Note: Matthew touched on this in a quick little post last night, but I’d been working on a draft of this for a while so I decided to put it up anyway. Make sure to check the Macklemore’s video Matthew posted that I’ve referenced in here. I’ve held off on writing about Dave until now because when it happened, there were a slew of amazing posts around the blogosphere and today there aren’t as many. That’s not to say people have forgotten, no Mariner fan has, but it’s not in the forefront as much. But, on this Opening Day, I feel the loss is more evident than ever.
It was a little less than 5 months ago, now. I remember getting a text from Dan and then feeling a bit of shock. No one was ready for the loss of Dave Niehaus, especially us fans here in the Northwest.
Then, came the amazing support from a city who had lost a loved one. There were masses outside of Safeco Field crying, leaving flowers and reminiscing about the legend. A city became a family, and the family had just lost it’s dearest grandfather. That’s what it felt like. There were services and events held at Safeco Field to help fans through the grieving process. The Mariners organization did a wonderful job in putting these things on for fans.
In the midst of all of this, a song by the rapper Macklemore was released. I was skeptical when it first started popping up on blogs; I’m a music junkie and think songs that try to tie in sports usually turn out cheesy. Once I finally got around to listening to it, I was proved dead wrong. The song bought me to tears the first few times, and still gives me goose bumps to this day.
After while, it was time for pitchers and catchers to report to camp and the first Spring Training game rolled around. I turned my car radio to 710 and couldn’t make it through 2 innings of the game. It was the first of many tough stretches that this season will bring. The performance on the field may be tough to watch at times, but it won’t compare to the loss we’ll feel in the radio booth.
I grew up listening to Mariners games. We didn’t have cable TV, so aside from the occasional game on Fox and trips to my Grandma’s house, we were left listening on 1280 KIT Yakima. In a lot of ways, Dave taught me about baseball along with my dad and brother. He taught me about the legends and taught me that there was a flow to the game of baseball. Later, I learned that there isn’t necessarily a flow to the game, but it was Dave who made the game flow smoothly with his words.c
I remember watching a game on TV one time in my younger years and seeing a grand slam. I didn’t understand why the announcer didn’t say, “Get out the rye bread and mustard grandma, it’s grand salami time.” I thought every announcer did that. Now, I know that no other announcer could pull it off.
What trumps any other attribute though was that Dave was always there. He was waiting for me after my tee-ball games. Then, he was waiting after coach pitch, after little league, after middle school ball, and then high school ball. Even when I stopped playing baseball, Dave was there to tell me about the Mariners. I could turn on the radio and tell within 10 seconds how the game was going, just based on the inflection in his voice. I guess when you’re with a team from the very beginning, you live and die with them.
In this day and age, sports are an ever-changing game. Our stars come and go, our managers and coaches are given the axe with the whim of disappointment, and even announcers come and go to. A lot is made of just how many stars have left the Mariners and yes, that’s true. We haven’t had that one star who just sticks around for his whole career, outside of Edgar and Edgar wasn’t a superstar outside of Seattle. This gives the impression that we’ve had some bad luck. We have. But, what gets lost is how truly blessed we’ve been.
Dave Niehaus was with us the whole time. He was loyalty when players started leaving for bigger contracts. Announcers do switch jobs. Announcers do retire. But, that thought never crossed anyone’s mind until last November. We’ve all showed our appreciation for that. Dave was bigger than any legend the Mariners have had because he was here the whole time. To go with that, he was an unbelievable announcer.
Opening Day is one of my favorite days of the year, right up there with Christmas. It’s a new beginning and symbolizes the hope that anything could happen. But this year, Opening Day isn’t all about a new beginning, it’s about remembering. This day is a little harder to get through than previous years, and the game is still a little ways off.
The season doesn’t appear to be very promising this year. The Mariners are building for the future and to hopefully one day make a World Series. Someday they will, even though it’d be later rather than soon. Mr. Niehaus will not be able to broadcast that series to us. That may be the biggest shame of all of this. But, I sure hope he’s somewhere watching that game, telling a story about Casey Stengel or Lou Gehrig. Maybe he’ll bring up the smile of a 19 year-old kid who roamed center-field in Seattle like nothing he’d ever seen. Heck, he might even recall his 1995 call of Edgar’s double for a few surrounding him. Dave had seen it all and today, is perhaps the biggest step in life without him.
We’ll miss you, Dave.
“And swung, lined down the left field line for a base hit! Here comes Joey! Here comes Junior to third base! They’re gonna wave him in! The throw the plate will be…. Late! The Mariners are going to play for the America League Championship! I don’t believe it, it just continues! MY OH MY!