Mariner Moose Newest Twist In `Spacey' Legacy Of Wacky Baseball Promotions

Even before the Mariner Moose ambled out of the woods, before David Letterman invested a penny in the team, the M's had conducted their share of wild and wacky promotions.

On several occasions, it went far beyond that staple of Northwest marketing - the umbrella giveaway.

For example, who could forget the Mariners' funny-nose glasses night in 1982, when the Kingdome was crammed with 37,000 ersatz Marx Brothers and would-be Stooges?

Inspired by a 1981 TV ad featuring outfielder Tom Paciorek wearing funny-nose glasses, the players clowned around in them during warmups and Manager Rene Lachemann even donned a pair to exchange lineup cards at home plate with the Yankees.

Many of the promotions were creative, such as one Jet-City event called the international paper airplane flying contest, which saw an estimated 10,000 takeoffs from the 300 level. The lucky aviator, whose plane landed nearest a new pickup truck parked on the field, won the vehicle.

In 1979, the San Diego Chicken rose to prominence and suddenly the Mariners were besieged by imitators.

``There were people coming out of the walls who wanted to be Mariner mascots,'' said Randy Adamack, senior director of communications. ``We didn't really know how to deal with it.

``We had people walking through our office in costumes. From rabbits to salmon to people doing funny things.''

So the Mariners threw a mascot contest, which produced the Moose's fleeting forerunner, Spacey the Needle. He was an architectural wonder on stilts with a replica of the top of the Space Needle on his head.

The only thing was, a Space Needle had a few built-in limitations as a mascot - mobility being chief among them.

``Being on stilts, there was only so much he could do,'' Adamack said. Spacey entertained at several games and took his retirement.

Other memorable events included Kazoo Night, Willie Horton Bat Night honoring his 300th homer in 1979, the Beach Boys' postgame concert in 1983 and the fun-runs from Northgate down the Interstate 5 express lanes to second base in the Kingdome.

But some of the not-so-successful marketing flourishes are also amusing to recall, especially the ill-fated bullpen tug-boat.

Ostensibly a baby cousin to the newly installed USS Mariner in 1982, it actually was a golf cart in maritime disguise. Commissioned to carry relievers to the mound, it immediately ran aground due to a boycott by the boys in the bullpen.

Its inauspicious christening yielded the first hint of an impending mutiny by the rowdier 1982 Mariners.

During pregame warmups Opening Day, the vehicle was becalmed in the middle of the field after reliever Bill Caudill stole and hid the keys.

In later innings, the first reliever called to board the boat instead avoided it. He navigated over to the mound the old-fashioned way, with the spurned boat trailing sheepishly in his wake.

The pitching staff did invent one popular use for the motorized vessel - target practice. They customarily pelted it with baseballs.

One day that summer, right-hander Larry Andersen hijacked the boat. Yo-ho-ho, he sailed out the loading bay and went whizzing around the outside of the Kingdome, waving merrily at the arriving fans.

The boat sank quietly under the burden of embarrassment before the close of the 1982 season.

One early promotion literally went up in a cloud of smoke on the Fourth of July, 1978.

Despite a trial run, the producers of a highly publicized laser light show made a major misjudgment about the quantity of smoke needed to create their atmospheric effects.

As the air in the Kingdome grew thicker and thicker with slightly malodorous smoke, the fans started pouring out of the Dome by the thousands. Even the handful who stuck it out would go unrewarded; the visibility grew so bad the lasers couldn't pierce the gloom.

It was the kind of off-beat happening that might have appealed to Letterman's sense of humor - at least before he became a baseball baron. Hey, what self-respecting fan possibly could forget Mariner oxygen-mask night?