Why I am a Seattle Mariners fan

I have been asked many times why I, as a Canadian citizen, support the Seattle Mariners rather than “Canada’s team,” the Toronto Blue Jays. It is now time to tell the story.

I was born a baseball fan. My father was a diehard Brooklynn Dodgers fan—he hated the dreaded Yankees—and we would listen to the games on the huge Telefunken radio that sat in the middle of our living room. When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, we were thrilled because it was easier to get their radio broadcasts.

Dad took me to see minor league baseball at Royal Athletic Park when I was very young, and we attended most of the games of the Tyees. He even invested money in the team to keep it in Victoria and was very upset then they folded their tents and skulked away.

We supported the Vancouver Mounties when they were the Oakland Athletics’ Triple A farm team, watching players like Sal Bando who would later star in the American League.

I celebrated my 20th birthday with a road trip to see the Dodgers and the Angels. I saw Sandy Koufax pitch his last home game, the highlight of my trip. In Anaheim, I got to meet young outfielders Rick Reichardt and Jay Johnstone as well as veteran Jimmy Piersall. I still have the autographs from the last day of the 1966 season.

In 1969, when Seattle got a professional baseball team in the American league, Dad was really excited as he could finally travel to see his first game of major league baseball. He and my mother travelled to as many Pilots games as they could and our connection to Seattle and major league baseball there was born. When that team went bankrupt, and the franchise moved to Milwaukee where they were named the Brewers, we were left without a “local” team to cheer for.

After the move, various parties in Washington sued the American League for breach of contract. King County built the Kingdome, confident that professional baseball would return to the Seattle area. In the meantime, it was the home of Seattle Seahawks of the NFL. Finally, in 1976, the American League offered Seattle an expansion team if they would drop the lawsuit. The new team, to be called the Mariners, would begin play at the same time as the other new franchise, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Already having a strong connection to professional baseball in the northwest of the US, it was a no-brainer for us to become staunch Seattle Mariners fans. My parents bought season tickets, although living in Victoria, and they attended at least one series in every home stand, travelling on the PCL bus and staying at the Vance Hotel. Mother became very involved in the Seattle Mariners Women’s Club and attended many of their events. After Mom and Dad had attended a few spring training sessions, they came to know everybody involved with the team. As much as I would have like to travel to games with them, I was busy raising my family and had other commitments. I listened to —or watched on television—almost every game beginning at opening day. The first years were not very successful, but that did not seem to matter. We had American League baseball only a ferry trip away, and that was what mattered. The team moved to the newly-built Safeco field in July 1999; it is still their home today.

I rarely missed a broadcast and hung on every word that Dave Niehaus said. He was, by far, the best announcer the team had. Some of his phrases still are still used today, years after his death.

We rejoiced in the miraculous 2001 season when the team recorded 116 victories, witnessed Felix Hernandez’s perfect game, Randy Johnson’s amazing pitching, Ken Griffey Junior’s Hall of Fame play, the magic that was Ichiro Suzuki, and Edgar Martinez’s stellar play as the designated hitter. These were but a few highlights of the last 40 seasons, but we stuck with the team, through the good times and the bad times.

When Dad was no longer able to travel, Mom continued her attendance, although she too was slowing down a bit. When she suffered her first heart attack, I was stunned to receive a call from announcer Rick Rizz, asking how she was. We talked baseball for a few minutes, and he told me how much the whole team loved her both as a fan and as a person. He had me in tears as I told him how much the team meant to her. When she recovered, she was invited to have dinner with the club president and even threw out the first pitch in a game. When Dad died in 2007, Mom kept going to games, although not as often and she sold her tickets to other fans, not for profit, but at cost. She was featured in a front-page story in the local media as the only Mariner season ticket holder in Victoria. In 2009, she died, and we donated the remainder of her season tickets for that year to a children’s charity. The team sent flowers to her funeral.

I continued to follow the team and finally saw my first Mariners game on September 17, 2017, my 70th birthday. It was a real thrill to be in the stands and extra special to have my husband and daughter with me to share the experience.

As anyone can see, I have a longtime relationship with the Seattle Mariners and could never think of changing my allegiance for any reason. The club treated my parents like superstars and took a personal interest in them; that gets my vote any day.

The many fans who have criticized me, often quite rudely, for my choice of baseball team, have no idea why this team means so much to me. I do not harass other fans’ selection of favourite teams, and I sincerely wish folks would leave me alone.

Yes, I am a Canadian, but I have much more in common with fans from Seattle than I ever would with those from Toronto. I am a west coast girl, and nobody is going to change that. I will be a Mariners fan until the day I die. Just let me cheer for my team, please.

Helen in Mariners garb

Sandy Kelley in Mariners garb