Johnson, Wilson reminisce about ’90s
Some of the more popular figures in Seattle Mariners history showed up at Safeco Field on Friday, not to play but to be honored and acknowledged.
Former Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson and catcher Dan Wilson, who will be inducted into the team Hall of Fame today, attended a luncheon in their honor and among those on hand was Alvin Davis – the first Mariners Hall of Fame inductee.
“I spent 22 years in major league baseball and I’m most remembered for two moments – facing John Kruk in an All-Star Game and killing a pigeon,” Johnson deadpanned.
Wilson, who worked with Johnson throughout the ’90s – the two had a .721 winning percentage as a battery – characteristically talked more about his teammate than himself.
“Randy changed the game before the first pitch, because the other team would take all its left-handed hitters out of the lineup,” Wilson said.
Asked for a special memory, Wilson grinned.
“The time Rex Hudler struck out, walked out of the batter’s box and tipped his cap to Randy,” Wilson said.
Johnson praised his catcher, saying with Wilson he could throw a slider in the dirt with the winning run on third base and never worry.
“If I’d been a nicer guy, I wouldn’t have been as good a pitcher,” Johnson said. “So I was an ass – and Dan put up with it and we worked well together …”
“Thank you,” Wilson said, drawing a laugh.
Both men talked about their teammates on those mid-90s teams, and their manager – Lou Piniella.
“With a manager like that, you’d try to do things you weren’t sure you could do,” Johnson said. “I volunteered to pitch in relief for Game 5 of the ’95 divisional series after winning Game 3 – and I had no idea what I might have.”
Wilson’s memories were of great teammates.
“I had the great fortune of playing with four first-ballot Hall of Famers – Randy, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro,” said Wilson, who then turned to another former teammate.
“And Edgar (Martinez), I believe you’ll get in soon, as well.”
Pregame ceremonies today for Johnson and Wilson begin at 11:30 a.m. Among those present Friday and expected back today: Lee Elia, Rich Amaral, Mike Blowers, Dave Henderson, Dave Valle and Marilyn Niehaus.
ALVIN AT WORK
Davis, the 51-year-old former American League Rookie of the Year, is now a “special assignment instructor” and will be visiting all the team’s minor league affiliates to work with young hitters.
“I love the variety baseball gives you in life, and I’ve always been a Mariner at heart,” Davis said. “I’ve been coaching high school players the past seven years, so I wanted to do something on the player development side.
“I want to work with hitters, help them find something that might work when they struggle. Sometimes what you need most is hope.
“I’ve never forgotten something Jim Lefebvre told us: ‘Sometimes, you have to try easier,’ ” Davis said. “Young players can grind too much, try too hard.”
Over his previous 30 games, catcher/designated hitter John Jaso batted .330 with five doubles, a triple, three homer runs and 16 RBI. … Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez (concussion) will stay with the team through the end of this homestand next Wednesday, slowly working back into baseball activities. When he begins another minor league rehab assignment – and how much time he’ll need – is uncertain. … Wonder what manager Eric Wedge is looking for in a catcher? Wilson. “He was the epitome of what a catcher should be – tough, great at working with pitchers and he could hit a bit,” Wedge said.
Seattle plays host to Kansas City in a 1:10 p.m. game today that will not be televised. Probable starting pitchers: Bruce Chen (7-6, 5.54 ERA) vs. Kevin Millwood (3-8, 4.13).