The Seattle Pilots in baseball history

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the only season in which the Seattle Pilots graced major league baseball. “Graced” is probably a stretch. They finished last in the American League West with a record of 64-98.

The Pilots punched above their weight in the notoriety department though, thanks to Jim Bouton’s tell-all book Ball Four. The book chronicled the 1969 season in which Bouton pitched for Seattle until being traded to Houston late in the year for Dooley Womack. Bouton was one of 25 pitchers to appear for the Pilots, an expansion team, in 1969.

Today, the Seattle Mariners held Seattle Pilots day. The team dressed in Pilots’ uniforms, as did even the ball girls. The Mariners did all they could to recreate the atmosphere of 1969 — e.g. with music and old-fashioned lettering on the scoreboard.

The Baltimore Orioles were in town. Back in 1969, they were hands down the best team in the American League. Now, they are the worst. However, as if on cue, they came to life against the “Pilots,” snapping a ten game losing streak.

Jim Palmer was in the house today doing color work on the Orioles’ television cast of the game. Palmer faced the Pilots three times. He went 2-0, pitching 27 innings and allowing six runs on 18 hits. Information on the number of times he told his outfielders to re-position themselves was not available.

I’m impressed with the Seattle Mariners marketing and promotion department. Yesterday was Lou Piniella day at the ballpark. I understand that, among other promotions, the team handed out Hawaiian Lou-au shirts. Unfortunately, Lou himself, now age 75, did not attend. I hope he’s doing okay.

Despite being a Yankee for much of his career, Piniella was one of my favorite players. He’s also an underrated manager, I think.

Pinella’s teams won six division titles in 23 years at the helm and he was named manager of the year three times. His 2001 Mariners won 116 games.

Eight times, Piniella’s teams won 90 games or more, and he accomplished this with four of the five teams he managed — the Yankees, Cincinnati, Seattle, and the Cubs. Only in his native Tampa did Pinella fail to produce a winner, but even there the team’s performance picked up after he took over. Piniella was also a world class arguer with umpires.

Appropriately, Seattle won on Lou Piniella night and lost on Seattle Pilots day. The fans, I imagine, enjoyed both occasions.

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