Hop in a time machine and relive the bonkers baseball future of 'Turn Ahead the Clock' night
When you hear the phrase "Turn Ahead the Clock," your mind probably drifts to the summer of 1999, when 20 Major League teams took turns imagining what baseball in the year 2021 might look like. The promotions were wacky. The logos were enormous. The uniforms seared themselves into our brains forever.
But one of the most outlandish ideas in baseball history was actually born a year earlier. It began with an idle conversation within the Mariners marketing department: What would it look like to flip the traditional throwback night on its head, and turn the Kingdome into the future? On July 18, 1998, their answer was realized -- and the future was weirder than anyone could've imagined.
Fans were transported all the way to 2027, the 50th anniversary of Mariners baseball. And, thanks in large part to the efforts of then-marketing director (and current vice president of marketing) Kevin Martinez, Seattle left no stone unturned in building its brave new baseball universe.
The team swapped out its usual outfield signage for ads with a more futuristic feel. They borrowed Orbit from the Astros to serve as co-mascot with Mariner Moose. And for the ceremonial first pitch, an actual robot delivered the ball to James Doohan -- better known as Scotty from "Star Trek", who came to the mound in a DeLorean:
The Mariners even added three teams to their standings banners hanging off the upper deck: the Mercury Fire, the Saturn Rings and, our personal favorite, the Pluto Mighty Pups:
And then, of course, there were the uniforms. Oh, the uniforms:
Even Martinez himself admitted they were gaudy, but as he explained to ESPN, that was sort of the point:
"We had someone in-house who worked with Majestic to create the uniforms. Frankly, we didn't spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. The only direction we gave them was basically, 'Here are the colors we want the Mariners uniforms to be, and the Royals should keep their current colors. We want these to be vests, we want them to be shiny, we want them to look tech-y -- and now you get to tell us what we mean by that.'"
The team also brought in a special fashion consultant: Ken Griffey Jr. himself. The Kid was immediately taken with the whole Turn Ahead the Clock idea, and in addition to spray-painting everything in sight at the ballpark, he put his personal touch on the uniforms. Griffey insisted on a brick-red color, and on the day of the game, he encouraged his teammates to untuck their jerseys, cut off the sleeves and wear their hats backwards.
The untucked shirts idea was quickly nixed after Royals manager Tony Muser argued that they made getting hit by a pitch more likely. But overall, the results speak for themselves:
At the end of the day, though, it didn't really matter what the Mariners wore -- Griffey was still Griffey, after all:
And Edgar Martinez was still Edgar Martinez:
In all, the night was a rousing success: More than 42,000 fans showed up for a glimpse into the future, and they got an 8-5 Mariners win to go with it. It was so successful, in fact, that MLB took notice -- the league set up a meeting with Seattle's marketing staff after the '98 season to talk about the idea, how the team came up with it and what made it work.
"They came in and wanted to understand what we did, sort of like a fact-finding mission," Martinez said. "At the end of the meeting, they said, 'We like what you've done here, and we may pitch it to a potential sponsor.' And we said, 'Great, go for it.'"
The rest, as they say, is history.