Saturday, October 1, 2005 - 12:00 AM
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ROD MAR / THE SEATTLE TIMES
ROD MAR / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Wilson bids farewell; Ichiro turns 200 hits
By Bob Finnigan
Seattle Times staff reporter
With his son Eli alongside him on the bench and wife, Annie, and the rest of the family in the stands, Dan Wilson played his final game last night.
With him went the last direct link to the 1995 team that turned Seattle into a baseball town, that led to the construction of Safeco Field, which stands as an emotional memorial to that group.
Fittingly, Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner were also in the dugout when Wilson came off the field for the last time, after taking warmups and then a warm embrace from Jamie Moyer at the start of the second inning.
The Mariners activated Wilson from the 60-day disabled list early yesterday, to enable him to make his final appearance.
The 14-year veteran, the best fielding catcher of all time, went out with his helmet held high, waving it toward the stands in appreciation of the prolonged standing ovation he received as he walked off.
Fittingly, he went out a winner for the 667th time in 1,251 games played for the Mariners, who beat Oakland 4-1.
Wilson ranks among the top 25 among major-league catchers all-time in several categories, including:
Oakland at Seattle, 1:05 p.m.
Jeff Harris (2-5, 4.47) vs. Joe Blanton (11-12, 3.55)
• .995 fielding percentage (No. 1 all time);
• 1,299 games (20th)
• 209 doubles (22nd)
• 437 runs scored and 504 RBI (24th).
He also was third with 86 sacrifice hits and one of only seven catchers ever to hit an inside-the-park grand slam.
Among American League catchers, he finished ninth with 1,251 games, 10,100-2/3 innings and 508 RBI.
He caught 30 of 34 postseason games for Seattle and was the starting catcher in games that clinched postseason appearances in 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2001.
The Mariners had a .533 win percentage (667-584) in games in which he appeared.
Speaking of Wilson as a former opponent, especially when his Cleveland clubs had big series against the Mariners, Mike Hargrove said: "Dan was always one of my favorite players, with the way he played and the way he carried himself. There was always a sense of stability about him.
"There was some volatile players on Seattle teams then, but Dan always seemed to help keep that team on an even keel and focused and able to do the job."
Referring to Game 1 of the memorable 1995 ALCS, when young Bob Wolcott was a surprise starter for Seattle, Hargrove said, "I don't see how Bob Wolcott wins that game had Dan Wilson not been behind the plate."
In an unforgettable first inning, the Indians loaded the bases on Wolcott with no outs and were unable to score. Wolcott went on to a 3-2 win in the series in which Cleveland prevailed, 4-2.
Before his final night was over, Wilson wound up sharing the spotlight with Ichiro, who had four hits to reach 200 for the fifth straight season, and Moyer, who seemed rejuvenated after throwing to Wilson for even one inning. Ichiro has 202 hits this season.
The old man of the mound, who keeps going while one teammate after another leaves, threw a five-hitter for eight innings and finished 13-7 with Eddie Guardado working the ninth for his 36th save.
With Moyer as Seattle's pitching yin to Wilson's catching yang, it was like old times in the top of the first. Working with Wilson again for the 210th time in his 299 Mariner games — 192 starts and 18 relief appearances — Moyer was never better.
Moyer gave up a single to Jason Kendall and double to Mark Kotsay with one out, but set down Eric Chavez and Bobby Kielty on three more pitches, and wound up with 13 strikes in 17 pitches thrown to Wilson.
Ichiro led off the first inning with a hustle double into the right-center gap, but was out between second and third on Yuniesky Betancourt's grounder. Oakland starter Kirk Saarloos walked Raul Ibanez and Riche Sexson and Adrian Beltre got a run home with a bouncer to third.
Meantime, Moyer rolled on. After giving up the two hits in the first and having Yorvit Torrealba replace Wilson, he set down 20 of the next 24 batters.
Wilson left innings before to the stadium message board flashing: "Thanks For The Memories."
But bright light as that was, no one said better than the one sign, held aloft by a fan, that read: "We'll miss you, Iron Dan."
Ichiro erased what little concern there may have been that he would not reach 200 hits with a double and a single in his first two at-bats, his 199th and 200th hits of the season. He added two more hits to finish 4 for 5 on the night.
With his achievement the Mariner All-Star outfielder became only the sixth player in major-league history to collect 200 or more hits in five straight seasons. Wee Willie Keller did it eight straight, 1894-1901; Wade Boggs seven, 1983-89; Chuck Klein (1929-33), Al Simmons (1929-33) and Charlie Gehringer (1933-37) each did it five times.
Bob Finnigan: 206-464-8276 or email@example.com
|Kings of swings|
|Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki is the sixth MLB player with 200 hits in five consecutive seasons:|
|*With 2 games remaining|