The Mariners and the entire baseball world lost a great one last week. The Hall of Fame voice of the Mariners, Dave Niehaus, died Nov. 10 at his home in Bellevue at the age of 75 from an apparent heart attack.
Like a majority of Mariners fans, I never had the honor of meeting the man who, by most accounts, would guffah at the fact I would consider it an honor. And while he certainly didn't know me, I do feel like I knew him very well. I never spoke a word to him, but he spoke millions to me.
Back before every game for every team was on TV, we listened on the radio - and listened to many very bad Mariners teams. But no matter how bad Matt Young was getting shelled, or Rey Quinones or Spike Owen or Mario Mendoza were butchering ground balls, or Richie Sexson or Russell Branyan were striking out, Dave Niehaus made the games worth listening to. His way of describing the game gave you optimism. He could describe the way a player took a pitch or made the perfect throw in such a manner that even in the radio days, you felt like you had the best seat in the house watching the action unfold.
His gravelly smoker's voice and the inflection he used to describe the game before the TV days truly made you feel like you were at the Kingdome (with the other 10,000 fans in attendance). His stories, his laughter, his passion for the game of baseball and our Hometown Nine were palpable. And he had the ability through his words to pass that passion on to the listeners.
He was more than the voice of the Mariners - he was their biggest fan, their biggest cheerleader. He was truly the team's first star, and he is the star that shined the longest and, many times, the brightest. Like Howard Lincoln said in announcing the sad news, Dave Niehaus "has truly been the heart and soul of this franchise since its inception in 1977."
During his poetic Hall of Fame induction speech in 2008, he mentioned that being a broadcaster was like being in the toy department in life. He mentioned several times how lucky he was. I think Mariners fans all realize that WE were the lucky ones. Lucky to be able to listen to one of the greatest of all time call baseball for one of the worst franchises in sports. But being a Mariners fan was fun, because Dave made listening to the games fun, no matter the ultimate outcome.
He was bigger than baseball itself here in the Pacific Northwest, but to Dave Niehaus, he was just like you and me: a fan of the Seattle Mariners.
Fly, fly away! My oh my!
Rest in Peace, Dave Niehaus. No one will ever replace you, and Mariners fans will never forget you.