Bill Caudill: The Inspector Returns To The Scene
The first dominant closer in Mariners history will return on Monday (August 13) to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in the opening game of the upcoming nine-game homestand. Bill Caudill, who earned 26 saves in both 1982 and 1983, was a colorful character, so colorful that he had two nicknames to go with his 90-plus MPH fastball. The Mariners are celebrating their 35th Anniversary throughout the 2012 season.
The right-hander was known as “Cuffs” because he carried a pair of real handcuffs with him when he wasn’t on the field, and just for fun, of course, he would handcuff anyone and everyone to the dugout bench or any other spot that worked. In fact, when Manager Rene Lachemann made the call to the bullpen for him, he would put the inside of his wrists together and hold them high to signal his closer.
Caudill, who still lives on the Eastside, also earned the nickname “The Inspector” because he wore an “Inspector Clouseau” hat and was often seen “inspecting” the bats of Mariners hitters, looking for missing hits. Because of the nickname, the Kingdome organist, the late Dick Kimball, would break into the “Pink Panther Theme” whenever Lach signaled to the bullpen for Bill, a tribute to Inspector Clouseau himself. Sports Illustrated did a feature article on the Mariners reliever, whose single-season saves mark stood as a club record seven seasons. (Mike Schooler saved 33 games in 1989.)
Does anyone remember the Mariner Tugboat?
Bill was a master practical joker, and one of his best was on Opening Day 1982, his first regular-season game in a Mariners uniform. That was the first year of new marketing director Bill Long, whose two Kingdome innovations were the USS Mariner Victory ship in center field and the Mariner Tugboat, which was meant to transport the relief pitchers from the bullpen in foul territory down the left field line to the mound. The USS Mariner had a good 18-year run, with the cannon blast that signaled the national anthem before every game as well as every Mariners home run and victory.
The Tugboat didn’t last very long. The pitchers wanted no part of it. On Opening Night 1982, the Tugboat was introduced in pregame ceremonies, and it was eventually parked near the Mariners bullpen, just in foul territory as game time approached. Starting pitcher Gaylord Perry had completed his warm up pitches and the umpire was about to signal him to throw out the first pitch of the season, when he noticed that the Tugboat was still sitting on the left field line. The staff member who was assigned to drive it to its designated parking space was frantically looking for the keys. With the game delayed a few minutes, Caudill stood up from the bullpen bunch, held the keys high for everyone to see and he handed them to the driver. Quite a colorful start to a colorful season for “Cuffs”, a.k.a. ”The Inspector” on his way to a great season on the mound for the Mariners.
Needless to say, no Mariners pitcher ever rode in the Tugboat when he entered a game at the Kingdome, and the Tugboat was quickly put in dry dock.