5,000 days of Safeco Field

5,000 days ago, the baseball world welcomed a new major league stadium into its midst: Safeco Field in Seattle.

July 15, 1999—the first game after the annual All-Star break—witnessed the Mariners breaking in their new digs. It was a massive improvement over their old place.

For the last two decades and change, Seattle had played in the Kingdome, one of the oft-derided multipurpose stadiums from that era. Those places rarely had much of a good reputation, and the Kingdome had many of the features that most people don’t like.

First, it was a domed stadium, and many purists never cared for that. Those places felt more like football stadiums. In fact, the Kingdome originally was built to be a football stadium and then was converted into a facility that could host baseball, as well. Most multipurpose stadiums at least began life as genuine multipurpose stadiums.

Second, as a domed stadium, it required artificial turf, and the longer turf was around, the more maligned it became. It just ain’t the classic baseball atmosphere. Players also tended not to like turf, claiming it was harder on their knees and other joints.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the seats were too far from the field. This shouldn’t be too surprising. A main knock on multi-purpose facilities was that their foul territories were too expansive, pushing fans further from the action. That was the case in the Kingdome, with some upper-deck seats over 600 feet from home plate.

So I can only assume that Safeco Field came as a huge improvement to the Mariners’ long-suffering fans. I had the chance to attend a game there in 2007, and I thought it was beautiful, easily the best of the new generation of stadiums I’ve been to.

It’s also a dome, but as is currently the fashion, it’s a retractable one, and it has to be the best retractable dome in baseball. I’ve been to a few stadiums with retractable roofs, and it’s by far my favorite. At first I didn’t even realize it was retractable because it felt like such an open-air environment. (That makes it a marked contrast to Milwaukee’s Miller Park, which felt like a dome even with the roof open.)

The game itself didn’t go well for the Mainers. In an interleague contest against the Paders, Seattle fell behind early 1-0, and for the longest time it looked like that would be all the scoring. However, with two out and nobody on in the bottom of the eighth, the Mariners rallied with three consecutive doubles. Now it was 2-1 home team in their stadium debut.

With their first lead of the day, closer Jose Mesa reliever Jamie Moyer. Things didn’t go his way, as he walked each of the first three batters he faced. (In his defense, it took 24 pitches to walk those three men as those pesky Padres fouled off a half-dozen offerings.)

After striking out Dave Magadan for the first out, Mesa allowed the game-tying run. Naturally, it came on a base on balls. A few seconds later, Mesa got the second out, but it was a run-scoring sacrifice fly. That was all the damage, but the Padres had scored two runs on zero hits.

The Mariners went down in order in the bottom of the ninth. It wasn’t a good game for them, but it’s the game that broke in a great stadium.

Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.

Day-versaries

1,000 days since Jamie Moyer surrenders a 506-foot homer, surpassing Robin Roberts to become the all-time king of home runs allowed.

1,000 days since Josh Hamilton hits one of the longest homers of the year, a 468-foot shot.

5,000 days since Barry Bonds sets a new all-time record when he draws his 294th career intentional walk.

5,000 days since the Brewers postpone their game due to three workers dying in an accident during the construction of Miller Park the day before.

5,000 days since Texas sets an unusual record in the bottom of the ninth of their game, when three consecutive pinch-hitters draw walks.

8,000 days since Jack Morris, winningest pitcher of the 1980s, records his 200th career victory. His record is 200-153 and counting.

8,000 days since an angry Rob Dibble—is there really any other kind?—fires a ball into the stands at Riverfront Stadium and hits school teacher Meg Porter. He apologizes for it but gets a three-game suspension and a $1,000 fine.

10,000 days since the Padres sign amateur free agent Carlos Baerga.

15,000 days since WWII star pitcher Dizzy Trout dies.

20,000 days since the birth of ill-fated shortstop Dickie Thon.

20,000 days since Jim Bunning fans 14 batters in a game for the Tigers, a personal best that he’ll later tie.

20,000 days since the Dodgers sign amateur free agent Willie Davis.

Anniversaries

1868 Mike Smith is born. He’ll be a starting outfielder for nearly all the 1890s, driving in 103 runs for the 1893 Pirates. He also pitches for part of his career, posting a 75-57 record.

1881 Gavvy Cravath is born. He’ll take advantage of the cozy dimensions of Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl to lead the NL in homers six times in seven years during the 1910s.

1893 Ray Kremer is born. He’s one of baseball’s greatest late bloomers. He won’t debut in the majors until 1924 (when he’s 31 years old) but still posts a pair of 20-win seasons, win two ERA titles and end his career with a 143-85 record.

1927 Johnny Logan is born. He’ll play shortstop on the great 1950s Braves teams and make it to four All-Star teams.

1928 Jim Lemon is born. The slugging Senators center fielder will have back-to-back 100-RBI seasons in 1959-60 but also lead the AL in strikeouts three straight years (from 1956-58). He also tops the circuit in triples in 1956.

1943 Lee May is born. The slugging first baseman led the NL in strikeouts in 1972 (with 145), the AL in GIDP in 1975 (26) and in RBIs in 1976 (109). He retired ranked eighth all time in strikeouts.

1944 George Scott is born. He’ll have a nice career as a slugger with the Red Sox and Brewers, most notably leading the AL in home runs and RBIs in 1975.

1951 Brooklyn signs a 21-year lease with the city of Vero Beach, Flo., to use their facilities during spring training.

1958 Harry Kelley, former A’s pitcher, dies at age 52. In 1937, he led the AL in losses with 21. He wasn’t that bad of a pitcher, but he wasn’t a great one, either.

1962 Bill DeWitt buys the Reds from the Crosley Foundation for $4,625,000.

1966 Mike Remlinger, veteran reliever and 2002 All-Star, is born. As a Brave, he will be one of baseball’s best relievers from 1999-2002 and a quality arm for a few years after that.

1969 Otis Hackett, a WWII player for the Indians, dies at age 59. He led the 1943 AL in caught stealings with 18, rather impressive given that he had just 13 steals. Manager Lou Boudreau deserves some of the blame, as his players often had bad records at this.

1973 Ramon Ortiz, gopherball-prone pitcher, is born.

1979 Mark Buehrle, pitcher and pit bull aficionado, is born.

1981 Tony Pena, short-lived Royals shortstop, is born.

1988 The A’s trade Rod Beck to the Giants for a minor leaguer. This works out well for San Francisco.

1989 The Tigers trade longtime institutional stalwart Tom Brookens to the Yankees.

1990 Professional gambler Howard Spira is arrested for extorting money from George Steinbrenner.

1992 The National League announces that league president Bill White will step down at the end of his term in 1993.

1994 Roger Wolff, WWII pitcher, dies at age 82. In 1945 he won 20 games, nearly helping the Washington Senators to a pennant. (They finished in second place, one game behind Detroit.)

1998 The Yankees sign amateur free agent Cuban defector Orlando Hernandez.

2000 Anaheim trades centerfielder Jim Edmonds to the Cardinals for second baseman Adam Kennedy and Kent Bottenfield. Though Kennedy provides several quality seasons for the Angels, the Cardinals clearly get the better part of this trade.

2000 The Yankees release veteran outfielder Tim Raines, whom they signed earlier this offseason.

2004 The Cubs give the fans a giant jolt of enthusiasm, signing former all-everything pitcher and one-time Cubs hurler Greg Maddux.

2004 Tampa Bay signs free agent Fred McGriff for the final year of his career.

2006 Alfonso Soriano ends his standoff with the Nationals, agreeing to move from second base to left field. He’ll go on to have a career season.

2007 Baltimore signs free agent Steve Trachsel.

2007 Ed Bailey dies at age 75. The former catcher was a five-time All-Star with the Reds and Giants.

2011 At a spring training game, Philadelphia’s Roy Oswalt is hit behind the ear by a line drive from the bat of Tampa slugger Manny Ramirez. Fortunately, he gets just a bruise.

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Comments

  1. Dennis Bedard said...

    Is there any empirical evidence that pitchers do better in domed stadiums with their bigger foul areas than in outdoor stadiums?  Sorry but football indoors is worse than baseball in the dome.  Football was meant to be played outdoors as much as baseball was not.  I was went to a Lion game on Thanksgiving.  Felt like I never left the living room.  Something antiseptic about the experience.

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