In 1996, I was 13 years old. I had just come off of a 1995 baseball season where I saw one of my favorite teams of the time, the Atlanta Braves, win the World Series. Kind of lost in the glory of the Braves finally winning a title and the Indians getting so close was the story of the 1995 Seattle Mariners. The team had some major hurdles that summer (Ken Griffey, Jr. getting injured and the potential relocation of the team if a stadium bill wasn't passed), but they overcame them. There is a very nice documentary on the MLB network about the team, so if you have MLB Network, I would recommend you check it out. I remember Griffey had a great 1995 season, and I was expecting him to hit 50 HRs, and then he got injured, and it seemed like the team would miss the postseason again. He came back from the injury early, and the Mariners got hot and the Angels got cold, forcing a 1-game playoff at the end of the season against the Angels for the AL West crown and a spot in the postseason. Randy Johnson won the game, only giving up 3 hits, and the Mariners were in the playoffs. In the ALDS, they won the series in the final game on an extra inning double by Edgar Martinez to score Griffey. They were a tad weaker than the Indians, but if you played the 1995 ALCS 100 times, I bet that Mariners team could've won about 35-40 of the games.
Just off the top of my head, they had a decent starting lineup. Catcher Dan Wilson was a great defensive catcher, and he had a little power. 1B Tino Martinez was just starting to come to his own and hit for power. 2B Joey Cora was fast and an excellent bunter. SS Alex Rodriguez struggled some, but we all know how his career went. 3B Mike Blowers was solid and could give you about 20 HRs. LF was a mix of Rich Amaral, Darren Bragg, and Vince Coleman. The first 2 were solid defenders, while Coleman gave you a threat to steal bases. CF Ken Griffy, Jr. was one of the best players of my generation, and the centerpiece of the Mariners lineup. RF Jay Buhner could mash 40 HRs yearly. DH Edgar Martinez was a doubles machine and challenged for the batting title every year.
The starting pitchers were Randy Johnson, Andy Benes, Tim Belcher, Bob Wolcott, and Chris Bosio. Johnson was a threat for a no-hitter every time out. Benes was a solid strikeout pitcher and was capable of 15 wins a year. Belcher had playoff experience and could win you 12-15 every year. Wolcott was a surprising rookie who had enormous potential before his career fizzled out. Bosio was a 12-15 win pitcher, and he pitched a no-hitter 2 seasons earlier. The bullpen was solid with Jeff Nelson, Norm Charlton, Ron Villone, Bob Wells, Lee Guetterman, Bill Krueger, and Bobby Ayala. Most of the guys had middle relief or setup fame, but all were decent players, and Charlton had playoff experience with the Reds. Throw in some solid bench guys like C Chad Kreuter (who hit 20 HRs for Detroit), Felix Fermin, Luis Sojo, Doug Strange, Rich Amaral, and Warren Newson, and they had a deep bench who came through during the playoffs.
After watching the 1995 season, I was eager to get baseball cards in 1996. I got random packs at Wal-Mart (Topps, Upper Deck, Collector's Choice), and towards the end of the year, Topps put out team sets of a number of teams. Each one came with a big card of the teams best player. For the Braves, each card had a World Championship logo on it, the Indians had the AL Champions logo on it, each division winner had a special logo on it, and the rest of the teams with sets had a 'Team Topps' logo. I got the Braves, Indians, Mariners, and the Yankees (don't hate. I wanted the Mickey Mantle card) that summer/fall. While I had the 1996 Topps Mariners team set, the entire 1996 Topps set is only 440 cards, its smallest set ever. I decided to skip ahead of the checklist in the 1996 Topps set and finish off all of the Mariners and post them.
The Kingdome and Piniella card were done by Richard B. of the FB Custom Card group, and the A-Rod was done by Topps.
So, there you have it, the missing Mariners cards in the 1996 Topps set. Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane.
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