The world has lost an icon. After 34 years of being a radio and television announcer for the Mariners, all 34 years of the team’s existence, Dave Niehaus has died at the age of 75.
At the risk of sounding insensitive, I truly believe that the only way that Niehaus would have ever left the booth was with the suddenness, and route he ended up leaving it. Niehaus’ love for baseball transferred to several fans, including myself, and while there is no palatable exit for Niehaus in the eyes of the true fan, perhaps this one is the easiest to deal with.
Because you see, lifelong Mariner fans have known no Mariners baseball without Niehaus. He’s been there since the beginning.
He saw Diego Segui pitch the first game in Seattle Mariners history. He watched Segui go 0-7 in his one year with the Mariners, the last year of his career at age 39. He watched Segui’s son David play first base for the Mariners years later.
He saw Ken Griffey Jr. make his major league debut. He watched Junior and his dad, Ken Griffey Sr., hit home runs back-to-back, in a season that would hold several firsts for fathers and sons playing together. He’d see Junior hit 399 home runs, and bolt for Cincinnati.
And he watched “The Kid” return to Seattle a man.
He watched A-Rod, the Big Unit, ‘Gar, Bone, Dan the Man, and several other good or great Mariners who weren’t fortunate enough to receive nicknames from the Hall of Fame announcer.
More than anything though, Niehaus saw a lot of crappy baseball.
But he never left. He never grew disinterested, or if he did, he didn’t let you know. Did he grow disappointed with the team? Sure, but you could tune into any game, during any season, and fill your speakers with genuine emotion, often sorrow, that Niehaus was able to spin that into an entertaining product night in and night out.
While great late-night talk show hosts are able to spend each night using comedy to lessen the affects of life’s ills, and morning show hosts are able to poke fun at the country’s problems, Niehaus’ arena, and his topic of conversation more-often-than not was a depressingly bad baseball team.
But Neihaus remained in Seattle for the duration of his career, and remained an ambassador for the northwest for the remaining duration of his life.
And on October 3, 2010 Dave Neihaus called his last game. He watched Anthony Varvaro, a 25-year-old making his fourth career Major League appearance, take the first loss of his career.
It seems sad that Niehaus’ last season was one that saw the Mariners finish with yet another last-place finish in the American League West. However, if it would have been fitting for Ken Griffey Jr.’s last at-bat to be a home run, or Randy Johnson’s last batter faced to have been a strikeout, Dave Niehaus’ home run was taking awful baseball and turning it into spun gold.
Every place I’ve ever worked I’ve been “the sports guy.” Looking to lay a bet and need advice on who to bet on? Looking for fantasy football advice? Want to talk about the gem last night’s starter pitched? I’m your guy. As such, I’ve begun to notice that the scope of a sports tragedy is defined by the spectrum of people who come at talk to me about it.
When men from Boston, California, Texas, and Minnesota are talking about the death of a local hero, I know that his reach has gone far beyond local.
Dave Niehaus, you were the soundtrack to my childhood, the master of ceremonies to my upbringing, and the narrator to my wildest dreams, however unfulfilled. You’ll be forever missed, and while baseball will go on without you, it will never be the same. Rest in peace Dave, from one of the many lives you didn’t know you touched.