Dave Niehaus: Oh, what a voice

July 27, 2008 

My favorite Dave Niehaus call? It would have to be the Jay Buhner home run, in the top of the 12th inning, that enabled the Seattle Mariners to beat the Angels at Anaheim on Aug. 4, 1991.

Buhner was emerging as a power source. The Mariners, for the first time since their 1977 franchise debut, were threatening to remain relevant through Labor Day. And I was lost in a cul-de-sac.

A newcomer to the area, hunting for an apartment in a rental car, I heard Niehaus describe Buhner’s blast on the radio, and I told myself: It’s gonna be OK. I may not know the streets, I may not know the landmarks – heck, I barely know who Jay Buhner is – but there’s a voice on the car radio talking to me about baseball, and it’s the best baseball voice I’ve ever heard.

Since discovering him from that home run call 17 years ago, Niehaus not only has told me where he is, but what it looks like, sounds like, even smells like. He’s made my days, and enriched my nights.

I figure it’s time to pay him back.

My version of the speech Dave Niehaus should make this morning upon his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y:

On behalf of the Seattle Mariners, and all their fans throughout the Pacific Northwest, it is with gratitude and humility that I accept the 2008 Ford Frick Award.

A long roll call of thanks is in order, so let’s get right to it:

Begin with Guglielmo Marconi, who in 1895 developed the capability to transmit wireless signals over several miles. When the 21-year-old Marconi told his friends he’d found a way to send messages through the air, they had him taken into custody and examined in a psychopathic hospital.

Perhaps Marconi’s pals genuinely feared for his sanity – or else they had a premonition somebody one day would have to be held accountable for the popularity of Howard Stern.

I also want to thank the Zenith Corporation, which produced the console radio that brought St. Louis Cardinals games into to my childhood home in southern Indiana. The accelerated rate of my heartbeat whenever Harry Caray was on the air should’ve been a telltale sign that I was not meant to achieve my destiny in dentistry.

Although I’ve enjoyed the television side of my career, the TV broadcaster is not required to set a scene – to paint a picture in words – the way it’s always been done on radio. I stand here today, dear friends, because baseball and radio are as inseparable as Pete Rose and his autograph.

I want to thank my loved ones in Seattle by name, obviously, but there’s so many of you it might be easier to thank those in Seattle I’ve loved to name: Rich Monteleone. Arquimedez Pozo. Vance Lovelace. Hiram Bocachica.

Here I am, recognized as the voice of a Seattle baseball team that just the other day played the 5,000th game in franchise history. And for 50 of those games, I had the privilege of pronouncing one Mariners player as “Eeeram Boca-Cheeka.”

I want to thank Seattle, too, for the train whistles at Safeco Field, just as I thank Milwaukee for how the smoke of grilled bratwurst wafts from 15,000 tailgating fans in the parking lot to the open window of the broadcast booth, and New York for the scent of roasted pretzels on the street corners outside Yankee Stadium.

Thanks also to the wooden bat makers, responsible for the “thwack” that accompanies any pitch swung on and belted, and thanks to the catcher’s mitt makers who make sure a “thump” is heard when a fastball is thrown past a hitter.

Thanks to the roar of the huge crowds that stand up and cheer with two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but let’s not dismiss the peculiar beauty of a persistent vendor’s echo in a sparsely filled ballpark.

I don’t know what the afterlife entails, but I would hope the Great Beyond soundtrack relies less on sappy string music than the voice of a vendor in a sparsely filled ballpark. Speaking of things spiritual, I want to thank the creator for the sun, though I admit it’s more fun to point out its effects on an outfielder tracking a fly ball than to actually attempt to track the fly ball.

I also want to thank the creator for the moon, especially during those twilight-showcase moments when it rises from sea level, a gargantuan orange ball five times larger than the moon ought to be, before it shrinks to a more modest place in the sky.

On a strictly personal note, I want to thank Miguel Batista, who gives Mariners radio broadcasters a chance to describe the sun in the first inning and – before there is one out in the third – a chance to describe the moon as well.

Finally, I want to thank grandmothers everywhere. With nothing more exotic on their cutting boards than rye bread and mustard, they are capable of putting together a glorious salami sandwich – the kind of grand salami that ranks second to, well, only one.

John McGrath: 253-597-8742; ext. 6154

john.mcgrath@thenewstribune.com"

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., took to the Senate floor Saturday to congratulate Dave Niehaus on his induction into the Hall of Fame. The highlights:

“I rise to congratulate longtime Seattle Mariner broadcaster Dave Niehaus on his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame this Sunday for excellence in baseball broadcasting. Dave’s signature call of ‘My oh my!’ now finally joins the ranks of Harry Caray’s ‘Holy Cow!,’ Mel Allen’s ‘Going, going, gone,’ and Vin Scully’s ‘I caaaan’t believe it!’

“For 32 seasons Dave has been voice of not only the Seattle Mariners, but of the entire Seattle sports scene. He has been in the broadcasting booth from the team’s first game in 1977 and next year will broadcast his 5,000th Mariner game – an incredible milestone in itself. Dave does a lot more than just call a game. He breathes new life into each inning, regardless of the score. … Like so many of the 33 broadcasters enshrined before him in Cooperstown, he found a way to make each game a treat for fans to listen.

“Fans consider Dave to be part of the team. In fact, in 1999 the Mariners chose to honor Dave by having him throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the opening of Safeco Field.

“Once again, I want to congratulate Dave Niehaus in winning the 2008 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting and his induction into Cooperstown.”

Maria Cantwell

Thanks for everything, Dave

As a Pacific Northwest native, the soothing sounds of Dave Niehaus have comforted me for many years. It is because of him that I have followed the M’s through countless years of misery, endured the personality-less Kingdome as a child and have savored the world-class Safeco Field. ...

One of my greatest memories of Niehaus was coincidentally not compliments of his voice, but rather via a standing ovation at the Kingdome after “the double” from Edgar Martinez. Standing alongside 50,000-plus screaming fans and clapping while the ground below me shook with euphoria is a moment I will never forget.

Congratulations to a gentleman that defines loyalty and continues to bring pride to Mariner fans around the world.

Drew Turner (mountaindrew74@msn.com">mountaindrew74@msn.com)

Growing up in the Northwest, I remember Leo Lassen on the radio doing the Seattle Rainiers games as far back as I can recall. In later years Bob Robertson started calling Tacoma baseball on the radio.

When it was announced that this person from SoCal was going to do the M’s, I still remember the outcry from many ... even in the media. But after only listening to two games, this “outsider” proved to all he not only was the voice, but also the soul of the team.

Memories abound of this wonderful addition to the northwest ... thanks for all of them, Dave.

Bob Morgan, Sumner (morganbobsue@comcast.net">morganbobsue@comcast.net)

His love for the game shines through and shines true. The consummate professional and an inspiring human being: Dave Niehaus.

Bruce Witham, Tacoma (bruce1@wamail.net">bruce1@wamail.net)

As a young boy growing up in Tacoma, my father was in the Air Force and was flying on missions frequently. My father taught me to share his affinity for baseball and I soon became obsessed with the sport and our local teams the Mariners and the Tacoma Tigers.

Back then, not many games were on TV, so most of my baseball came from Dave. It was as if we were hanging out together talking about baseball. To this day, I still get giddy turning on the radio or TV broadcast. Thanks for growing up with me Dave!!!

jakrsp@msn.com">jakrsp@msn.com

Our girls have grown up listening to Dave bring the Mariners to life since they were born. To celebrate our daughters’ 16th and 24th birthdays, we have flown them back east for an 11-day sister trip. The highlight of their trip will be attending the induction ceremony at Cooperstown for Dave.

There is only one Dave Niehaus and our girls are thrilled to be there to honor him in Cooperstown. This is one birthday our girls will never forget!

Jill and Clif Johnson (tortolabvi@centurytel.net">tortolabvi@centurytel.net)

From the moment I heard my first baseball game called by Dave, I decided I wanted to play baseball. Of course that never panned out, yet I find myself enjoying the game of baseball more and more anyway.

Whether it’s poetically proclaiming the action on the field, or telling a story about the good ol’ days of baseball when things aren’t going so well, Dave always makes the games both fun and interesting to listen to. Every time someone talks about a “great” broadcaster I always think to myself, ‘Yeah, but they’re not as good as Dave Niehaus.’ Here’s to the true Mr. Mariner.

gr8asb8@yahoo.com">gr8asb8@yahoo.com

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