Thursday, February 14, 2013

No. 476 – I’m the Ocean

Performer: Neil Young
Songwriter: Neil Young
Original Release: Mirror Ball
Year: 1995
Definitive Version: None

We’re just going to keep Will’s Travelogue going. This time we’ll stay a little closer to home, and really, this is more a story where the location is of secondary importance.

When Debbie and I went to California for the first time in 1995, I’d been to a few destinations, such as Lake Tahoe and San Francisco, before. They were Debbie’s favorite spots, so, of course, we had to visit them. I was more excited about the other places that I’d never seen, such as Yosemite, which I documented already, and Napa.

But I was MOST excited that year about the baseball playoffs. Debbie and I were so certain the Reds were going to the World Series to play the Indians in an all-Ohio brawl, we scheduled the California trip for the early playoff rounds, so we’d be home to go to the World Series.

It was a completely presumptuous plan, and, of course, it ended up that when the Reds were swept by the Braves in the NLCS, we didn’t get a chance to see a single postseason game in person. That was a bad decision, but at the time, I didn’t worry about it, because my attention had been diverted Northwest.

Since Ken Griffey Jr.’s rookie year in 1989, I followed the Mariners a bit, and I saw that they had amassed some incredible young talent. Although it wasn’t like my situation with the Chicago Bears, it was similar. By 1993, when they hired Lou Piniella, you could just see this team coming.

Nothing really happened, though, and in 1995, it appeared that the Mariners were about to leave Seattle for greener pastures. They were 14 games behind the Angels and had a public ballot to raise funds for a new ballpark that seemed all but certain to go down the drain. Considering Seattle had been the hub of my favorite vacation to that point, I felt a bond of sadness.

But then, all of a sudden, the Mariners started winning. For those who don’t remember, when September rolled around, the Mariners weren’t just winning, they were winning every game, and most were of the jaw-dropping quality. They didn’t win every game on a walk-off home run—it only seemed that way.

Well, I jumped firmly on the bandwagon. I pledged allegiance to Randy Johnson, who loved the Seattle music scene, and I rooted for the Mariners to do the improbable and make the playoffs, which, of course, they did in an epic playoff game against the Angels that was watched in The Dispatch’s Business department.

They played the hated Yankees in the new divisional round of the playoffs and played the first two games before we left for California—both Yankee wins in New York. I lost track of the games a bit on our travel days, but I saw that when the series went to Seattle, the Mariners evened the series.

The night of Game 5, we were scheduled to go out with a group of Debbie’s old friends for dinner, so I taped the game, just in case it turned out to be something worth watching. We went over to one couple’s house for drinks and then out to dinner at a favorite Italian restaurant. Just before we got there, I turned to the radio broadcast to get a score. The Yankees were winning.

The restaurant was crowded, which meant we had to wait in the bar, which was fine with me, because the game was on TV. It wasn’t looking good. The Mariners had scored, but the Yankees still were ahead 4-2, and it was starting to get late.

We were seated and had a great dinner, but now I was in agony: What was happening with the game? It was not unlike 10 years earlier, when I was squirming at a joint in Houston thinking I might miss Led Zeppelin reuniting at Live Aid. But, I wasn’t a kid any more. I was taping the game …

Oh, to Hell with that. I excused myself to (ahem) go to the bathroom and took a really long out-of-the-way route from the bathroom back to the table through the bar. As I got there, the TV was showing a slow-motion replay of Griffey following through on a swing, and Brent Musberger said, “it’s all tied up.” The score was 4-4 at the end of seven. Hot damn!

Well, now I could relax. I didn’t WANT to know what happened now—I just could rewind the tape to the seventh inning and watch from there.

It was fairly late by the time we got home. I figured the game was long over, but I wasn’t going to stop the VCR until I was sure they were showing the news or something. When I turned on the TV, I stopped dead in my tracks.

The Mariners just won, I said to no one in particular, although Debbie was standing right there.

What? How do you know?

Well, they’re interviewing Edgar Martinez on the field, and the crowd in the background is going absolutely nuts. That wouldn’t be happening if the Yankees had won.

Sure enough, the Mariners had won one of the better postseason games of all time just moments before we arrived home. I watched the game the next day from the seventh inning on, reveling in the craziness and cursing myself for knowing the outcome. It’s probably just as well; I couldn’t have handled it otherwise.

I was in a really good mood when we headed out to Yosemite later that day.

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