This Is How The Seattle Mariners Got Their Name

What do the city of Seattle, the game of baseball, and the classic movie actor Danny Kaye — star of films like "White Christmas" and "The Court Jester," per IMDb — have in common? It was 1977, and MLB was looking to expand. Previously the home of the Seattle Pilots for just one year, in 1969 (now the Milwaukee Brewers, per Britannica), Seattle, Washington seemed a prime location. Kaye, a lifelong fan of the game, according to Ballpark Digest, along with a consortium of local business owners, took action.

Among all the important details involved with starting a professional baseball team, one of the biggest decisions would be, what should the team be called? Anyone who's ever been to Seattle, located on the Puget Sound, would agree — something nautical or maritime would make a lot of sense. But the real story of how the Seattle Mariners got their name is a lot more complicated than that — involving a contest, a bit of a mystery, and maybe even a missing person.

The Contest

Per Britannica, the people of Seattle were upset when their former team, the Pilots, pulled up stakes and left for Milwaukee, threatening to sue the American League for damages and lost revenue. In response, the AL promised the city a replacement team. Here entered Danny Kaye and the original owners of the Seattle Mariners to work a little magic. Finally, plans were approved and it was time to settle on a name for the organization. To get the job done, they decided to hold a fan contest.

Per the official MLB website, some 600 different names were suggested for a total of about 15,000 entries. As was expected, most were themed around the water and the ocean, and the name "Mariners" was actually put in play by more than one person. The prize would be tickets for an all-expense-paid trip to see the team on the road, as well as season tickets for their home stands. But once the winning entry was selected by Kaye and his colleagues, the prize could not be awarded. The person could not be found.

The winning entry

Of all the baseball fans in the Seattle area who entered "Mariners" into the naming contest, Roger Szmodis of nearby Bellevue, Washington was selected because of his compelling argument for why he thought "Mariners" would best fit the team. According to the MLB website, Szmodis wrote, "I've selected Mariners because of the natural association between the sea and Seattle and her people, who have been challenged and rewarded by it."

Thing is, once selected, Roger Szmodis never picked up his prize. Representatives of the team wrote him a letter, called him, and even stopped by his apartment to no avail. Now, more than 40 years later, Roger Szmodis remains a mystery. Randy Adamack, the current public relations director for the team, continues the search. Through Google, Adamack found a Roger Szomodis living in Pennsylvania, but there was no response when they attempted to contact him. To this day, the prize remains unclaimed, and the real identity of Roger Szmodis remains a mystery — much like the reason why the Mariners can't ever seem to make the World Series, per Britannica.