seattle (35-45) or Chicago (33-45) to match their respective 109-58 and 104-49 records from that year.
There were three other Hall of Famers on that Cubs team: The storied double-play trio of shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers, and first baseman Frank Chance.
With three pitchers winning 20+ games and Pug Bennett's league-leading .314 batting average, the Turks dominated the Class B Northwestern League, and Interleague rivals such as the Spokane Indians, the Grays Harbor Grays, and the Tacoma Tigers.
But with a vintage filter on the video screen, an announcer in period garb behind the plate with a bullhorn, and with Jerry Frank on the organ, it was almost possible to ignore the skyscraper backdrop and imagine it was 1909 again.
Even the Mariners' Twitter name was changed to the Seattle Turks for the day.
"I think it just makes it more fun because it's something out of the ordinary, something to break up the every day grind," Seattle shortstop Brendan Ryan said. "It just makes it fun, something different.
The Turks jerseys worn by the Mariners were bright white, with "SEATTLE" in navy blue across the front. The caps were white, with a navy block "S". The Cubs had pinstriped hats and shirts that featured "Chicago" down the front button placket and "Cubs" on the left breast. The first 20,000 fans received a Turn Back the Clock poster, courtesy of Seattle Magazine.
"I don't mind it. It's fun. I look like a dork sometimes in those uniforms, because they usually don't fit or whatever," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "But who cares? It's one day."
The organizations spared no expense to make the experience as authentic as possible for spectators. Deceased president William Howard Taft threw out the game's first pitch after a barbershop quartet serenaded the crowd.
Even the way the players ran on and off the field seemed to have an old-timey feel to it, thanks to the antiquated music that accompanied their every move.
Still, the players didn't have to forego their modern amenities just because it was Turn Back the Clock Night.
"We used to have to wear those real wool [uniforms]," Sveum said. "I remember playing in St. Louis wearing those on the old turf and oh my, it was like 130 degrees and I was completely soaking wet."
Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com.