Beyond Golf — 22 August 2012 by Jim Street
A colorful tribute fit for a King

Talk about a “perfect” promotion.

On Tuesday night, six days after Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez raised his arms to celebrate the first perfect game in franchise history, more than 39,000 fans came to pay tribute to the rare feat.

It was a colorful tribute, shall we say.

As every Mariners fan knows, every time Felix pitches at Safeco Field, there is an area in the left field corner dubbed “King’s Court”. Nearly 800 fans, dressed in bright yellow T-shirts and matching “K” cards, have a rockin’ good time.

On this night, however, “King’s Court” became “Supreme Court”. A much larger crowd than had been expected before Felix pitched the game of his life, attended the middle game of a three-game series against the Indians.  Prior to the perfecto, slightly less than 12,000 tickets had been purchased for the game.

But Felix’s gem on Wednesday became an instant crowd producer for his next start and the Mariners’ marketing department was somehow able to get 34,000 (Felix’s number is 34) T-shirts produced in about four days.

Fans were hoping for another dose of perfection from Felix

Well done.

It was difficult to find anyone in the place on Tuesday night not wearing a yellow T-shirt and holding one of the “K” cards. The atmosphere was unlike anything I have seen during a regular season when the team was not contending for a playoff berth.

The “King’s Court” has been in session for more than a year now and it received plenty of TV exposure during the course of Felix’s perfecto against the visiting Rays. Compared to that historic sunny afternoon, the Court had a lot of company on this mostly cloudy evening.

Even Fredy Montero of the MSL Sounders got into the act.

The ceremonial first-pitch thrower wore a Mariners jersey for the toss and then removed it, displaying his own “King of Perfection” T-shirt.

As Montero departed, the King entered from the left field bullpen. The fans stood and cheered loudly as Felix sauntered in the from ‘pen, accompanied by pitching coach Carl Willis and catcher John Jaso

Finally, Felix took off his cap and waved to the crowd.

“It was unbelievable,” Felix said later. “I got chills.”

But drama didn’t wear yellow on this night.

Chants of “Let’s Go Felix!” began before the first pitch – a strike to Jason Kipnis. Strike two elicited louder cheers. But the third pitch of the game was hit sharply on the ground, past a diving first baseman Justin Smoak for a single into right field.

Dang.

There would be no no-no – or perfecto – and Felix would have to settle for a streak of 32 consecutive batters retired – the 27 Rays last Wednesday and five Angels in his previous start. It was the second-longest streak in franchise history, a record (33) still held by right-hander John Montaguer in 1977. Felix also has the 13th longest in MLB history.

The staff ace departed to a standing ovation with two outs in the eighth inning, having allowed seven hits and one earned run, that coming on a bad-hop single in the seventh inning, turning a potential inning-ending DP into a run-scoring single.

His walkoff included a cap-waving salute to fans wearing yellow. It was a 360-degree salute.

I asked him after the game if yellow was his favorite color. He smiled and said, “It is now.”

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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