They have given no indication that the position is available, but the Seattle Mariners have received between 50 and 100 resumes, digital recordings and applications from broadcasters hoping to replace Dave Niehaus in 2011.
Out of respect for Niehaus, his family and fans, the team has not conducted a single interview – and may not. Among the options the Mariners are considering is having only familiar faces and voices on their television and radio broadcasts next season, filling the airwaves with the presence of former players and broadcasters.
“That’s something we’ve talked about,” team vice president of communications Randy Adamack said. “There’s a line of thought that we could make 2011 a transitional season for our fans.”
Niehaus, who died in November, was at the microphone for the first game of the Mariners inaugural season and the final game of 2010. As one producer said this week, ‘anyone seen as replacing Dave in the booth opening day is going to take a pounding.’
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It’s nearly impossible to gracefully follow a Hall of Famer, on the field, the bench or broadcast booth. The comparisons are too harsh, the sense of loss too fresh. Later this week, Adamack and other team executives will sit down again with television and radio producers from the Mariners flagship stations and discuss the possibilities of the upcoming season.
Broadcasters Rick Rizzs, Dave Sims and Mike Blowers are all under contract for 2011. If they decide not to name a successor to Niehaus, the team will draw from it’s own past for color men like Dave Henderson, Jay Buhner and Dan Wilson, among others. And when the need arises for play-by-play men, former Mariners broadcasters Ron Fairly, Ken Wilson and Ken Levine could be called in for a series or two.
There’s also the possibility the Mariners could give ‘guest appearances’ to local sports broadcasters, including Mike Curto of the Tacoma Rainiers.
In Niehaus, Seattle lost more than a broadcaster, it lost an icon. As Ken Griffey Jr. said, Dave was the best-known member of the team, whether it was in the ‘70s, the ‘90s or last season.
Those who have applied to succeed him have done so with as much respect and sensitivity as possible, Adamack said, and the team has written to tell each that their inquiry has been received. Beyond that, no one has been interviewed or promised one. The team could still decide to bring aboard a new broadcaster.
“No one wants to be the man who replaces John Wooden,” Adamack said. “You want to be the guy who replaces the man who replaced Wooden.”
The team will decide, probably before spring training begins next month, how it will proceed into the 2011 season – whether that means hiring a new broadcaster or creating a pool of former players and broadcasters. Based on the sentiments of producers, it seems most likely Niehaus will be honored throughout the new year by men who worked alongside him in Seattle or played the game while he described it.