Big Unit, Wilson enter Mariners Hall of Fame
Former teammates deliver moving tributes in pregame ceremony
SEATTLE -- Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson were partners for many of the Mariners' most cherished memories. It was fitting that they were partners again in receiving one of the team's highest honors.
So it went Saturday in a pregame ceremony that honored the induction of both local legends into the Mariners Hall of Fame. Bedecked in suits in an on-field celebration, the longtime left-handed starter known as the "Big Unit" and the steady, strong presence behind the plate fans called "Dan the Man" were feted by their families, former teammates, fellow Hall inductees and team executives in a brief but moving ceremony.
After a video compilation showing highlights of both players' careers in Mariners uniforms, which ended, fittingly, with the indelible image of Johnson freezing Angels outfielder Tim Salmon with a strike to end the 1995 American League West tiebreaker and Wilson rising to his feet to begin the first postseason party in franchise history, the speeches began.
Johnson, who tallied 130 of his 303 career victories with Seattle, was lovingly introduced by Mariners broadcaster and ceremony emcee Rick Rizzs, and Rizzs couldn't resist making it just a bit light-hearted.
"He was dominant, he was intimidating, he was electric," Rizzs said of the surefire future member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. "He had a long mullet."
When the laughter died down, Johnson got serious, thanking his family (his wife, Lisa, his mother and four children were present), his teammates and other past players (fellow Mariners Hall of Famers Edgar Martinez, Alvin Davis and Jay Buhner were on hand, as was Marilyn Niehaus, the widow of the other Mariners Hall of Famer, late broadcaster Dave Niehaus) and spoke of Seattle as his "home away from home" and a place that will always harbor special memories for him.
"To be a part of this great Hall of Fame," Johnson said, "I'm honored to be part of it along with Dan Wilson."
Johnson also thanked team executives, past teammates such as Ken Griffey Jr., and the Mariners' medical and training staff, who kept him strong throughout his years in Seattle. Then he thanked the fans, who responded with one of many standing ovations.
"I threw really hard but I couldn't throw strikes," Johnson said of his early years in a Mariners uniform. "Within three of four years, I grew with confidence and control. You, the fans, got to see the unpolished version and then towards the middle of my career the pitcher I could become.
"You were patient with me, I appreciate that. You were always supportive."
The fans were supportive for Wilson, too. The former catcher and current team broadcaster's familiar No. 6 was chalked into the dirt -- right behind home plate, of course -- and the Seattle resident was joined by his wife, Annie, and their four children as well.
Wilson thanked former manager Lou Piniella, who spearheaded the decision to land Wilson in a trade from Piniella's former team, Cincinnati, in 1993, and thanked former coach Lee Elia for teaching him about baseball and life.
Wilson echoed Johnson's sentiments about the city's rabid fan base, too, making appreciation for Seattle's baseball-loving community the focal point as the enshrining of the fifth and sixth members of the Mariners Hall of Fame became official.
"As I watched those highlights, I am reminded of all the support and all the love you've shown us throughout the years," Wilson said to the Safeco crowd.
"You've always been there. This is such a strong community and Annie and I are so proud to be a part of it."
Johnson's No. 51 was painted behind the mound, while Wilson's No. 6 was displayed in back of home plate for Saturday's game.