Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Secrets of the Demon Miracle Airplane

Team leader and all around great guy Raul Ibañez did not play the last few games for the simple fact that he got beat up by an airplane.

As humiliating as his defeat was, he'd have to say that the main problem with the experience is that standing around is not that much fun anymore:
"It's more the running and standing," he said. "Standing's the thing. That's what we do a lot of in the outfield."
The whole episode got us thinking about what bad luck the M's have had with flying objects over the years. Here, a list of a few major airplane mishaps involving your Seattle Nine.
December 5, 1945: on a flight off the coast of Florida, a PBM-5 Martin Mariner explodes in midair and crashes into the sea, lost in the Bermuda Triangle forever.
  • 1969: the Pilots are terrible and last one year.
  • November 22, 1985: An early cold front brings snow to the Pacific Northwest, and the Mariners' Big League Breakfast event, featuring Pete Rose and Tommy Lasorda, was cancelled because flights into SeaTac were postponed.
  • August 29, 1986: In a bid for fan interest, the Mariners play host to the World Indoor Paper Airplane Championships after a Friday night game versus the Yankees. An estimated 10,380 airplanes were tossed onto the field and one, thrown by Brad Simmons, landed in the backseat of the 1986 Chevy Cavalier convertible that was now his. Predictably, the Mariners lost, 13-12.
  • August 10, 1987: the Oakland A's arrive in Seattle extremely late due to a delayed and finally cancelled flight from Minneapolis. Yet the flight bites the Mariners' ass, as they lose 15-4, with starter Scotty Bankhead giving up 8 runs in 2 2/3 innings.
  • April 13, 1990: before the first ever Kingdome sellout crowd to see a Mariners game, thousands of fans bored to tears as they watch the M's get rocked, 15-7, by the A's, start hurling paper airplanes onto the field. A flood of angry letters descends on the Seattle papers, including one from Rose Medley of Olympia, who asked: "What kind of 'fans'' are we that we boo our own team through the game. Throwing hundreds of paper airplanes onto the field like children, aren't we supposed to be mature adults." Indeed. She went on: "Can you imagine how you made our team feel, I'm sure they felt bad enough without our help. How embarrassing for them and for ourselves to have the baseball commissioner witness such behavior out of us. Did we really expect instant success?" *
  • July 3, 1996: a team charter plane operated by Champion Air failed to get off the ground due to a dead battery, causing the Mariners to arrive late to face the Rangers in Texas. Significantly, ace Randy Johnson complained of a stiff back after the flight. He did not have another decision all year.
  • October 18, 2000: Immediately after being eliminated by the Yankees in game six of the ALCS, a team flight from JFK to Seatac was forced to abort and return to New York 20 minutes after takeoff due to a fire in an onboard microwave oven. After safety checks, the players reboard, the plane takes off, and it happens again. In both cases, oxygen masks were deployed. The only casualty was Mike Cameron, who, according to team travel director Ron Spellecy, hyperventillated. "As you might imagine, it was not a happy flight," Spellecy said. "First, we had lost and the season was over. Next, this fire happens twice. The first, you might understand; the second, you're asking, `What is going on?' "
  • September 14, 2001: Mariners take one of the first flights in the nation in the aftermath of 9/11, avoiding a 24 hour bus ride to Anaheim. Osama Bin Laden laughs at their impudence.
  • May 19, 2002: on the way to Logan International Airport in Boston, one of two Mariners team buses catches on fire. Players are administered oxygen on the airplane and damages were calculated at $200,000. Said Niehaus: "Lou Piniella got out, I think to see if he could help, and ran into a wall of smoke."
  • July 16, 2006: the Mariners are forced to evacuate the team plane in Toronto as they prepared to fly to New York to face the Yankees. A faulty conveyer belt caused a fire. "We had no idea what was going on," Hargrove said. Nothing ever changes.

  • (honorable mention: October 17, 2000, Sonics have flight to Houston aborted because of lack in cabin pressure. They miss team shootaround and lose to Rockets, 101-91)

*Paper-Airplane gate continued for some time: viz this letter from April 21, 1996 to the Seattle Times:
I am ashamed of Seattle Mariner fans. I thought only New York fans threw their garbage onto the playing field.

In both of the games my daughter and I attended this year, we were hit by paper airplanes thrown by boorish "fans."

Most of the airplanes are made from the free program that is distributed outside the Kingdome. I appreciate the program, and I appreciate the efforts of the Kingdome staff to help police the crowd.

It should not be the sole responsibility of the Kingdome staff, though. It is the responsibility of the crowd to let these individuals know that this behavior shall not be tolerated.

Alan Haines, Woodinville


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