The Grandest Salami Time

It’s been a tough go for Mariners fans for the last fifteen years or so. I blame my cousin Kendall.

I wish Kendall was a Yankees fan.

I was seventeen years old and visiting family in Arizona during Spring Break. As lifelong Mariner fans, we made sure to plan a day to head to Peoria to see a Mariner Spring Training game. Ken Griffey Jr. (blessed be his name) had returned to the M’s the season prior, and we were more than excited to see him do his thing, even if the game meant nothing.

I was at the game with my dad, my uncle Kyle, and a few cousins, including my oldest cousin, Kendall. Kendall is cursed, let me explain:

The Curse of Kendall dates back to 1995. I was two years old and have no conscious memory of this time, but my dad and uncle made sure I knew this story. During the Mariners’ unbelievable postseason run of 1995, the Wilsons gathered often to watch the games. My dad would pray that the Mariners would “shower home runs upon the Yankees” before eating dinner the night of the game, it was a big deal for Mariner fans.

During these gatherings, my dad and uncle began to notice something strange. Every time Kendall would leave the room, the Mariners would make some sort of game-changing play. A home run, a big strikeout, whatever the Mariners needed, Kendall would be out of the room when it happened.

Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS between the Mariners and Yankees is one of the crowning moments in Mariner history. Particularly, the walk-off hit by Edgar Martinez in the bottom of the eleventh inning. As the stars aligned, and Joey Cora made his way to third, Griffey got to first, and Edgar (that wonderful, incredible man) came to the plate, the older Wilson men took drastic measures. Kendall was locked in the garage. Dave Niehaus’ famed call of the double was perforated by Kendall’s cries to be released from the garage, the Mariners won, and baseball stayed in Seattle.

Several years later, in 2001, Kendall was out of the country doing missionary work. He was gone for the majority of the 2001 season, in which the Mariners set a Major League record for wins in a season. He returned to American soil to witness their defeat in the playoffs.

So, Kendall the Cursed was with us at this very meaningless Spring Training game. We had season tickets to Mariner games before we moved from Seattle, so it was great to see the M’s in person again.

The game went on, and the Mariners were getting outplayed by the Reds and led 5-2 going into the ninth inning. As the top of the ninth came to a close, Kendall got up to leave to get to work. We were seated on the first base line, and he walked the concourse out to where the car was parked behind left field. About the time Kendall would have left the stadium, the Mariners were up to bat. We decided to leave to beat traffic, and took the same path on the concourse. Spring Training fields are small, so you’re pretty close to the players no matter where you are. As we passed by the Mariners’ dugout, I saw Griffey in all his glory seated just outside the dugout, waiting to go into the on-deck circle. I yelled his name, got a look back, and cheered like an idiot. It was great. No, not just great, life-changing.

We got to the outfield and my dad and I went to use the restroom in center field. As we come back out, My uncle Kyle is standing there, his arms folded, looking very intently at the field.

Keep in mind, Kendall has now left the stadium and is on the road.

“Griffey’s up. Bases are loaded.” He mutters, very focused on the field.

The sound of the Kid’s bat smacking of the ball was undeniably the sound of a home run. Granted, this wasn’t a Griffey moon shot we were used to seeing for years, but this thing was on a line, and it was coming right at us. The ball cleared the wall, and landed about 20 feet in front of us before being smothered by about ten dudes.

The game was meaningless, but seeing one of my baseball heroes hit a walk-off grand slam wasn’t just a remarkable experience, it also added a third piece of evidence to the validity of the Curse of Kendall.