A tough year to be a Seattle Mariners fan got a lot tougher Wednesday when news broke that their play-by-play man Dave Niehaus had passed away from a heart attack. He was 75.
Niehaus was one of those real iconic voices that you find in certain baseball markets. Think Mel Allen in New York. Or Ernie Harwell in Detroit. Or Harry Kalas in Philadelphia. Or even Herb Carneal in Minnesota.
I remember when I went to Seattle with family a couple years ago we took a bus from Tacoma to Seattle to go to a Twins-Mariners game at Safeco Field. I end up sitting next to this guy on the one-hour bus ride who is dressed from head to toe in Mariners gear. Huge M’s fan.
We talked baseball the whole way. Some of the topics were predictable. The insane deal the Mariners gave to Carlos Silva obviously came up. I remember at one point he talked about the two things that saved baseball in Seattle.
I’m always amused by this. Really, the people who saved baseball in Seattle – or the Cities or Miami or any other smaller baseball market – are the taxpayers who forked over big bucks for a new stadium. But I knew what he meant.
He said the 1995 American League Division Series – which saw the Seattle Mariners rally from a 2 games-to-none deficit to defeat the New York Yankees in a thrilling and memorable Game 5 – saved baseball in Seattle.
And the other thing that saved baseball in Seattle was the presence of Niehaus. This fan said the connection people felt to their broadcaster was so strong that Seattle residents couldn’t imagine a summer without him.
When you really think about it, outside of the mid-1990s and a really good regular season in 2001, baseball in Seattle has been pretty forgettable. This past season the Mariners were a huge disappointment.
So maybe that fan was right. After all, Niehaus had been their broadcaster throughout the team’s history, from the first game in 1977 to the last game of the 2010 season.
I’ve ponied up the dough for the MLB Extra Innings package the last couple of years and always enjoyed Niehaus and his take on the M’s.
For a couple more takes on the death of Niehaus:
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a column by Art Thiel. Thiel calls Niehaus the one thing the Mariners got right.
- Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the loss of Niehaus was comparable to that of a family member.
And here’s Niehaus’ call on the final play of the 1995 ALDS: