Thursday, January 07, 2016
He was an exceptional ballplayer (duh!), had an infectious presence, was terrific with kids (he’s still friends with my son, Matt), and the only flaw I can think of is he was terrible at giving hot foots. Jesus, he set my shoe on fire.
During my era broadcasting for the Seattle Mariners we had a warm relationship built on mutual respect and merciless teasing. On radio broadcasts I used to relieve Dave Niehaus and do the play-by-play for the third, sixth, and seventh innings. Early in my first season I noted that the Mariners never scored in the third. I began calling it the “Third inning of death” on the air. One day during batting practice Junior gave me shit about that. I said, “Then score some runs and I won’t say it.” He vowed they would score six runs in the third inning that night, but if they did, I had to shave my head. I of course agreed but got Ken to record on-air promos for it.
That night, wouldn’t you know, the M’s got the first two men on. Junior stuck his head out of the dugout, pointed to me, and mimed shaving someone’s head. The next batter struck out, followed by a guy hitting into a double-play. No runs. He ran out to his position shaking his fist at me. But with a huge smile on his face. And it made for great radio for the listeners.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM