About a week and a half before my 21st birthday, my mom and I went to a Seattle Mariners game on Sunday the 21st of April, no less. The year was 1996 and my mom was still finishing graduate school and I worked at a record store for $5.25/hour. Clearly, we weren’t the kind of people that could afford the best tickets in the house, but as fate would have it – or my friend Diana who worked in the box office at the Kingdome would have it – we got to sit in the third row directly behind home plate.
The early Griffey Years were the time when my baseball fandom set in stone like a personal commandment. “The Double” by Edgar Martinez the previous Fall saved baseball in Seattle and I was fully engaged. Yet, I didn’t know all the finer nuances of the game (still learning), but watching Ken Griffey, Jr. and Edgar each take Erik Hanson deep twice, and seeing Randy Johnson pitch up close that day had me riveted.
Now, I bet you’re getting a little short on patience for the trivia, so I’ll get to a nugget. This game seems to have a lot of them, but that might be my memoried perspective. Let’s dig in!
This game had a bit of nearly everything when it comes to historical factoids and achievements. Between the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays, there’s a Cy Young winner, a couple of MVPs, World Series MVPs, and guys who led the league in homers, RBIs, OPS, and won batting titles, to name a few. Possibly more impressive is the collection of World Series champs amongst these two squads.
If you include managers Lou Piniella and Cito Gaston’s careers as players and managers, then you have 18 (!) World Series titles spread across these rosters. Gaston won back-to-back titles in 1992-’93 as the Blue Jays manager along with Joe Carter and Ed Sprague, who were Gaston’s corner infielders that April afternoon. Piniella won two titles as a player with the ’77 & ’78 New York Yankees and added one when he helmed The Nasty Boys 1990 Cincinnati Reds. The rest of the players on this list have one ring apiece…except one journeyman, who retired with four World Series titles on his résumé.
In a 13-year major league career, he played 848 games and, in true utility-man fashion, he played 150 or more games at second, third, and short. He is the only player since 1990 not named Fernando Tatis, Jr. to hit between 35-40 homers and steal in the range of 25-30 bags in less than 2800 PAs; granted Tatis has done so in just 629 PAs compared to this bejeweled mystery man’s 2773 PAs. While he has four rings, he only played in 12 World Series games, starting just one, as he normally was a late-inning defensive replacement for a guy with a famous case of the yips. For his career, he had a 71 OPS+ and 4.2 bWAR. His last name rhymes with a neighborhood in New York City and he hit a World Series-clinching single off of Al Leiter. Since retiring from playing, he has managed three World Baseball Classic teams and the Spanish National team.
Head on over to Baseball-Reference for the ANSWER, why don’t ya!