SEATTLE — A decade has passed since the Seattle Mariners cut the ribbon on a strange piece of architecture known as the Kingdome. At the time, the town's civic leaders thought they were opening a major league baseball facility.
Obviously, the city of Seattle had no idea what it was getting into.
Part obstacle course, part pinball machine and part fun house, the Kingdome was the site of another baseball bloopers film festival during the Mariners' 15-4 victory over the Angels Thursday night.
They do play baseball here. At least, that's the intention. But what comes out of the Kingdome nightly is usually some mutant strain of the grand old game.
Abner Doubleday's original rules never took into account such hazards as:
--Public address speakers. Ken Phelps, the Seattle designated hitter, lost a mammoth three-run home run in the first inning when his towering drive struck a overhanging speaker and then bounced foul.
--Roof streamers. Jim Presley, the Mariners' third baseman, had to scramble to the pitcher's mound and then to second base to glove an infield pop fly that got tangled in the roof's red-white-and-blue hanging streamers, turning a routine out into a carnival ride.
--White baseballs flying against the background of a white roof. That's how Devon White, the Angels' slick-fielding center fielder, let another routine fly ball get away in the sixth inning. Phelps also hit this one, which White completely lost sight of, allowing it to bound over his head for a triple.
There were also doubles off the left-field wall that ricocheted so hard, the carom carried back to the infield (by Phelps), singles that ended three Seattle innings and two-run home runs by Presley and Alvin Davis--both of which avoided the overhead speakers.
The action started early and never let up as the Angels began a seven-game trip with one of their sloppiest losses of the season. As Angel Manager Gene Mauch called it, "This is the most forgettable game I can remember."
Angel starter Willie Fraser (7-8) opened the game by loading the bases before getting an out. He walked John Moses, surrendered a single to Phil Bradley and walked Scott Bradley.
After striking out Alvin Davis, Fraser unleashed a wild pitch, bringing Moses home with Seattle's first run.
Then, after striking out Presley, Fraser grooved a 1-1 pitch to Phelps. And Phelps hit it about as hard as a man can hit a baseball. The ball was headed for the hinterland of the Kingdome--way out where the upper-deck seats meet the roof--when it struck a suspended speaker hanging just inside the right-field foul pole.
A sure home run caromed off the speaker so hard that the ball landed in foul territory. And just like that, Phelps lost a tape-measure job and gained a strike on the count.
According to the ground rules of the Kingdome, " . . . a batted ball hitting any suspended object, such as speakers, wires, streamers, etc., in fair territory shall be judged fair or foul in relation to where it lands or is touched by a fielder." So, when Phelps' shot ricocheted into foul ground, a 4-0 Mariner lead instantly reverted to 1-0, and Phelps was left with a 1-2 count.
Two pitches later, Phelps lined out to center field and Fraser had escaped, trailing by just a run.
"This kind of thing should not happen," Phelps said. "It should not happen in the Kingdome, it should not happen in any ballpark.
"I hit it good. I knew it was gone, I knew it was fair. But where it would've landed, nobody will know."
Phelps became the first man to bounce a ball off the right-field speaker. In 1980, Bob Watson of the New York Yankees hit two off the center-field speaker. After that, the Mariners decided to raise the speakers from 102 feet above the playing surface to 132 feet.
Phelps thinks they didn't go far enough.
"If they have to raise them to the roof or take them down, they should do it," Phelps said. "They should never come into play in a big league baseball game."
Phelps would gain some satisfaction later, doubling home two runs in the fifth inning and tripling home another when White lost his fly ball in the roof or the lights.
In between the first and sixth innings, there were thrills and spills galore.
Along the way, Seattle scored a season-high 15 runs, amassed 17 hits and scored in every inning except the seventh.
There would have been more numbers on the board if the Angels had not thrown out two Mariners at the plate, another at third base and two attempting to steal second. Three of Seattle's first four innings ended on singles.
--Second inning. After Harold Reynolds' two-out triple off the right-field wall, Moses singled to center . . . and then was caught stealing by Angel catcher Bob Boone.
--Third inning. Following a two-run home run by Presley and a two-out double off the left-field wall by Phelps, Mike Kingery singled to left. Phelps tried to score from second base but was nailed at the plate by the relay of left fielder Brian Downing.