Jay Buhner

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Jay Campbell Buhner
(Bone)

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Biographical Information[edit]

"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU TRADE JAY BUHNER FOR?!?!?!?! HE HAD 30 HOME RUNS AND OVER 100 RBI LAST YEAR!!! HE'S GOT A ROCKET FOR AN ARM... YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU'RE DOING!!!" - Frank Costanza [Jerry Stiller], with the question on everyone's minds for George Steinbrenner [Larry David], from "The Caddy" episode of Seinfeld, originally airing January 26, 1996

Jay Buhner, 1999-9093.jpg

One of the top sluggers in Seattle Mariners history, Jay Buhner was a key cog in a potent middle of the lineup during the team's mid-1990s heyday, along with a couple of Hall of Famers, in Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez, and All-Star Alex Rodriguez.

But before he ascended to stardom in Seattle, Jay was originally property of... the Pittsburgh Pirates, signing with them after being taken in the secondary phase of the January 1984 amateur draft. He led the NYPL that summer with 58 RBI, batting .323 with 9 home runs. As a reward, he was a throw-in to the New York Yankees' deal dumping Steve Kemp and Tim Foli onto the Bucs, with Dale Berra and Alfonso Pulido headed to the Bronx. Jay suffered a broken arm in spring training in 1986 and only played 36 games that year. In 1987, he led the International League with 31 home runs, hitting .279 with 85 RBI and 83 runs scored. He got two fleeting looks with the Yankees, his lone pinstripes highlight a 5 RBI day with a grand slam off the Baltimore Orioles reliever Doug Sisk on June 11, 1988. Believing themselves in the thick of the hunt for the AL East title that year, the Yankees decided they were one veteran bat away from clinching the deal. And so, on July 21st, they packaged Buhner with Rick Balabon (never reached the bigs) and Troy Evers (the player to be named later, who also never reached the bigs) to Seattle in a deal to acquire good on-base man Ken Phelps. Phelps got on base, but only lasted parts of two seasons in the Bronx...

...And Buhner gradually became a big-time power threat out west. It was not immediate, though. In 1989, he missed a month because of sprained wrist ligaments, and he did not see a full season's worth of work until 1991, slugging an impressive .498 with 27 bombs in 406 at bats. He finished second in the American League with 14 outfield assists in 1992, displaying his cannon of an arm. He hit for the cycle on June 23, 1993 in a 14-inning victory over the Oakland Athletics, en route to his breakout season (.272/.379/.476, 27 homers, 98 RBI, 90 runs scored and 100 walks). In 1995, he began a stretch of three consecutive 40-home run seasons, becoming the tenth player in MLB history with such a streak. Jay batted .262/.343/.566 with the 40 bombs and 121 RBI in the regular season, then dominated the ALDS (.458/.500/.625 against the Yankees) and ALCS (.304/.360/.783 with 3 homers against the Cleveland Indians), pitching in to the postseason that saved baseball in Seattle, even if the Mariners did not win the World Series. He peaked with 44 bombs in his lone All-Star campaign of 1996, driving in 123 runs and scoring a personal best 107. On September 21st of that year, he became the seventh player to hit a home run into the upper deck in left field at the Kingdome (not to be outdone, the following night, Mark McGwire did it twice in the same inning, the second being a grand slam). In 1997, he drew 119 walks en route to batting .243/.383/.506 with 40 more home runs, 109 RBI and 104 runs scored.

Jay slowed down due to injuries in 1998, never playing another full season. He retired following the Mariners' 116-win season of 2001, finishing his career with a .254/.359/.494 batting line, 310 home runs and 965 RBI. His at-bat music, "Bad To The Bone" by George Thorogood and The Destroyers, would fire up a few more times at the M's new home, Safeco Field. In 2004, he was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame. His uniform number, 19, has not been issued since he hung up his spikes.

Between 1994 and 1999 and in 2001, the M's sponsored "Buhner Buzz-cut Night". Fans who shaved their heads or were already bald would receive free admission and a t-shirt proclaiming "Take me out to the Bald Game" or "Bald is Buhnerful". Buhner would often shave a few heads himself. According to this site, 23,302 free admissions were given, including 298 women.

After retiring, he stayed with the M's as a broadcaster for a few years, then worked as a roving instructor in their minor league system. His brother, Shawn, played minor league ball as a designated hitter/first baseman. His son, Gunnar, played briefly in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 1988 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • AL All-Star (1996)
  • AL Gold Glove Winner (1996)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 8 (1991-1997 & 2000)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1995-1997)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1995-1997)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 3 (1995-1997)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1996 & 1997)

Related Sites[edit]