The Remaking of the Seattle Mariners

“We had Tom Paciorek on air with a 30-second spot, saying, ‘Come out on Saturday night because it’s funny nose glasses night!’” Adamack said. “And he puts on a pair of funny nose glasses, and a voice-over comes on and says: ‘No, No, Tom. It’s jacket night.’ And Paciorek’s answer at the end is, ‘What am I going to do with 30,000 pairs of funny nose glasses?’”

Turns out, the fans took him seriously. The Mariners scheduled a funny nose glasses night for 1982 and attracted a crowd of more than 37,000. That was great, but it underscored the finicky nature of the market: The silly giveaway outdrew, by nearly 10,000, an actual baseball milestone two nights earlier: Gaylord Perry earning his 300th career win.

Understaffed and underfunded, with few impact players on the field, team staffers struggled to harness their product’s potential.

“The closest teams were Oakland to the south and Minnesota to the east, so there was plenty of territory out there, a big footprint,” Adamack said. “But it was hard enough, with our resources, to promote just in our own metropolitan area.”

The franchise teetered, passed off from one frustrated buyer to the next. Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of the Chicago White Sox, told Seattle reporters in 1991 to “start writing an obituary” for the Mariners.

Reinsdorf had nearly moved his team to St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1988, and the Mariners seemed to be headed there in early 1992. Then a surprise bidder — Hiroshi Yamauchi, who was the president of Nintendo — spent $75 million for a controlling interest, a good-will gesture to the home region of Nintendo’s American headquarters.

By then the Mariners had the makings of a contender, with Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez. The players had bonded in the summer of 1994, when falling ceiling tiles at the Kingdome forced the team to take a three-week road trip. A year later, the Mariners roared back from a 13-game deficit in August to win the A.L. West.

“All of a sudden,” Adamack said, “our guys became rock stars in town.”

Voters rejected a ballpark-funding measure that September, but as the Mariners sprinted to the A.L.C.S. — a six-game loss to Cleveland — the state legislature seized on the excitement and passed a deal. The new ballpark opened in 1999 and just might be the best in baseball: the only one with a roof that functions only as an umbrella, covering the field and the fans but never enclosing the park.

In other words, it always feels like Seattle.

“We want this ballpark to last 100 years,” said Adamack, whose name adorns the press box. “And I guess that’s just a different way of saying that this is a stable franchise, and Major League Baseball is going to be in the Northwest forever.”

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