My Thoughts on Dave

Dave · February 19, 2008 at 11:42 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

So, since about Sunday evening, I’ve been laid out either in bed or on my couch, getting beaten down by a particularly nasty version of the flu. I haven’t been particularly plugged in to much of anything; just a reality consisting of the aches and pains that the flu drags along with it.

Then, at one point this afternoon, I rolled over and caught the ticker scrolling across the bottom of ESPNews; “Mariners announcer Dave Niehaus will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as winner of the Ford C. Frick award for 2008”. A rare smile crossed my face; my body was still chilly, but my heart was a little bit warmer.

Growing up, our family didn’t have a TV. I read books – every single Hardy Boy book ever published, in fact – and listened to the radio. My parents ran their own business, and often I’d go to work with them in lieu of having a babysitter. I wasn’t particularly interested in auto repair, so I’d find the radio. And in the radio, I found Dave Niehaus. He was usually welcoming me, along with all his other friends that were apparently listening, to a beautiful day out for baseball. It was always a beautiful day out for baseball. Listening to Dave string sentences together, I learned how to love baseball, even without seeing the game be played. His words painted a vivid enough picture for me.

I learned baseball from him. I learned that Jim Presley was terrible, Harold Reynolds was fast, that Alvin Davis was Mr. Mariner, and that the team didn’t have any pitching. They never had any pitching. Through Bill Swift, he taught me what a sinkerball was. Through Scott Bradley, he taught me that catchers could be left-handed. Through John Moses, he taught me that you can give anyone a nickname by just shortening their last name. And through Ivan Calderon, he taught me that hispanic players could have Russian first names.

Dave Niehaus taught me how to be annoyed by Bip Roberts, who seemingly killed us every March in spring training. I knew the games didn’t count, but listening to him call yet another hit for a guy named Bip just got my blood boiling. He taught me how to love Erik Hansen’s curveball, Mike Jackson’s slider, and Henry Cotto’s mustache. He made sure I never called Greg Briley anything but Pee-Wee, and reminded me that Ken Griffey’s real name was just Junior. I remember hearing Dave call Junior’s first at-bat in spring training of ’89, as well as his Opening Day double in Oakland. I didn’t see either of those things happen, but you can’t convince me of that, because the call is etched in my memory stronger than any picture I could stare at.

Dave was the voice of 1994, when the M’s made a furious charge to take the lead in a division race that would never finish. And he was the voice of 1995, when I realized I didn’t care about labor stoppages or player’s unions but just wanted baseball to come back again. He was there on May 26th, when I heard him call Kevin Bass’ shot in the gap that broke Junior’s wrist. He was there on August 24th, when Junior launched a walkoff HR against the invincible John Wetteland to start the miracle run. I have these dates memorized thanks in large part to the audio of Dave’s voice that runs through my head. I can’t separate those moments from his descriptions, not that I would ever want to.

I don’t know Dave Niehaus. I’ve met him once, but I don’t pretend that gives me insight into who he is. All I know is what I’ve seen and heard; the man likes Hawaiian shirts, Lou Piniella, and the squeeze play. But I feel like I know more about him than that. I grew up with him, and he’s involved in more of my childhood memories than anyone whose last name isn’t Cameron. For me, Dave Niehaus was like that cool Uncle who always brought you something fun. He just happened to bring me baseball.

Congratulations Dave – you deserve this. You deserve to know that you taught me, and thousands of people like me, how to love this game and this team, and you did it well. Enjoy Cooperstown; I’m sure July 27th will be a beautiful day out for baseball.


54 Responses to “My Thoughts on Dave”

  1. north on February 21st, 2008 1:11 pm

    This award is well deserved. Dave Niehaus is, even today, one of the best announcers in the game. Many of these posts harken to childhood memories. I cannot do that because I did not encounter Dave Niehaus until well into adulthood.

    Instead, I will try and pinpoint some reasons why Dave N is such a great announcer. As a neutral fan (my team no longer exists, so my allegiance is to well played and exciting baseball – wherever), I have listened to at least a few innings of every baseball announcing crew in the league. Dave N. stands out because …

    i) he relays the atmosphere. He’ll go beyond the boxscore in his descriptions. He’ll mention that the on-deck hitter is tying his shoes or that the hitter is scratching his nose or somesuch. The art is that he does this without overwhelming the listener with details. Many play by play announcers are limited to reciting the box score and give the listener little feel for the ambiance.

    ii) he is of the home team without alienating the neutral or opposing team’s fans. Opposing players and coaches are treated with respect and their accomplishments are called with equanimity. Too many announcing teams are destroyed by their homerism*. Over time I have become somewhat of a Mariners fan thanks to Dave Niehaus.

    Kudos to Dave Niehaus.

    * Probably the most grievous example is the team that covers the Cubs – excruciating.

  2. Buhnerboy on February 21st, 2008 3:23 pm

    Nothing says Dave Niehouse to me like the following:

    “…and enjoy yourself a nice, cold, Budweiserrrrrrrr. Imported from Olymmmmmmmpia.”

  3. cody on February 22nd, 2008 7:25 am

    Dave Niehaus-My oh My!

  4. Lootmeister on March 5th, 2008 10:20 pm

    Hi All,

    I’ve got one that will never be forgotten as well. It was the late eighties. The M’s had worked hard to fight vs. one of the best closers in the game at the time, Ron Davis of the Minnesota Twins. He was FLAT NASTY back then.

    So, the M’s had clawed to get the game to 7-4. The sacks were jammed and Phil Bradley was coming up to the plate. I’ll tell it how I recall it. Please advise if I am wrong but it went a little something like this…

    “This place is going bonkers right now…..Ron Davis, staring down, goes to the stretch… The pitch to Phil Bradley, the fastball, BELTED deep to left field, back goes hatcher, this one will fly, fly, fly away and the mariners win it 8 to 7, I don’t believe it! MY OH MY!”

    To this day, other than seeing my first son born, I cannot think of anything that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

    Dave got me through a lot of rough teenage years. There was NOTHING better than sneaking the radio to bed past bedtime listening to the M’s through his voice.

    Lastly, before I go, somebody noted how horrible Jim Presley was. Jimmy wasn’t horrible. Especially the night he went yard to tie a game in the 9th and then come back and go deep in the 10th to win it.

    Jimmy, like many other unforgettable role players will always carry a place in my heart.

    Thanks Dave, I don’t know if you’ll ever read this but I am not embarassed to say that as a full grown man, more than once have you brought a tear to my eye. We love you man.

    Kevin in the Gorge

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