Had you asked any of the 11,628 fans at Seattle's Kingdome on June 12, 1995, if they would remember that night's game, they probably would have said yes. But none of them likely would have mentioned the one thing that ultimately made the game memorable: the first of what soon will be Alex Rodriguez's 600 career home runs.
The 19-year-old shortstop - who entered last night's game with 597 - was a phenom, to be sure. He had been called up after making a huge impression at Triple-A Tacoma. But he was not seen as an all-time slugger. It barely merited a mention in the next day's newspaper game stories that the Mariners' No. 9 hitter hit a solo homer with two outs in the fourth inning against Royals starter Tom Gordon.
"Actually, I had no idea and I'm sure my dad doesn't, either," said Gordon's son Dee, a highly regarded young shortstop now the way Rodriguez was then.
As a matter of fact, Tom Gordon does remember. "I knew I gave up A-Rod's first home run,'' said Gordon, 42, whose 21-year career with eight teams ended in 2009. "I'm just not sure that the one I have in my memory was his first one. I know it went a mighty long way. I knew when I saw him in Seattle he was going to be a great hitter. He could make adjustments as a hitter as well as anyone. I knew early on that he was going to hit a lot of home runs. He was that kind of a player.''
Fifteen years later, Dee Gordon, 22, rated the top prospect in the Dodgers' farm system by Baseball America, will play Sunday in the Futures Game, an event that begins the All-Star festivities in Anaheim that will culminate with the All-Star Game - featuring Rodriguez and others - on Tuesday.
Dee Gordon learned a lot from watching the Yankees during 2004-05, when "Flash" Gordon was Rodriguez's teammate. So did Tom. "I thought he was one of the best teammates I ever had,'' he said. "Alex would talk about his approach to the game. He would open up to you and he would put you first. He would do whatever he could to make you get better."
There had been talk that Dee Gordon would become one of A-Rod's heirs as Mariners shortstop. He had been the centerpiece of a rumored deal between the Dodgers and Seattle for Cliff Lee before Lee was dealt to the Rangers on Friday.
In any case, there did not seem to be anything portentous about the matchup between Gordon and Rodriguez 15 years ago. It was just another run for a Seattle team that was trying to claw back from a 7-0 first-inning deficit; the homer made it 8-4.
Many other moments in that eventful night had people buzzing. Most noteworthy was the fact that Mariners starting pitcher Chris Bosio was ejected in the second inning after a verbal dustup with plate umpire John Shulock over brushback pitches.
Bosio was so flummoxed by the confrontation with Shulock that on his way off the field, he uncorked the ball high off the backstop screen. That, not Rodriguez's homer, was the soaring image that night.
Other happenings that obscured the first home run by a player who had yet to be nicknamed A-Rod: The Mariners came all the way back to tie the score at 9 in the bottom of the eighth, only to lose, 10-9, on Tom Goodwin's single in the ninth; Tino Martinez drove in four runs; losing pitcher Ron Villone, yet another future Yankees teammate of Rodriguez, struck out the side for Seattle after the Royals loaded the bases in the sixth.
In fact, a case could be made that the home run wasn't even Rodriguez's most memorable contribution that night. He did go 3-for-5, but what had people cheering was a 360-degree spin move on a grounder behind second base to throw out a runner.
There was no telling that he had made his first step toward history.