Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dave Niehaus Dies: Voice of Summer Stilled

Dave Niehaus died of a heart attack yesterday.  For those who don't know, Dave was the voice of the Seattle Mariners from their first game and remained the chief radio play by play announcer through the end of the 2010 season.  Through the many bad years and the good ones, Dave was the one constant for Mariner fans.  His trademark "Fly, fly away," home run call, his knowledge and his passion for the game made him special, and that he did it every game for so many years, made Niehaus feel like a part of the family, a celebrity or distant uncle that dropped by the house every night to talk baseball.  From my oldest son, Pat (whom I started taking to baseball games when he was three,) to my wife who has only known baseball in relation to Dave Niehaus, to my baseball-hating son Casey (where did we go wrong), we were all in shock when we heard the news.

I know what  you're thinking?  What the hell is he writing about now?  For me, baseball and miniature wargaming are my two greatest passions and they are inextricably wound together.  For as long as I've been married, during the spring, summer, and early fall I've come home from work, eaten dinner, and pulled out my painting and listened to baseball.  Whether my painting stuff was in the living room, the bedroom, or in its more prosperous location in the den, that is what I did seven evenings out of ten.  I painted literally thousands of figures-15mm Napoleonics, 25mm colonials, my current crop of 28mm AWI and Hundred Years War figures-all glued to the radio or television set listening to Dave Niehaus share his observations into this boys game played by men.

My best friends in the world are miniature wargamers.  But the ones I'm closest to are those who share my interest in baseball.  Mariners games and gaming, Rainiers games and gaming.  Listening or watching games and gaming.  Talking about baseball as we're playing.  Playing with the game on in the background.  Those are my life.  How many turns slowed to a crawl because we listened to Dave Niehaus tell about something fantastic on the field  (such as some silly Mariner bunting into a triple play) or just lamenting what the Mariners will do next in the off-season, or whether Brett Boone's 2001 season was really the best we've ever seen. It was. 

Niehaus would softly sing out the count, or the situation on the basepaths.  He'd tell stories about growing up in Indiana and listening to Cardinals games, his voice would build from a fever of intensity to explosion as the Mariners scored or scream "Get out the rye bread and the mustard Grandma; it's grand salami time," and I'd drop my paintbrush, thrust my fist in the air and scream "Yes!" (Unless it was the Yankees, and then I'd scream "Fuck you Yankee bastards!!") When the Mariners entered their glory years, yes they really did have some, and cable T.V. beckoned, Dave spent more time on the tube.  It was a millieu I don't think he was really comfortable with, and the last few years he spent a lot more time back on the radio.

Julio Cruz, Alvin Davis, Mark Langston, Ken Griffey, Jr., Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Olerud, Jamie Moyer, Ichiro Suzuki,  and Felix Hernandez have all starred for the Mariners.  Many left, some were traded, others retired as Mariners.  But for the Mariners fan, Dave was always the constant.  He was the original Mariner.  It's Niehaus that deserves a statue outside Safeco Field.  We love you Dave, we'll miss you.
Dave Niehaus was inducted to the broadcast wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008

For those of you who can't forget, don't want to forget what it meant when Dave Niehaus, was, well, Dave Niehaus, here is a link to the game winning hit in the 1995 Division Series over the Yankees.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of my best memories of Seattle is going to a Mariners game.