Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dave Niehaus

I don't really know what cosmic forces conspired to make me a baseball fan, but I do know that it happened sometime early in my childhood. My introduction to baseball was through the radio and through baseball cards. I spent countless hours, in fact, listening to the Mariners and sorting my baseball card collection. Dave Niehaus was the play-by-play announcer, a job he held from the team's inception in 1977 until today, when he passed away at age 75. Niehaus was a story-teller above all else, and he loved baseball. I grew up in the '80's and the Mariners played some bad baseball during that decade. Still I had my heroes on those Mariner teams. The first was Julio Cruz, a slick fielding second baseman and stolen base threat. The next was Alvin Davis, the American League Rookie of the Year in 1984. But by and large, these were bad baseball teams. Still, I loved listening to the games on the radio and following the team's ups and downs. Dave Niehaus was that good. He made a bad baseball team worth caring about.

Dave is probably best known for his exuberant calls of exciting events. Back in the day, these were few and far between. Dave would not disappoint, however, when Mickey Brantley or whoever would hit a game-winning home run. Things changed of course in 1989 with the arrival on the scene of Ken Griffey, Jr. It did still take a while for Mariner teams to actually become good. We Mariner fans were elated in 1991 when we experienced our first winning season. Then 1995 came along. No one enjoyed the moment more than Dave Niehaus. The Mariners beat the New York Yankees in their first playoff series on an Edgar Martinez double to score Griffey. It was a great time to be a Mariner fan.

2001 and the arrival of Ichiro was another great year. It's been a bit of a dry spell since then. I heard a lot of frustration in Dave's voice of late. Still, I got the sense there was no place Dave would rather be than broadcasting a game from beautiful Safeco Field.

"My oh My!"

"It will Fly Away!"

"The Mariners are going to play for the American League Championship!"

So many great memories. We've been lucky as Mariner fans that we've had Dave Niehaus all these years to narrate the games we've so enjoyed. Thank you, Dave.

Photo: Betty Udesen, Seattle Times.

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