Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Mistress Speaks

Dear Marlins Fans,

It brings no pleasure to correspond under these circumstances, but in light of what the owner of your franchise wrote to you this weekend, it seems like there is little choice. Our hearts go out to all of you and your families. Best wishes to all the players and coaching staff in the coming season as well. We hope that by sharing some of our side of the story, perhaps the healing process can begin.

It is not a secret that your owner and the powers that be in MLB have had an inappropriate relationship with our fair city for a long time. Baseball fans in this area have been treated like a cheap booty call and an easy mark. The suits have engaged in an unsavory habit of making empty statements about our chances to land a ballclub with a total disregard for our feelings. It has gone on for decades. 

Whenever there was difficulty in a marriage with another metropolis, the usual suspects would show up at all hours with a bouquet of gas station roses and cheap red wine. In the past, we've let Jeffrey Loria and others play us like a fiddle and prey on the insecurities of our politicians. The insincere compliments and half-hearted flirting made this bedrock Pacific Coast League town with a rich baseball history feel something akin to attractive and important. We were taken for fools.

Well, that is simply not acceptable anymore. Now that things are going poorly in Miami, we would like your owner to rethink any future overtures to our town. In fact, we would very much like it if everyone involved with the Marlins franchise simply stayed away. It will be awkward if we have to get a restraining order.

It is true that Jeffrey Loria could not possibly be the most despicable person ever involved with baseball in Portland. We are pretty sure that title will always belong to the man who once said that "women are a lot like dogs" and did unspeakable things to young ladies on videotape while ranting on and on about Adolf Hitler. 

It would also be hard to accuse Jeffrey Loria of being the most underhanded person involved in athletics in our state. Some might argue that one of our universities is essentially run by a shoe mogul. Recently, lawmakers in Salem used the fog surrounding a horrific shooting at a local mall to ramrod a "sweetheart deal" for the shoe mogul that shifted a growing portion of his future tax burden to the citizens of Oregon for the next 30 years.

While schools closed, park programs were cut and a growing number of kids faced poverty, this community paid over $70 million to rebuild the same sports facility twice in a decade. In the not so distant past, we supported and helped launch the careers of an ice skating thug and a race baiting sportscaster. No, Loria wouldn't be the worst excuse for a human being in sports around this neck of the woods. The all-time rosters have set unbreakable marks. The competition is far too fierce.

With all that said, we think Mr. Loria and Mr. Samson should explain a few things to you wonderful fans in Miami. Before you put them on the hot seat, maybe we ought to refresh their memories with a handful of highlights from the past few years of our lengthy affair:

February 24, 2006: The Florida Marlins announced new contracts for ten players including Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla. All were signed for the major league minimum of $327,000. Maria Cantwell received $1,000 from Marlins President David Samson for her reelection campaign. A lifelong baseball fan, Senator Cantwell of Washington has a very good relationship with the Seattle Mariners. With Safeco Field less than 175 miles from downtown Portland, territorial issues would have been an important part of any potential deal. Senator Cantwell could have been a valuable teammate in negotiating a move of the Marlins to Portland.

August 7, 2007: Mauro Zárate made his major league debut and became the fourth player in Florida Marlins history with a "Z" last name. Marlins President David Samson sent $2,000 to Oregon's former junior senator, Gordon Smith for his reelection campaign. The frozen food magnate is a professed baseball fan who advocated publicly for moving a franchise to the area. He could have teamed up with his colleague from Washington to help bring the Marlins to Portland during his time in Congress. It never came to fruition.

July 18, 2009: The Philadelphia Phillies led the Florida Marlins 2-0, but the game was rained out in the second inning. Ground was broken on a brand new $515 million stadium for the Miami Marlins. "Thousands of fans were booing" during the ceremony. Some of the funding for the facility was secured when 1,700 county employees were laid-off in the week prior to the groundbreaking.

February 13, 2010: The Florida Marlins hosted the 15th Annual Fan Fest. It looks like Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria celebrated his big day with the Miami faithful by filing a $50,000 campaign contribution in Salem, Oregon. Loria soon doubled down this bet on former NBA backup and then candidate for Oregon governor, Chris Dudley.

August 23, 2010: Popular Florida outfielder Cody Ross was claimed off waivers by the San Francisco Giants. Documents showing that the Florida Marlins lied about their financial status surfaced on Deadspin. By not seeing these figures before approving a stadium, Miami-Dade County was apparently swindled out of over a billion dollars.

October 4, 2010: It was one day after the Florida Marlins schedule closed on a win. Dan Uggla had finished 3 for 3 with a home run. With the past season of baseball fresh in his mind, it seems a cruel coincidence that the last half of Jeffrey Loria's $100,000 contribution to the Chris Dudley campaign was filed with the Secretary of State's office in Salem. Even though it had been over a year since the ground was broken on a new facility, it seemed like the Marlins were still trying to buy their way into Oregon politics.

October 15, 2010: Lines formed as Miami residents signed a petition to recall Mayor Carlos Alvarez for raising taxes largely to pay for a stadium the region could not afford. Ballots were mailed out to Oregon residents for the upcoming election. As the race for governor entered the home stretch, backup center Chris Dudley was in a hotly contested battle with Dr. John Kitzhaber. Contributions to the Dudley campaign cost double what the Florida Marlins saved by dismissing John Routh, the original Billy the Marlin.

Why does your unfaithful owner and his sidekick keep texting us lurid things after you fall asleep? Well, the answer dates back to the days when Jeffrey Loria left the Montreal Expos in ruin. In 2003, the year your hometown ballclub won the World Series, our gullible legislature decided that a pig in a poke was better than no pig at all. So, they voted to start a contest for relocating MLB teams with a whopping $150,000,000 grand prize to give away. Neither MLB nor the Expos ever seriously considered Portland as a viable option, but knowing the ORS 184.400 to 184.408 money is still on the table keeps the men who run your baseball team interested in our town. 

Moving the Marlins to Portland would drain our state of scant financial resources in much the same way it has devastated your communities. We know how hard it is for you to keep supporting a team with so little to lose and everything to gain. All we ask is that you keep these men away from us. While there are a few stubborn magical thinkers among the ranks, realistic fans have moved on from believing there is any future with MLB, and specifically, the Marlins. We are dedicated to other big league teams and we are happy. Minor league ball is returning to the area too. The game feels beautiful to us once more. We sincerely hope that baseball brings you joy again someday soon. It hurts us to see them treat you with such disdain and cruelty.

In Sympathy,

Friday, February 15, 2013

Flying Past Fenway

Freeways in Boston could be beautiful at night. My brother and I discovered the lights of Fenway from the friendly confines of our car seats. The world outside the Volkswagen wasn't always easy to understand, but it was well worth the effort. Dad being Dad, we drove past the park pretty often during ballgames. I remember the surreal way that the Citgo sign raced toward us like an eager young lighthouse keeper with a lantern running out to meet a vessel. It stood perfectly still as we sped past, then became smaller and smaller in the back window until it was lost. The aura of the stadium lights lasted a few seconds longer before being swallowed up in the sea of headlights behind us.

Early memories of Fenway include another landmark too. It's still difficult to describe the catharsis that came with deciphering the fourteen letters that stood proud and tall on a nearby rooftop. In the realm of childhood achievements, piecing together "BUCK PRINTING CO" was an immeasurable triumph. After the meaning of glass doors with "TIXE YCNEGREME" had eluded me for a few frustrating weeks, I finally had to ask someone what the words said. As a developing young reader, solving this latest riddle on my own felt like a personal breakthrough of mammoth proportions.

Seeing the game played professionally for the first time was an eye-opening experience too. Crowded into a living room of restless relatives, a few cousins and I shared a small island of rag rug in front of the television. As the game progressed, adults that I'd known my entire life were expressing levels of emotion that weren't often seen outside of a four alarm crisis. There was whooping, hollering, begging, imploring, arguing and passion that seemed to get more intense throughout the course of the game. The vibe in the air was a little scary. It wasn't the result of demon possession, or palatable potions in translucent Tupperware. It was the agony and ecstasy of baseball.

The Yankees were playing somebody pretty damn good. Since green jerseys are etched in memory, I'm guessing it must have been the A's. The camera angles made me flinch for the first frame or two until my Grandpa asked why I was twitching with every pitch. Everyone had a good laugh when I explained that the mound was dangerously close to the batter and the catcher was bound to get his brains bashed in. The sport was just an abstract at that point. My experience was an ever-growing number of days playing catch, a collection of scattered concepts gleaned from conversations, and of course, those wonderful drives back home hearing an impassioned Ned Martin and his partners on the radio. Most of the time, it seemed like they were speaking in a foreign language.

It was no different for me in front of the television except that it was my relatives carrying on about the game and the discussions were framed with familiar gestures and rising tones. The true value of my new found silence became apparent as the game wound down to the final outs. As the room quickly hushed, everyone was staring at the screen with both the ashen certainty of a doomed submarine crew and the optimistic intensity of a bomb squad. After a few anguished moments, it was all over. My Dad, Grandpa, Uncle Skip and the other men headed out to the backyard to discuss the outcome. I tagged along to see what might be learned from the debriefing. In order to communicate with my elders during ballgames in the future, I would figure out how to understand grunts. I also learned that baseball at my Grandparents' house in upstate New York usually involved the Yankees playing somebody pretty damn good.

In the fall of 1975, my family moved from Boston, Massachusetts to Portland, Oregon. Thanks to the merciful winds of fate, I wasn't raised in the heart of Red Sox Nation with relatives that followed the rival New York Yankees. Weeks after we headed west, Boston lost an epic seven game battle with the Big Red Machine. After settling into our new hometown, my brother and I discovered the lights of Civic Stadium. Dad still went out of his way to drive us past the historic ballpark, but we were often heading to a secret parking space in Goose Hollow. Membership in the Knothole Club was affordable, so we nursed our critical cases of Beaver Fever with season tickets in the bleachers.

Our home at the park was the sovereign territory of wise old timers weighed down with patches and pins, unrepentant loudmouths with swimming pool sized beers, little kids with doting thoughtful parents, and the occasional drunk who lunged for a home run ball before succumbing to gravity. I would learn a whole lot about live baseball in a rising cloud of cigar smoke overhearing blasts of commentary that were often every bit as blue. One night a game-ending call at the plate was so bad that everyone in attendance chanted a euphemism for cattle feces at the top of their lungs for ten straight minutes. It was a positively glorious thing to behold. It would happen again with equal vigor a couple years later at a contest with the Dukes. That night Lucky was ejected for swapping out the visitors city on the scoreboard with a replacement that read, "Albuturkey."

Baseball might have been on television once in a long while, but it was on the radio every day. The pair of transistor sets we got for Christmas were keys to another universe. In the magical spring and summer of 1977, Trailblazers basketball was the biggest story in town. As fantastic as the run was that year, Bill Schonely could only call 'em one at a time and they didn't pound the hardwood every night. Coincidentally, The Schonz was the play by play voice of the Seattle Pilots in 1969. He came to Rip City in 1970 to start over with another expansion franchise. The debut of the Seattle Mariners made that spring and summer just that much more amazing and succinct. Even though it would be a long time before the excitement of that glorious year was matched, both Dave Niehaus and Bill Schonely would be radio mentors to young sports fans all over the Northwest for generations.

Following the Beavers on the road became part of our routine in the summertime. From the debut of the Mariners in 1977, I was enchanted by the sounds of the Kingdome too. In time, Dave Niehaus grew into a surrogate Grandpa. It didn't take long to discover outlets in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego. Vin Scully, Lon Simmons and others became great-uncles. Minor league affiliates in places like Vancouver, Calgary, Tacoma, Salem, Boise and Eugene could be heard sometimes too. Between live play by play and midnight baseball rebroadcasts, games could potentially be enjoyed from the moment I got home from school into the wee small hours of the morning.

Once school was out for the summer, my brother and I would go outside and play marathon games of Wiffle Ball. On a good day, there would be an afternoon game to keep us company and an evening matchup to make sure we were exhausted. Sometimes we would try to re-enact the game as it happened. Other times we would try to play and keep an ear on the broadcast. These attempts to multitask would often result in a resounding thwack on the siding of the neighbor's house. As right handed batters, one lapse in concentration led us to naturally hit toward left field. We may have left Boston, but we kept the monster. Our monster was grouchy.

After the sun went down, it was time for dinner and more baseball. Long nights after full days became a routine ritual during the summer. Even after coming home from a double-header downtown. Looking back it seems like a great many childhood things led me from Yawkey Way to Puro Yakyu. The late night drives, the slow frustrating process of learning a new language, the hometown heroes playing in historic parks, the rhythmic chanting in the bleachers, and the transistor radio hidden in my pillow. Portland Beavers road games against the Hawai'i Islanders prepared me for the start times of NPB day games. Midnight baseball rebroadcasts of contests that went late would usually get started right around the same time as night contests do in Japan. Insomnia is no curse. It is a blessing. Four decades later, baseball remains a puzzle to be put together one brief glimpse at a time. It isn't always easy to see them play across the ocean in the wee hours, but well worth the effort. The game can be beautiful. Especially at night. Baseball is a gift from Japan to an owl on the internet.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pacific Mariners: Japan


Sixteen players born in Japan were part of the Seattle Mariners organization during the first thirty-five seasons. Eight of these men played for the big league team.


Eighty-two Nippon Professional Baseball players and one manager were part of the Seattle Mariners Major League club over the first thirty-five seasons. This list includes players, managers and coaches at the big league level. Partial seasons and cups of coffee are listed right along with regulars, a respectable number of All-Stars, and every Rookie of the Year Award winner in M's franchise history. The list also includes one Hall of Fame player and another who will likely be elected on his first ballot. Mariners who later coached with the big club are not marked as coaches.

* coached MLB Mariners
** managed MLB Mariners
*** managed NPB Marines

One-hundred and twenty-one Nippon Professional Baseball players and one manager were part of the Seattle Mariners organization over the first thirty-five seasons. This list is expanded to include players and managers at all levels of the minor league system, along with players, managers and coaches with the big league club.

Members of the Seattle Mariners big league club also had family who played baseball in Japan. Jim Paciorek (Whales '88-'91; Tigers '92-'93) is the brother of Tom Paciorek. Bump Wills (Braves '82-'83) is the son of Maury Wills.

[Note: This draft is based on a week spent poring over every level of the all-time organization roster and individual player pages at Baseball-Reference. Please let me know if there are any errors or omissions. Latest update: January 31, 2013]

Pacific Mariners: Korea


Five players born in Korea were part of the Seattle Mariners organization during the first thirty-five seasons. Two of these men played for the big league team.


Fourteen players in the Korea Baseball Organization were part of the Seattle Mariners big league club over the first thirty-five seasons.

Thirty-six players in the Korea Baseball Organization were part of the Seattle Mariners system over the first thirty-five seasons.

[Note: This draft is based on a week spent poring over every level of the all-time organization roster and individual player pages at Baseball-Reference. Please let me know if there are any errors or omissions. Immense gratitude to Dan at for his help. Latest update: February 10, 2013]

Pacific Mariners: Taiwan


Seven players born in Taiwan were part of the Seattle Mariners organization during the first thirty-five seasons. 


Two players in the Chinese Professional Baseball League were part of the Seattle Mariners big league club over the first thirty-five seasons.

Five players in the Chinese Professional Baseball League were part of the Seattle Mariners system over the first thirty-five seasons.

[Note: This draft is based on a week spent poring over every level of the all-time organization roster and individual player pages at Baseball-Reference. Please let me know if there are any errors or omissions. Latest update: January 31, 2013]