Seattle Mariners: Remembering the 1997 M’s sluggers

Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Cruz Jr., Jay Buhner, Seattle Mariners. Mandatory Credit: Tomasso Derosa /Allsport
Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Cruz Jr., Jay Buhner, Seattle Mariners. Mandatory Credit: Tomasso Derosa /Allsport /

Saturday, the Seattle Mariners MLB record for home runs in a season, which stood for 21 seasons, was broken by the New York Yankees. It’s a good time to look back at the power of the 1997 Mariners.

Saturday Night Gleyber Torres hit a monumental home rum for baseball’s most storied franchise. Torres hit the New York Yankees 265th home run of the season to beat the Major League record set by the 1997 Seattle Mariners. It’s somewhat ironic that the team with legends such as Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, not to mention current sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge broke the record on a dinger by a rookie second baseman.

Let’s take a look back at the former record holders, the 1997 Seattle Mariners.

Setting the table

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1996 the Major League home run record was 240 home runs set by the 1961 Mantle and Rodger Maris. The Mariners were one of three American League teams to best that mark in 1996. They hit 246 home runs, unfortunately, the Baltimore Orioles, led by Brady Anderson‘s career year of 50 four-baggers, hit 257. No record for the M’s but it was the precursor to another long ball explosion the following year.

My experience

It was my second year living in the Pacific Northwest and I was just starting to get into the Mariners. I spent my life as a Mets fan and though I never gave them up, it wasn’t easy to follow them in the pre-high-speed internet era. Rick Rizzs and the late, great Dave Niehaus got me past my bias. That 1997 summer was filled with lots of “goodbye baseball” and “fly away” calls.

The Stars

The Mariners were led by Ken Griffey Jr.‘s 56 home runs. He also hit .304 with 148 runs batted in. Jay Buhner hit 40 homers for the third straight season. He was a feared slugger and a champion of the community. In 1997, first baseman Paul Sorrento had a career season, breaking the 30 home run mark with 31.

Edgar Martinez had an Edgar Martinez-esque year. The should be Hall of Famer had a stat line of .330/.456/.554, oh and he put 28 balls over the fence. Alex Rodriguez, who hit 696 career long balls and won the A.L. home run crown five times, had his lowest total between 1996-2010. 23 dingers were all A-Rod could muster in 1997, good for fifth on the team.

The Supporting Cast

The big five had 178 of the M’s 265 home runs, so they had some help. Outfielder Jose Cruz only had 198 at-bats, but still popped 12 balls out of the park. Dan Wilson hit 15 while second baseman Joey Cora had a career-high 11 homers. The other double-digit dinger player was Russ Davis who had the first of three straight 20 home run seasons in 1997.

Next. The Mariners September 2018 Mailbag. dark

The 1997 Mariners had balance throughout their lineup. Opposing pitchers didn’t get many breaks or easy outs.