Former Mariners pitcher Erik Hanson turns the clock back to 1988.
(As told to Jim Street)
A second-round draft selection out of Wake Forest University in June 1986, the right-handed starter needed slightly more than two years to reach the Major Leagues. He spent the first six years of his 11-year big-league career with the Mariners, compiling a 56-54 record and 3.69 ERA in 145 games. Hanson, who lives in Sammamish and is one of the top amateur golfers in the Northwest, led the team with 18 wins in 1990, but the game he considers the most memorable came on Sept. 10, 1988 in Milwaukee.
When it comes to most memorable games, I can start with something that will always be memorable for a pitcher and that would be his first Major League win. My first win came in my second start after being promoted from Tacoma in August.
I got off to a terrible start in ’88 and really struggled the first month and a half of the season but our pitching coach, Dan Warthen, really turned me around. I threw a no-hitter and went 12-2 in my last 14 minor league starts. I was ready to be at the next level, but when I got there, I thought, ‘Man, this is a lot different.’ There was a five-fold difference between Double-A and Triple-A. I can’t even explain the difference it was so big.
My first Major League start was against Frank Viola and the Twins at the Metrodome. He won the Cy Young Award that year. We locked up in a great pitching duel — 0-0 going into the eighth inning before I gave up two unearned runs and lost, 2-0. He got his 21st win of the season and I got the first loss of my career.
Frank and I had a pretty good relationship because we had the same agent and after that game, we ended up being closer friends. We ended up playing with each for a year, his last year, in Toronto.
My next start was in Milwaukee, on a Saturday night, before a huge crowd (48,973). Growing up in New Jersey as a huge Yankees fan, I had been to some World Series games as a kid so had seen big crowds. But I never had been on the mound in front of that many people.
The Brewers were in a pennant race and they had an absolute stacked lineup. We were going over the scouting report for all their hitters before the game and I realized the task ahead for me. I was about to face a lineup that included (future Hall of Famers) Paul Molitor and Robin Yount, Jim Gantner, Jeffrey Leonard, Gary Sheffield and a guy I couldn’t get out in college or the Minor Leagues. That would be B.J. Surhoff.
I am thinking ‘this is amazing.’ The one guy I can’t get out is near the bottom of the lineup. I couldn’t get him out in college, when I played for Wake Forest and he was at North Carolina. Now, I am making my second start in the Major Leagues and there he is again.
I pitched 7 1/3 innings, gave up three hits, and we won the game, 1-0, on Darnell Coles’ two-out single that scored Mickey Brantley in the third inning. Mike Schooler got the save and I got my first big-league win. Oh yes, B.J. went 0-for-4.
But that was just one reason the game is so memorable.
An announcement was at the end of the game that after a fireworks show the fans would be part of a movie called “Major League” which was being filmed there. That was the scene where Charlie Sheen walked out onto the field and to the mound.
After we ate, I went back out and watched them film that scene. It was a fairly low-budget movie and it was a one-take deal. The thing is, in the movie, it was supposed to take place in Cleveland. But the stadium there wasn’t available so they moved that scene to Milwaukee. They had to change all the banners at County Stadium and make it look like Cleveland. There was a little bit of a delay.
It was a fairly low-budget movie, which became an iconic movie. At the time, I didn’t really know what it was all about. Then, when it came out the next year, I watched it. I’m sitting there in the theatre when that scene came up and it was like, ‘hey, wait a minute, I pitched that night.’ It just added to a very memorable night.
(Jim Street covered the Mariners for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1986-98 and MLB.com from 2001-2010. This article first appeared in Mariners Magazine.)