Seattle Mariners, 1978

March 19, 2011

According to the Gods: a 2011 Team-By-Team Preview

Seattle Mariners

You can’t predict the future. You can only hope for the best. Here is the first Seattle Mariners squad ever assembled, the 1977 edition, a collection of expansion draft refugees and free agent driftwood, posed outside the Kingdome. Years later, as the Kingdome neared its last fatal crumbling days as a home for big league baseball, it would be spoken of with shame and regret by the team’s president, Ken Behring [update: Ken Behring was in fact an owner of the Seattle Seahawks]. “We have a building here that was poorly designed, that was never well built and that was poorly maintained from day one,” Behring said. “Plus, it’s downright homely. It was outdated at the time it was built.”

But the setting of this team picture suggests that in the beginning the Mariners had some hope for and pride about the Kingdome. If they didn’t, would they have had their picture taken in front of it? The picture is similar to that of a young family posing outside a first house: Here we are, brand new. Home.

The central dream of human life seems to be to find a home. Maybe this dream has its roots in the very earliest days of human life on earth, when our grunting nomadic ancestors first stumbled into the discovery that any kind of shelter from the harrowing elements was an improvement on loitering around outside and getting pelted with sleet or burned by the sun or swallowed in bloody chunks by saber-toothed tigers. You can’t predict the future, but you can try to lessen the terrifying uncertainty of existence by moving into a cave or a mud hut or a wood house or a concrete skyscraper or a dome. A home.

The idea behind playing baseball in a dome is that it will always be the equivalent of a warm spring day inside such a structure. It was supposed to be one of those days for real where I live a couple days ago. That was the prediction, anyway, but after a brief spell of blue sky in the morning gray clouds moved in and the temperature dropped. I went for a walk late in the day and was a little underdressed, still attached to the hopeful prediction for the day. I passed a newspaper vending bin and saw headlines about a possible nuclear meltdown in Japan. This triggered the loop in my mind of images from the earthquake and tsunami. I continued on my walk. Office workers flailing through nightmare snowglobe frenzies of paper and shattered computers. At a drug store I bought a magazine to help me predict the upcoming season in terms of fantasy baseball. Houses and cars riding giant sheets of water like bathtub toys swirling in a draining tub. I walked back toward my new address, where my wife and I just moved. Survivors in surgical masks picking through rubble. I sat down in my new living room with my fantasy baseball magazine and watched my basketball predictions instantly begin to fail miserably as I planned more doomed predictions for baseball and thought about people in surgical masks searching bulletin boards for familiar names and with all that you’d think I’d give up on the future but I can’t help it. The sun broke through the clouds late in the day and lit up the room where I was sitting and I felt hopeful about my new home.


How to enjoy the 2011 baseball season, part 16 of 30: Pay close attention while you still can to Ichiro Suzuki. And do what you can to help.


2011 previews so far: St. Louis Cardinals; New York Mets; Philadelphia Phillies; Washington Nationals; Pittsburgh Pirates; Arizona Diamondbacks; Colorado Rockies; New York Yankees; Cleveland Indians; Detroit Tigers; Milwaukee Brewers; Minnesota Twins; Atlanta Braves; Cincinnati Reds; Oakland A’s


  1. I was at Bobby Valentine’s sports bar last night. Each table has baseball cards all over it. One card at our table was a Padres team card. I was surprised to see they were posed at the beach, the shoreline and hotels behind them in the distance. I guess it was a 70s thing to pose your team as if it were a family vacation shot. Maybe from now on I’ll think of those Cubs “individual faces” shots not as an impersonal shortcut, but as a hallway wall covered liberally with relatives and ancestors’ portraits.

  2. Found that Padres team card online–it was actually early 80s. But I do see one from the 70s where they posed with elephants in the background.

  3. My brother visited a number of stadiums over the years and he said The Kingdome was the worst, a real dump.

  4. gedmaniac: I’m assuming you’re referring to Bobby V’s Stamford location. When they first opened around ’82, Bobby would greet people at the door and come around to clear off the tables. Pretty cool.

  5. Josh,

    When I read your blog, as I do often, I am always amazed at the sudden laughs you are able to produce as I’m whipping through, at breakneck pace due to the breakneck pace of my life, unable to relax and seeking it here. They are like a beautifully thrown backdoor curve: you’re waiting, suddenly slightly puzzled and off balance, you pause, and it’s all over. You froze me with “bloody chunks”.

    I am disappointed in the mid-life malaise that afflicts most people, including me, that I know…the settling, the pull of the suburbs, the lack of generally fun social activities and the redundancy of the generally fun ones like weddings, the boredom of most social conversations without at least five drinks, the reluctance of almost anyone to push any limits (Chuck Sheen does it and we have to live vicariously through him and hear about what should be normal ad nauseum), all the self-appointed political correction officers, the long, tedious conversations about which cell phone carrier someone chooses to use, or whether google is better than bing, etc.

    Reading your site reminds me of the carefree fun of college, the sitting at the dining hall with eight other guys and it was impossible for someone to not have a funny story to tell. There is a big difference in life when you don’t get to laugh like that anymore.

    Kudos to you for your writing, and kudos to your readers for seeking out genuinely creative and funny writing instead of the crappier media. And kudos most of all to me for having the pretentiousness to issue kudos to people I don’t even know, much like a Hawai’ian girl issuing a lei to every tourist as they get off the plane.

    Keep up the good work and best of luck. Gonna steer as many people as I can your way.

  6. Thanks for encouraging words, ochanga. I appreciate it.

  7. Ken Behring was not with the Mariners…he was the (horrible) owner of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

  8. Thanks, samlut. I updated the post with that info. (I got the info from The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball, which has steered me astray before, so I should have known better.)

  9. I bought your book in Newark airport yesterday for flight home to Seattle. Finished it before we landed. Got home and logged onto your website. I’m hooked. I’m about three years younger than you, but had about 95% of these cards growing up. Great trip down memory lane… Thanks!

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