Is curse of sea god sinking Mariners?
Thursday, May 12, 2005
JOHN HUNT, The Oregonian
SEATTLE -- Curses, curses.
Last year saw the Boston Red Sox lift the curse of the Bambino, while the Billy Goat still tramped over the fortunes of the Chicago Cubs.
But some believe in another curse, one that could be just as strong, one that can't be washed away by a Pacific Northwest winter -- only by the sea god himself.
"I hope it doesn't last as long as the Billy Goat," said Seattle Mariners assistant general manager Lee Pelekoudas, referring to the 60-year-old curse on the Cubs. "All I know is, I can't remember many good things that happened here with the trident around."
The trident is the three-pronged, pitchfork-looking thing that, turned upside-down, formed the "M" of the Mariners' official logo during the franchise's first 10 seasons, from 1977 through 1986. The Mariners of that era wore double-knits and sans-a-belts and never won more than 76 games in a season.
In Greek mythology, the trident is the weapon of Poseidon, a symbol of good luck for boaters seeking to appease the sea god. But turned upside-down, well, many believe the luck runs right on out.
"The upside-down trident is bad luck. It's like a horseshoe upside-down," said Rick Sweet, the former Portland Beavers manager who played for the Mariners in 1982-83 and admitted that the "trident curse" was something he was "definitely aware of" in his Seattle days.
So what does the trident have to do with the current Mariners team, which has lost 10 of its past 11 games and is mired in a somewhat mysterious hitting funk?
The current Mariners sport the "nautical compass rose," and nowhere on the uniform is there a trident or anything that could be considered offensive to Poseidon.
The answer can be found in the Mariners team stores and on the caps of retro-styled fans throughout Safeco Field. The upside-down trident has returned.
The Safeco Field store began selling the retro caps at the end of the 2002 season, said store manager Craig Geffrey, and the selection expanded greatly in 2004.
In 2002, the Mariners were 69-42 and leading the American League West on Aug. 3. In the final eight weeks of the season, they went 24-27 and finished 10 games behind the Oakland Athletics. And nobody in Seattle needs to be reminded of what happened in 2004.
Then the Mariners committed $114 million this past offseason to free agents Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson to improve the offense that ranked last in the AL in home runs. No luck. They rank next to last in 2005.
"It just seems like whenever (the trident) shows up in abundance, nothing good happens," Pelekoudas said.
And having old tridents around could be worse luck than never having done away with them in the first place. As many mariners will attest, renaming a ship without removing every trace of its previous identity is bad luck. Boaters conduct elaborate ceremonies to purge the old name from the Ledger of the Deep and introduce the new name to Poseidon.
"I believe in the baseball gods, and I don't mess with anybody's gods," Sweet said. "Because who knows which gods really do have power and which gods don't? That's why I don't mess with the baseball gods."
George Argyros, who owned the Mariners in 1981-89, never was comfortable with the upside-down trident, and it was under his watch that the Mariners ditched the trident and switched to the gold "S" caps in 1987.
"I wish they had done that sooner so I could have been a part of it," Sweet said.
In 1993, the Mariners adopted the nautical compass rose and the colors of blue, silver and green. In their worst season since -- not counting 2004 or the strike season of 1994 -- the Mariners won 76 games, and they made the playoffs four times.
During one of those playoff appearances, the 2001 AL division series, the Mariners were playing Cleveland at Safeco Field when Pelekoudas noticed a banner being unfurled on the facing of the second deck in left field. It displayed the old trident logo.
Pelekoudas called his stadium operations people and had them remove the banner right away. The Mariners won and advanced to the championship series.
"I was afraid if that stayed there the rest of the game, we would have lost," Pelekoudas said. "We had it removed, and good things happened."
Removing the popular trident merchandise from the team stores is not an option, so how can the Mariners reverse this curse -- if it really exists? Sweet suggested a new twist on the old rally cap.
"I suppose if you turned (a retro cap) inside-out and upside-down and put it on your head, it would be good luck," he said.
Turning an upside-down trident right-side-up might just appease the sea god and create another bit of retro style:
John Hunt: 503-294-7643; mailto:email@example.com
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