Fair and Foul

New Mariners history bats at least .250.

VETERAN SEATTLE Post-Intelligencer sportswriter Art Thiel's new book, Out of Left Field: How the Mariners Made Baseball Fly in Seattle (Sasquatch Books, $22.95), is a fine narrative of the determining events in Mariners history, written with insight gleaned from excellent inside sourcing. It's at its best in straight descriptions and when the participants tell their stories, and at its weakest when Thiel's clunky P-I writing stops the story's flow. Too frequently, he tosses out weird analogies that land in the dirt. Field contains much that will be new information to even the most avid Mariners fan. Thiel's chapter on how local ownership wrested control of the franchise from Jeff Smulyan in 1992 is an amazing, tense read that offers a rare glimpse into the back rooms of Major League Baseball. Then-Sen. Slade Gorton is shown as first a heroas he assembles the prospective local owners, ensuring the deal gets doneand later as the team's strongman in its quest for a controversial stadium subsidized by $340 million in taxpayer dollars. (He even goes so far as to call public officials on their cell phones during hearings to get them to change their positions on team demands.) Thiel offers new insight into the mysterious majority owner of the Mariners, Hiroshi Yamauchi, as well as the departures of Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. and how Ichiro came to be a Mariner. The story of Safeco Field's rushed planning and massive cost overruns ($100 million and still counting) is particularly insightful and well researched and stands out as a cautionary tale. It's easy to figure out who Thiel's best sources werethey get sympathetic treatmentwhile others like Gorton are eligible for even-handed criticism. While he's done his journalistic homework, his final analysis is inconsistent: He's able to see that publicly funded baseball stadiums aren't economic boons, but he also regurgitates whopping Bud Selig lies like, "As many as two-thirds of the teams began spring training without even a remote shot at the championship." The 26-year history of the Mariners' improbable rise is so good that the book's shortcomings are allowable. Field is worth the buy for any serious Mariners fan. Art Thiel will appear at Third Place Books (17171 Bothell Way N.E., 206-366-3333), 6 p.m. Sat., Nov. 29; and at University Book Store (4326 University Way N.E., 206-634-3400), 7 p.m. Tues., Dec. 2. info@seattleweekly.com

 
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