Catching Up With Rick Rizzs
A new feature we are excited to share with you is guest blogger Rick Rizzs. Rick is entering his 27th season in the broadcast booth for the Mariners, and is synonymous to Mariners fans with catch phrases like Goodbye Baseball, Holy Smokes, Happy Totals and Everybody Scores! Throughout spring training, and the 2012 season, Rick will take a stroll down Mariners memory lane and share with you his thoughts. We hope you enjoy!
Let me start off by saying I love spring training.
It’s the best time of the year, the sun is pouring down rays I haven’t seen in months. Kevin Cremin and I just arrived here in the Valley of the Sun yesterday, which by the way is living up to its name. Manager Eric Wedge, his coaches and GM Jack Zduriencik have assembled 67 players in camp, they’ve already played two Intrasquad games (the Mariners are 2-0!), the veterans are getting in shape and the phenoms are starting to phenominate. (I don’t know if that’s a word, but I’m going with it).
When you’ve been in this game for a while (like I have), one of the other great parts of the spring is running into old friends. And, that’s what happened to me this morning when I bumped into former Mariner Stan Javier outside the clubhouse at the Peoria Sports Complex.
Stan is now with the Major League Baseball Players Association and he’s in town along with Phil Bradley and Mike Myers, two other former Mariners, updating the players on current information.
Very quietly, and with a lot of hard work over the past few years behind the scenes, the players association and the owners agreed to a new 5-year basic agreement which will bring the string of labor peace in our game to 21 years. This is something baseball has been able to accomplish while other major sports leagues have not.
I asked Stan why? He said, “Rick, I think it’s just comes down to communication. That’s the big part with the players and the owners. You just have to sit down together and get things done and decide what’s best for the game and the fans.
“We’ve come a long way since I was a player, there’s so much information now than there was in the past. And, we as players have to remember what the guys who played years ago did for us.”
After talking briefly about the meetings this morning with the team, what I really wanted to talk with Stan about was one of the greatest seasons of all-time when the Mariners won a Major League record 116 games in 2001.
Stan Javier played a big role for the Mariners that season, coming off the bench to pinch-hit, pinch-run, play great defense and make an occasional start. He was huge that season. Whatever Lou wanted him to do, he did it, and did it very well.
The Mariners in early October won their record 116th game against the Texas Rangers. A 1-0 victory that Denny Stark started and Joel Pineiro got the win thanks to a Brett Boone home run. That tied the record set by the 1908 Chicago Cubs.
Stan also remembered something else. “The next night, I hit a groundball to short and made an out to end a loss against the Rangers, otherwise we would’ve won 117 games and had the record all to ourselves!”
“And, earlier in the season, we had a 12-0 and 14-2 lead against the Indians and ended up losing that game! But, that was a great season for me and my last year in the Majors.
“That 2001 team was just unbelievable. We had a lot of players who didn’t care about numbers or stats, we we’re just a bunch of guys who knew how to play the game. We had guys with great character and a willingness to win. Guys like Mark McLemore, David Bell, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Mike Cameron, a great pitching staff and so many others.”
Stan added, “I think a lot of other teams underestimated our defense. We had a great ballpark and knew how to play it.”
What about Lou Piniella? Stan said, “Lou used the players like a chess master, he put everybody in the right spot at the right time.
“One day in New York I went 5-for-5, and the next day I wasn’t in the line-up! Lou told me that if I played every day I wouldn’t be able to go 5-for-5 when I need you! He was one of the best managers I ever played for.”
It was nice catching up with Stan Javier, a name that many may not be familiar with, but if you take a good look inside that 2001 season you’ll find he played a big part in the team’s record run that year.
That’s what I love about spring training. Running into old friends and bringing back some great memories. That sure was fun.
Now, I’m heading out to the field to watch a batch of young players who will bring us more great memories for years to come.
I’m hoping that somewhere in that group is another Stan Javier.