When we say “Safeco Field is a beautiful ballpark” we don’t mean “Wow, that’s some emerald-y grass out there.” We mean that the city of Seattle hired dozens of top artists to help create it. We already showed the Nick Cage Easter Egg hidden in the main concourse level but now let’s take a look at five can’t miss pieces at Safeco.
“The Defining Moment” freezes the 1995 ALDS in larger-than-life stainless steel. You can say that good art captures an important second, and great art captures an important tenth of a second. After Edgar Martinez lined the series-winning double, Ken Griffey Jr. circled three bases in about twelve giant strides and parachuted into home plate ahead of the throw … in the tenth of a second below, Griffey does not know where the throw is, but Bob Wolcott (directly behind him) does. Every sports fan knows about that 0.0001 of a second in which you first realize that the ball is going to go over the fence. The Mariners hadn’t beaten the Yankees yet, but Wolcott realized that they would.
In August of 1995, the city of Seattle had voted down its last chance at a stadium proposal. Go Mariners! and take the Seahawks with you. The Mariners were as good as sold, on their way to Tampa Bay. Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction Dept: the Mariners charged from -13.0 games behind to catch the Angels in just 46 games. Caught up in the frenzy, not least, were the politicians. They finagled a stadium proposal, voted to fund Safeco, and the Mariners remained in Seattle. Yep, an MLB team saved its own off-the-field life with a month’s worth of on-the-field Must Wins. For once, Charlie “Wild Thing” Sheen was nowhere near the scene of the crime, because in his place were Norm-Norm Charlton, Sweet Lou and a designated hitter who aw-shucks’ed his way to a .356 average with 52 doubles, 29 homers and 116 walks. Without Edgar, the 1995 Mariners were nowhere near the playoffs, the history books, or the city of Seattle.
It might have seemed that way in 1999, but Safeco didn’t actually drop out of a C-130 airplane onto the corner of 1st Avenue and Edgar Martinez Way. The entryway of Safeco is itself a mammoth work of art. Overhead rages The Tempest, a 1,000-bat chandelier that represents a century’s worth of ballplayers who seem to haunt the front gate reminding us of their own place in the development of Seattle baseball. Far below the chandelier, the entry floor is of ocean blue-green, the steps up are a sand-beige climb to the mesa of baseball glory in Seattle.
Once you crest at the concourse level, you step out onto nautical compass theme in which the 1999 Seattle Mariners players sign their thanks to the bat chandelier behind them. The playing field then blossoms out in front of you.
Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus is as revered in Seattle as Vin Scully is in Los Angeles or Harry Caray is in Chicago. His smoky, fatherly voice filled Seattle’s ears with the sounds and emotions of the game for 34 years. Flipping on a game in the fourth inning, you knew within three sentences whether the Mariners were getting pummeled again. You could tell in his voice how frustrated he was with another ball four, and how thrilled he was by a Mariner home run. The historic 1995 run was simply electrified by Niehaus’ descriptions, and his incredible call of Edgar’s 1995 double still makes grown men cry. Steve, a Yankee fan, bears no grudges. The Yanks have moved on from 1995 a little bit.
There are 43 killer pieces of art at Safeco, but not all are heavy. “The Quilts” are a bit of whimsy, made from recycled license plates that are stitched together with red wire similar to baseball stitching. Seattle is crazy about the environment and recycling, so here the artwork reflects the attitude of the locals. In the American League quilt, the dazzling riot of colors lets you know that the fabric of the league is made up of all teams equally. Chuck Armstrong used to remind George Steinbrenner, “George, the Yankees don’t sell out their stadium for intrasquad games.” George never did sign off on revenue sharing, though.
Located out in the center field concourse, The Crowd is a 24-foot-long porcelain casting of the fans who sit out in the cheaps. It’s got high gloss and higher color palettes. You get it? Life in the cheaps is every bit as colorful as life in the skyboxes. Stephen, John, Anthony and Jeff smacked down on a game of “Identify The Oldtimer” for about ten minutes — The Crowd is layered with dozens of images of unnamed pre-1970 stars.
Safeco’s got this kind of thing around every corner. That’s five of ’em. If you want five more, check the companion articles at Seattle Sports Insider. If you want the rest of ’em, go score your own bucket list ballpark tour. There are worse ways to spend a summer.