Former Mariners left fielder Greg Briley looks back to 1991
(As told to Jim Street)
Greg (Pee Wee) Briley spent five of his six Major League seasons with the Mariners being used primarily on a platoon basis against right-handed pitchers. One of the smallest (5-foot-9) players in franchise history, Briley hit a career-high 13 home runs in 1989. He remains one of only four players since 1986 to start in left field on Opening Day in back-to-back seasons (1989-90). Although Briley hit just two home runs in 1991, the one against the Yankees on May 5, 1991 at the Kingdome ended his Most Memorable Game – in the 16th inning. Briley recalled his Most Memorable Game with the Mariners.
We played the Yankees on a Sunday afternoon in the third game of a four-game series. It was kind of a wild game to begin with and ended up being the longest game ever played at the Kingdome, something like 5 ½ hours. It was the longest game I ever played in by far and not too many fans were there when it ended.
Back then, anytime we played the Yankees it was a big deal for us and it was especially big for me because I grew up in North Carolina as a Yankees fan. I remember watching their games on TV and seeing Reggie Jackson and those guys play. To be on the same field as Don Mattingly and Jesse Barfield was a huge thrill for me.
For me to even play in the Major Leagues was, I thought, a great accomplishment. I think I over-achieved, to be honest with you. The Mariners drafted me (in the first round) of the (1986) secondary phase of the draft, which was held in January for Junior College players.
I advanced fast enough to be called up two years later in late June. I didn’t play much that year (1988), but had a good spring, made the club and started the season as the left fielder – alongside another rookie, Ken Griffey Jr.
I ended up hitting about .275 that season and made the American League’s All-Rookie team. I think that was my best overall year, but the game I remember the most came a few years later against the Yankees.
That game stands out for several reasons including how long it took to play. It seemed like it would never end. It was tied after nine innings and I think both teams scored a run in the 12th. After going something like 0-for-6, I thought I had the game-winning hit in the 14th inning.
I believe there was one out at the time and (catcher) Matt Sinatro was on third base. I hit a line drive to right field and Jesse Barfield, who had a great arm, got a good jump on the ball. (Sinatro) started to break for home plate, but thought Barfield might make the catch, so he went back to the base to tag up. He was caught between a rock and a hard place, really.
The ball landed in front of Barfield, but he short-hopped it, Matt tagged and tried to score. He was thrown out at the plate. Instead of a game-winning single, it was just a single for me and the game kept going, and going. . .
By the time I came to bat again, in the 16th inning, most of the fans left the Kingdome after (Kevin) Maas hit a home run in the top of the inning off Bill Krueger. With a runner (Omar Vizquel) on second base, I came to bat against Rich Monteleone, who had been a teammate of mine in Seattle. I think the count went to 1-and-2.
He threw me a fastball, middle in – my happy zone – and I hit it over the wall in right field for a two-run, walk-off home run. I wasn’t much of a breaking-ball hitter in my career, so getting a fastball in that situation was good for me. I sure wasn’t trying to hit a home run. The first thing I thought when the ball went into the seats was “This game is finally over.”
It was the first, and only, walk-off home run I ever hit. That fact that it was against the Yankees made it really special. It’s something I’ll always remember. It also was my second, and final, home run of the season. But it gives me something to brag about.
Jim Street covered the Mariners for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1986-98 and MLB.com from 2001-2010. This story previously appeared in Mariners Magazine.