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An oral history of Edgar's hit that saved Seattle

25 seasons ago, Hall of Famer's clutch double preserved baseball in Emerald City
@gregjohnsmlb
July 19, 2019

SEATTLE – As Edgar Martinez prepares to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y., the defining moment of his 18-year career with the Mariners will be replayed time and again. “The Double,” as it’s simply known to Mariners fans, did more than put Martinez on

SEATTLE – As Edgar Martinez prepares to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y., the defining moment of his 18-year career with the Mariners will be replayed time and again.

“The Double,” as it’s simply known to Mariners fans, did more than put Martinez on the national map. Many believe Martinez’s clutch hit saved baseball in Seattle, as the club was dealing with political and stadium issues and pondering a sale that likely would have led to a move to Florida.

Martinez hit 514 doubles for the Mariners, but his two-bagger to beat the Yankees in the 11th inning of Game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series has endured as one of the most storybook moments in playoff history.

Here's an inside look at the biggest highlight in both the Mariners’ and Martinez’s history, as told by the people directly involved.

THE COMEBACK THAT NEVER ENDED

In the first 18 years of their existence, the Mariners never made the postseason. And when Ken Griffey Jr. broke his wrist in May that season, it seemed unlikely that trend would change. After trailing the Angels by 13 games in early August and still 11 1/2 back on Aug. 25, the magic began.

Joey Cora: “In a weird way, it helped us when Junior got hurt, because we kept going and fighting and believing in ourselves. Different people stepped up and played well. So, when Junior came back, we were ready to take off. Seattle had never made the playoffs. But once we got closer to the Angels, they were coming down and we were going up. It was that simple.”

After winning 25 of their final 35 games, the Mariners won a one-game tiebreaker with the Halos to claim their first American League West crown. Then, after losing the first two games of the AL Division Series in New York, they came back to the Kingdome and overcame a 5-0 deficit in Game 4 to even the series at 2-2.

Trailing again, 4-2, in the eighth inning of the deciding Game 5, manager Lou Piniella summoned Randy Johnson out of the bullpen on just two days of rest. The Big Unit was brilliant again until allowing a run in his third inning of relief to put the Mariners down, 5-4, heading into the bottom of the 11th.

And then …

THE BUNT

The Mariners expected Yankees manager Buck Showalter to bring in closer John Wetteland, who was warmed and ready. But Showalter decided to stick with his ace Jack McDowell, who had also entered in the ninth inning on just two days of rest.

Every great rally starts somewhere and this one began with a drag bunt up the first base line by the diminutive Cora, who somehow dodged a diving tag by Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly.

Martinez: “Joey, the type of player he was, he tried to do anything he could for the team. That bunt really put a lot of pressure on them because after that, Junior came to the plate and the middle of the lineup. That bunt was huge for us.”

Cora: “Nobody suggested I bunt. The only suggestion was basically, ‘You need to get on base.’ I didn’t even think about the bunt until I got to 2-1. I was taking a strike, he threw ball 1, ball 2. Then a strike. After that, Mattingly moved back. He was playing bunt the first three pitches. He went back and I said, ‘Whoa, he’s giving me a shot here.’”

Mattingly: “In today's game, I think they would have called him out of the line. Any time you swerve like that, they're going to give it to him.”

Cora: “It was a great bunt. I’m not trying to blow my own horn, but nobody was going to get me [out] on that bunt.”

HERE COME THE HALL OF FAMERS

That set the stage for Griffey and Martinez, two of the greatest hitters of their generation. And Griffey followed with a single up the middle.

Griffey: “If you go through that whole thing, Joey goes first to third. That’s a big play there in itself. Now all Edgar has to do is hit a ground ball, we tie the game up.”

Cora: “I think we were pretty sure I was going to score with Edgar up. We wanted Edgar to get it done. I knew Alex Rodriguez was behind Edgar, but he was a rookie and wasn’t playing much at that time. We were hoping Edgar would come through to tie the game. After that, anything could happen. Edgar was having an unbelievable series. He wasn’t missing much. And we were still surprised, to be honest, that they left Jack McDowell in.”

Dan Wilson, catcher: “I was perched in my normal spot on the bench. I think – as was apropos for that stretch – we knew we were going to win that game. It was just a question of whether it was going to be Edgar or somebody else further down the order.”

THE DOUBLE

Martinez took a first-pitch fastball from McDowell. With 57,411 Kingdome fans going crazy, the even-keeled DH ripped the next pitch down the left-field line. The rest, as they say, is history.

Edgar: “The previous at-bat, I struck out against McDowell. It was a very similar situation. We were down and had a chance to at least tie the game. I struck out and came to the dugout and Norm [Charlton] came to me and said, ‘Stay ready. You’re going to come up again and you’re going to win the game for us.’ So, I thought about that and started getting ready. The same situation came up and I had struck out on a split-fingered fastball. I took the first ball for a strike and after that I felt, OK, I’m going to get a good dose of splits. That’s what came to my mind. I started looking for the split and it happens that it was almost in the same location and I was able to connect.”

Rick Rizzs, Mariners radio announcer: “When Edgar hit that ball, I saw Junior running around second and I knew he had a great chance to score. I took off my headphones because I was tethered down and I just started jumping up and down, as high as I could go. I’m running with Junior, running with Junior, he’s rounding third, [third base coach] Sammy Perlozzo is waving him in and I’m jumping up and down like a madman.”

Perlozzo: “I wasn’t thinking necessarily a ball down the line or gapper, I’m thinking how to get Joey in and tie it up. When Edgar hits it, it’s down the line, but not on the line. I see the left fielder squeezing toward the middle just a little. As soon as I saw that I thought, ‘Oh God, there’s going to be a decision made on this one. We’ve got something going.’ I locked in on Junior and his eyes were big as life. I’ve never seen the man run as fast as he did.”

Griffey: “You want to make it tough on the third base coach and everybody else. If I half-ass it to second, who knows what happens? The easiest thing to do is run and make him stop you. If he stops you, he stops you. If he doesn’t, you just keep going. But the decision was made from the jump. If he hits it, I’m scoring.”

Perlozzo: “They’d put Gerald Williams in left field for defense in the late innings and he could throw. And the ball wasn’t in the corner, it was 12-14 feet off the line. But Gerald had a little way to go to get it and there’s times [when] even the best relay won’t get you. Edgar hit that ball just perfectly and Junior was running as fast as he could. I don’t think it could have happened to two better guys in baseball than the guy who hit the ball and the guy who scored.”

Edgar: “At first, I didn’t think he had a chance to score. I knew I hit it pretty good, but when I went around first base and looked, I saw he must have had a really good jump. Only Junior could anticipate and run like that.”

Griffey: [If Perlozzo had thrown up the stop sign], I’d have probably run through it.”

THE AFTERMATH

Edgar: “I looked down to home plate and saw the pile. And I saw Joey running toward me at second base. After that, it was just celebration.”

Wilson: “It was like, do you go to home plate and mob Junior? Do you go to second base and mob Edgar? It was kind of evenly split. I peeled off and went to second base because it was already too chaotic at home. Just incredible. That’s one of the memories that is etched in a lot of people’s minds and will be for a long time. That’s become such a moniker: ‘The Double.’ To see Junior, the one at the bottom of the pile and Edgar, the one who got the big hit. And to have Randy be the pitcher at that part of the ballgame. What more could you have asked for?”

Griffey: “It was such a good feeling. It was like David and Goliath. It was the little team from the Pacific Northwest getting to play the big, bad Yankees and taking ‘em down.”

Rizzs: “When Joey got the bunt down and Junior got the hit, the crescendo kept getting higher and higher and higher. So, when Edgar got the double, I thought for sure the sound was going to blow the roof off the Kingdome. It was a concrete dome and I thought that thing was just going to go ‘Poof.’ The excitement and noise, you could have cut it with a knife. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing.”

Chuck Armstrong, former team president: “At that moment [general manager Woody Woodward] and our wives were in a box down the third-base line, the four of us. When Edgar hit the double, the whole thing was so surreal. I think both Woody and I started to cry. We’d never seen Junior run that fast or turn the corner that sharp. It was so hard to conceive of all we’d gone through, the disappointments and heart break. That whole season just kind of flooded over us, coming after the strike and the replacement players and everything. I still get goosebumps. We were behind in every one of those games. It was just so emotional. We’d won.”

WHERE WOULD THEY BE WITHOUT IT?

Though an emotionally spent Mariners team wound up losing to the Indians in the ensuing ALCS, the Washington State Legislature convened in special session and passed a funding agreement to finance a new outdoor stadium after a King County election had come up less than a thousand votes short of a similar bid in the closing weeks of the regular season.

The momentum from the Mariners tremendous stretch run and first playoff series win in franchise history, capped by Martinez’s walk-off winner, clearly changed the political dynamics in the region. Instead of being forced to sell to out-of-town owners, the Mariners remained in Seattle and now have one of the most beautiful stadiums in baseball.

Wilson: “I think it did save baseball in Seattle. It would have been a shame to have lost the kind of enthusiasm and momentum that we had as a city and, again, it was those big three guys stepping up that kind of brought us to that precipice of a decision and overturned a decision, really. I can’t imagine had it not gone through because there was just such baseball fever at the time.”

Edgar: “That play meant so much for the game of baseball in Seattle. Who knows? Maybe we’d be playing now in another city.”

Cora: “Edgar hit that ball in the right place at the right time in the right game and he saved baseball in Seattle. If we lose that game, there’d be no baseball in Seattle. No way, no how.”

Armstrong: “Bud Selig told me a few years later he thought Cal Ripken and the Mariners were the two main things to bring baseball back [after the strike that canceled the 1994 World Series]. Bud said baseball is about hope and faith. In ’95, people didn’t have a lot when we started out, but they came to have hope and faith. Who knows what would have happened if we hadn’t defeated the Yankees? It was a storybook run.”

Rizzs: “At the time, it was one of the most incredible comebacks in the history of the game of baseball. But I don’t think it was until later we realized the impact that hit, that game, that season and that team had on the city of Seattle and Major League Baseball. It saved Major League Baseball in Seattle, no doubt. Thank you, Edgar Martinez.”

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.