Back in 1996, on a rainy day in Appleton, Wisconsin, the Seattle Mariners bought major league baseball to a small town in a way that nobody ever expected.

In an effort to churn up interest in their minor league affiliates, the Seattle Mariners went on a barnstorming tour, bringing the major leagues to a handful of minor league parks around the country for some exhibition baseball.

That included a stop at Fox Cities Field to take on their Single-A affiliate, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

With a packed house that stayed, despite the rain, growing restless, Seattle manager Lou Piniella refused to send his team on the field even if the rain subsided, pointing to the fact that he wasn’t about to risk one of his stars getting injured on a wet field in a meaningless game while the team was in a pennant race.

But, should the rain come to an end, the teams needed to do something for the masses.

So Mariners catcher Dan Wilson hatched an ingenious plan: Home Run Derby.

Wilson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, who started his career in Appleton back in 1994, would take on any three players that the Timber Rattlers dared send to the plate. Little did they know, the home team had a ringer.

After watching Junior struggle to hit the ball out of the yard, generating some good-natured ribbing from the fans in attendance, up to the plate stepped a relatively unknown 20-year-old first baseman by the name of David Ortiz.

And he put on a show.

Ortiz hit moonshot after moonshot, leaving Griffey speechless and Rodriguez conceding the contest to his future contemporary, exclaiming “I ain’t got a chance” as Ortiz crushed another pitch.

Who would have imagined that, nearly 20 years later, all three players would have Hall of Fame-caliber numbers—but that only the guy who couldn’t go deep would have a clear path into Cooperstown’s hallowed halls?

Irony at its finest.


*H/T to CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder for the find.

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