Jay Buhner
Right fielder
Born: (1964-08-13) August 13, 1964 (age 59)
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 11, 1987, for the New York Yankees
Last MLB appearance
October 7, 2001, for the Seattle Mariners
MLB statistics
Batting average.254
Home runs310
Runs batted in964
Career highlights and awards

Jay Campbell Buhner (born August 13, 1964), nicknamed "Bone", is an American former professional baseball right fielder. Noted for his shaved head, thick goatee, and patch of pine tar on the right hip of his uniform, he is regarded as one of the most popular players in Seattle Mariners’ history.[1][2]

Early life

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Buhner was raised in Texas and attended Clear Creek High School in League City, southeast of Houston, where he played baseball under coach Jim Mallory. His nickname, "Bone", came after an incident where Buhner lost a ball in the lights. The ball hit him in the skull, but he shook it off. Mallory came out to see if Buhner was OK and commented it was a good thing Buhner had such a bony head, and the name stuck.[3]

Buhner graduated from high school in 1982 and played college baseball at McLennan Community College in Waco. In his freshman season in 1983, the Highlanders made their fourth consecutive trip to the junior college world series in Grand Junction, Colorado, and won their first national title.[4] He was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the ninth round of the 1983 Major League Baseball draft, but opted not to sign.

Professional career

Pittsburgh Pirates (1984)

During his sophomore year, in January 1984, Buhner was taken in the second round of the secondary phase of the free-agent draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.[5] He signed in late May and played for the Watertown Pirates in the Class A short season New York–Penn League.

New York Yankees (1984-1988)

Minor leagues

In December 1984, Buhner was traded to the New York Yankees with infielder Dale Berra as part of a five-player deal for outfielder Steve Kemp and shortstop Tim Foli, a former Pirate.[6][7][8] His two seasons were in the Class A Florida State League with the Fort Lauderdale Yankees, then Buhner moved up to Triple A in 1987 with the Columbus Clippers in the International League and hit 31 home runs. Managed by Bucky Dent, Columbus finished second in the regular season, but swept both series in the four-team playoffs to take the league title and Governors' Cup.[9]

Major leagues

When the minor league playoffs concluded, Buhner made his major league debut in 1987 on September 11, and appeared in seven games that year. In 1988, Buhner was back and forth between Columbus and New York,[10] and was batting .188 (13-for-69) with three home runs in three stints in the major leagues.

Seattle Mariners (1988-2001)

On July 21, 1988, the Yankees traded Buhner to the Seattle Mariners,[11] along with two career minor leaguers (Rich Balabon and Troy Evers), in exchange for designated hitter Ken Phelps, a Seattle native.[11][12][13]

Buhner's career began an upwards turn in 1991, hitting 27 home runs with 77 RBI, hitting a massive home run against his former team in Yankee Stadium in July,[14] and having continued success against the Yankees.[15] In an extra-inning home game against the Oakland Athletics on June 23, 1993, he became the first Mariner to hit for the cycle.[16] Buhner began his cycle with a grand slam in the first inning, and hit a triple in the 14th inning to complete it; he subsequently scored the winning run on a wild pitch.[17][18] While well known for his tendency to strike out, he also developed a patience at the plate which allowed him to walk 100 times in a season twice (1993 and 1997) and to post a career OBP of .359. By the mid-1990s he had developed into one of the premier offensive players in the game, hitting over 40 home runs in three consecutive seasons (1995, 1996, and 1997), becoming just the tenth player to do so (and the first since Frank Howard in 1970); this feat has since been equaled by several other players.

Retirement and legacy

2010 Seattle Mariners home opener, From left to right: Buhner, Dan Wilson, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martínez, Ken Griffey Jr.

Mariners legacy

After a 116-win 2001 season, Buhner retired at age 37 in December of that year.[1][2]

During his career, the Mariners hosted a popular promotion, "Jay Buhner Buzz Cut Night",[3][19][1][20] where visitors would receive free admission in the right field seats if they had a shaved head. Free buzz cuts were provided for people who showed up with hair.[21] Buhner himself participated in giving fans of all ages buzz cuts, which also included women.[22] George Thorogood's song "Bad to the Bone" was used as Buhner's at-bat music during home games.

Although his jersey number 19 has not been issued since, it has not been officially retired, per the team's policy regarding retired numbers. The Mariners require a player to have spent at least five years with the team and be elected to the Hall of Fame or narrowly miss election after spending substantially his entire career with the team.[23] Buhner holds the Mariners' career record for strikeouts with 1,375 and has the lowest career stolen base percentage since 1954 – 6 stolen bases against 24 times caught stealing for a success rate of 20%. (Caught stealing counts are not complete until the 1954 season, when Major League Baseball began maintaining official records.)

1988 Trade and Seinfeld

Buhner's July 1988 trade from the Yankees to the Mariners, often considered one of the Yankees' worst and one of the Mariners' best trades in baseball history,[24] was referenced on the television sitcom Seinfeld in the January 1996 episode “The Caddy”. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner appears at the home of George Costanza’s parents to mistakenly inform them that their son is dead. The only response from Frank Costanza (played by Jerry Stiller) is, “What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for?! He had 30 home runs, over 100 RBIs last year! He’s got a rocket for an arm… You don’t know what the hell you‘re doing!” (Steinbrenner, voiced by Larry David, replies, “Well, Buhner was a good prospect, no question about it. But my baseball people love Ken Phelps’s bat. They kept saying, ‘Ken Phelps! Ken Phelps!’”)[25][26][27] The clip was played at Safeco Field when Buhner was inducted into the Mariners' Hall of Fame in August 2004.[28][29]

Personal life

Buhner and his family remained in the Seattle area, in Sammamish, following his playing career.[3][4] His son, Gunnar, played baseball for Lewis–Clark State College, and in 2017 played for the Philadelphia Phillies' farm team in the Gulf Coast League.[30]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Boling, Dave (August 13, 1996). "Cult of the Bone". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. (Tacoma News Tribune). p. C1.
  2. ^ a b "Jay Buhner announces retirement". Ellensburg Daily Record. Washington. Associated Press. December 18, 2001. p. A6.
  3. ^ a b c Callahan, Gerry (March 18, 1996). "A real cutup". Sports Illustrated. p. 88.
  4. ^ a b Cherry, Brice (July 25, 2015). "Where are they now? Jay Buhner enjoyed time at MCC, Seattle Mariners and beyond". Waco Tribune. Texas. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  5. ^ "Free agent draft". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 18, 1984. p. 16.
  6. ^ Hertzel, Bob (December 20, 1984). "Ueberroth reportedly OKs Kemp-Berra deal". Pittsburgh Press. p. D1.
  7. ^ Feeney, Charley (December 21, 1984). "Tanner sees Bucs back in contention after trade". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 21.
  8. ^ Nelson, John (December 21, 1984). "Kemp officially joins Bucs; Berra departs". Beaver County Times. Pennsylvania. Associated Press. p. B1.
  9. ^ "Clippers champs". Bryan Times. Ohio. UPI. September 10, 1987. p. 12.
  10. ^ "Yankees option Guetterman; recall Buhner". Evening News. Newburgh, New York. Associated Press. May 14, 1988. p. 2B.
  11. ^ a b "Yanks get Phelps". The Day. New London, Connecticut. Associated Press. July 22, 1988. p. E7.
  12. ^ "M's double deal". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. wire services. July 22, 1988. p. 35.
  13. ^ "Buhner making most of chance with Mariners". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. August 27, 1988. p. 24.
  14. ^ Blum, Ronald (July 26, 1991). "Buhner hits massive home run for Mariners at Yankee Stadium". Lawrence Journal World. Kansas. Associated Press. p. 4C.
  15. ^ "Buhner to NY: Deal with that!". The Day. New London, Connecticut. Associated Press. April 20, 1994. p. F1.
  16. ^ "Seattle Mariners 8, Oakland Athletics 7". Retrosheet. June 23, 1993.
  17. ^ "Buhner's cycle carries M's". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. wire reports. June 24, 1993. p. C1.
  18. ^ "Buhner finishes cycle with game-winning hit". Rome News-Tribune. Georgia. Associated Press. June 24, 1993. p. 4B.
  19. ^ "Buhner Buzz Night". Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, Virginia. (AP photo). August 24, 1995. p. B2.
  20. ^ "Buhner Buzz". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida. August 7, 1998. p. 5C.
  21. ^ Moore, Jim (May 29, 2003). "Go 2 Guy: Buhner still creating a whole lot of buzz". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  22. ^ Kuhn, Jill (July 24, 1997). "She looks so cool". Ellensburg Daily Record. Washington. (photo). p. 3.
  23. ^ "Guidelines for Selection to the Mariners Hall of Fame". Seattle Mariners. Retrieved September 2, 2015.
  24. ^ Jonah Keri. "Not Every Trade Worked". Retrieved April 7, 2007.
  25. ^ Blanchette, John (October 11, 2001). "Bone carries torch into twilight". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. C1.
  26. ^ Brown, Dave (March 18, 2015). "Watch: Jay Buhner and Ken Phelps reminisce about trade and 'Seinfeld'". CBS Sports. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  27. ^ Bertha, Mike (March 18, 2015). "Seinfeld reunion alert: Jay Buhner and Ken Phelps hang out at Mariners spring training". Major League Baseball. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  28. ^ LaRue, Larry (February 25, 2004). "Buhner to be honored". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. (Tacoma News Tribune). p. C2.
  29. ^ "Buhner is inducted into Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame". Spokesman-Review. (AP photo). August 25, 2004. p. C3.
  30. ^ "Gunnar Buhner Minor League Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved January 10, 2018.

Further reading

Achievements Preceded byMark Grace Hitting for the cycle June 23, 1993 Succeeded byTravis Fryman