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Originally published December 28, 2009 at 10:16 PM | Page modified December 29, 2009 at 6:27 AM

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'Refuse to lose' season spawned generation of young Mariners fans

The Mariners were born in 1977, but born again 1995. The memory of the miraculous comeback splits the lives of many fans in the 20s.

Seattle Times sports columnist

It always comes back to 1995.

The year is required merriment for Mariners fans. They can't revisit the joyful memories of their favorite team without referencing 1995 at least a half dozen times during a conversation.

The Mariners were born in 1977 and born again in 1995. That's when baseball turned into more of a religion for the Mariners faithful. That's when the franchise made its first playoff appearance in dramatic fashion, and in doing so, turned the impossible into a myth.

"Refuse to Lose" became the mantra as the Mariners rallied from 13 games behind the California Angels on Aug. 3 and won the American League West in a one-game playoff at the Kingdome. Then, to make the season even sweeter, the Mariners rallied from two opening losses to the New York Yankees in the American League Division playoffs and won the series on Edgar Martinez's franchise-defining double in the 11th inning of Game 5.

The memory of that season splits Josh Bates' life in half. He was 14 in 1995, and he was at the Kingdome — in the left-field bleachers with a clear view of the historic play — with his father for The Double. He remembers his dad lifting him and spinning him around in celebration. It shocked Bates because his dad had a bad back and two bad knees.

"It was so crazy," said Bates, now 28. "I just lost it. I'll never forget how incredible that was."

Larry Burris, a Mariners season ticket holder for all 32 years, remembers "Ed-gar! Ed-gar! Ed-gar!" chants filling up the ferry terminal after that game. He and his wife were headed back to their Bainbridge Island home after the game, and the excitement was unlike anything they'd ever witnessed.

"The noise, it got into your body," Burris said. "It was vibrating like a rock concert."

Fourteen years have passed. Kids like Bates have become adults and created a more excitable clique of fans. The Mariners have been to the playoffs three more times, turned over the roster again and again, changed managers five times and watched Ken Griffey Jr. leave for almost a decade and then return. But 1995 remains as fresh as it was so long ago, timeless, an enduring example of the Mariners — and Seattle sports — at its best.

The remarkable comeback season helped solidify the uncertain future of baseball in Seattle. It transformed the Mariners from irrelevant to a contender. And now, it even has a Web site dedicated to the memory, www.1995mariners.com.

"There's nothing like Seattle when the Mariners are good," Bates said. "I'm telling you, it's really special. We've only been to the playoffs four times, and it took us until 1995 to get there for the first time, but that year helped us forge our identity.

"Now, we're really nuts for our team. We're deceivingly knowledgeable. We're not going to be in your face like Boston or New York fans, but at the same time, you don't have a lot of casual M's fans. We're really, truly into it. And we always know anything is possible because we saw it in 1995."

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer

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