07/27/12 7:00 PM ET
Johnson, Wilson to join Mariners' Hall Saturday
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
The ceremony will be broadcast live on Mariners.com at 12:30 p.m., leading up to the 1:10 p.m. game.
The two were honored at a sold-out luncheon Friday at Safeco Field, which was attended by previous inductees Alvin Davis and Edgar Martinez, as well as Marilyn Niehaus, the wife of former Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus. Jay Buhner, the other Mariners Hall of Famer, was in Spokane, Wash., coaching his son's baseball team on Friday, but will be part of Saturday's ceremony.
Johnson and Wilson were integral parts of the Mariners' breakthrough season in 1995, a point noted by Davis when he spoke at Friday's luncheon.
"I don't know if we'd be having this day and this ceremony in this facility if not for the season you guys had in '95," said Davis, dubbed "Mr. Mariner" by Niehaus.
Johnson racked up 130 of his 303 career wins while with the Mariners, and Wilson was catching most of those. The Mariners' winning percentage when the two were on the field together was .721.
Johnson was one of the most feared pitchers in Major League history, a point reinforced in a video message from former Phillies standout John Kruk. Kruk thanked the Big Unit for letting him live during their famous at-bat in the 1993 All-Star Game, when Johnson sailed his first pitch over Kruk's head.
Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry was also among those on the video tribute: "I just wish I'd had his stuff for one game."
Former Mariners teammate Mike Blowers spoke at the lunch and told how nervous he was to face Johnson for the first time after leaving Seattle, remembering how Johnson had jokingly told him for years that Johnson would drill him because of a fluke single Blowers had gotten off him while with the Yankees early in his career.
Wilson, on the flip side, was far less intimidating.
"When he first came to Seattle in that trade from the Reds, we thought they'd thrown in a batboy," Ken Griffey Jr. said via video message.
But as Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs noted, "I don't know if there has ever been a man who took the field with more heart and conviction."
Johnson tipped his cap to Wilson as well.
"Dan had a way of making tough situations easier to get through," said Johnson. "He was a voice of reason. I wasn't always the most approachable person, but Dan had a lot of trust in me and I reciprocated. He was one of the best catchers I've ever thrown to.
"But with Dan, it's not just the player I respect, but the person off the field."
While Johnson's career and numbers speak for themselves, and he'll be headed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown when he becomes eligible on the 2015 ballot, Wilson's contributions were more subtle. He was the "Capitan," as noted by former teammate Mike Cameron, and the backbone of the Mariners' four playoff teams between 1995 and 2001.
Wilson said longtime teammate and still-best friend Rich Amaral used to talk about surfing with him, and he said the same lesson applied to his baseball career as well.
"Richie always said you've got to be patient and wait for the right wave," Wilson said. "And what a wave I caught here in Seattle. The reason I'm here today is because of the chance to be with all the great players that I played with over those years."
One of those was Johnson, and the big man spoke at length in a press gathering later in the day about his time in Seattle, how much he grew up in his time in the Northwest and what that meant to him.
"When I got traded from Montreal, Seattle didn't have much of a baseball history, and I wasn't much of a pitcher yet either," he said. "So it was a good fit. That's why Seattle is so important to my career. The fans here saw the rough around the edges."
And eventually, they saw the wild young flamethrower grow into one of baseball's all-time greats.
The photo of Wilson jumping into Johnson's arms after winning the one-game playoff with the Angels to get into the 1995 postseason remains one of the indelible images in franchise history. As a professional photographer now following his baseball retirement, Johnson appreciates that picture as much as anyone.
"That captures the moment of the 10-year window that I was here," Johnson said. "That was the most powerful moment. To me, that was symbolic of everything that happened."
And now, 17 years later, he and Wilson will go into the Mariners Hall of Fame together again.