Jay Buhner was born August 13, 1964, in Louisville, Kentucky, nicknamed “Bone”, and is in the Seattle Mariner Hall of Fame. He was among the most recognizable players of his day, noted for his shaved head, thick goatee, and patch of pine tar on the right hip of his uniform. He went to Clear Creek High School in League City, Texas where he started his baseball career under the coaching of Jim Mallory.
Buhner was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second round of the 1984 Major League Baseball Draft and was traded shortly thereafter to the New York Yankees. He made his major league debut on September 11, 1987, appearing in seven games that year. He was traded again the next summer, on July 21, 1988, to the Seattle Mariners along with two career minor leaguers (Rich Balabon and Troy Evers) in exchange for Ken Phelps. This trade is often considered one of the worst made by the Yankees of that period, and one of the best in Mariners history. The trade was once noted humorously on the television program Seinfeld, in the episode “The Caddy,” in which the Yankees’ owner, George Steinbrenner, appears at the home of George Costanza’s parents to inform them – mistakenly – that their son is dead. All Mr. Costanza can say 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!” The clip was played at Safeco Field when Buhner was inducted into the Mariners’ Hall of Fame in 2004.
Buhner hit his stride in 1991, hitting 27 home runs with 77 RBI. On June 23, 1993, in an extra-inning game against Oakland, Jay Buhner hit for the cycle. He got the triple in the 14th inning to complete it, and eventually scored the winning run. 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, 1997) and to post a career OBP of .359. By the mid-90s he had developed into one of the premier offensive players in the game, hitting 40-plus home runs in three consecutive seasons, 1995, 1996 and 1997, becoming just the tenth player to do so (and first since Frank Howard 1968-1970). Several players have subsequently joined him. During his career, the Mariners hosted a popular promotion, “Jay Buhner Buzz Cut Night,” where patrons would receive free admission (in the right field seats) if they had a bald head. Free buzz cuts were provided for people who showed up with hair. Buhner, himself, could be seen giving fans buzz cuts. The song “Bad to the Bone” was played during each of Buhner’s home at-bats.
Buhner retired at the end of the 2001 season as one of the most popular players in Mariners history. The Mariners have not issued his #19 jersey since he retired. According to Mariners team policy, he did not become eligible to have his number retired until 2006. 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 his entire career with the team.
He holds the Seattle Mariners career record for strikeouts, with 1375, and has the lowest career stolen base percentage since 1954 (6 stolen bases against 24 times caught stealing for a success rate of 20%; baseball did not keep track of times caught stealing until 1954). Today he lives in Sammamish, Washington.