My Favorite Dave Niehaus Memory

Dave · November 15, 2010 at 9:21 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I’ve been struggling since I heard the news. I felt like I should write something, but didn’t want to just put up a post because I was supposed to. And, unlike Shannon Drayer or someone else close to him, I didn’t have much personal experience with the man. I met him once when I was younger, but our relationship has been a one way street. And besides, Dave didn’t like blogs, and if he knew what I wrote, he probably wouldn’t have liked me all that much.

But I liked him. Listening to him call a baseball game always reminded me of why I became a fan in the first place. He was the personification of my childhood, and now he’s gone. I can’t write a tribute to the man the way Shannon did, so instead, I’m just going to tell you a story.

Every year, the school I attended had three day getaways for all the students. We went to the woods, did a bunch of stuff, and “got away from it all”. In order to enforce the not-your-normal-routine environment, they banned electronics from the trip. Most of my friends were mad that they couldn’t bring their gameboys. I was mad that I couldn’t bring my radio. You see, in 1995, they just happened to schedule this thing for October 3rd through the 5th, better known to most of Seattle as Games 1 and 2 of the American League Division Series between the Mariners and Yankees. I was the biggest baseball fan in the school, and they decided to take us on a get-away-from-life trip to the mountains during the first two playoff games the Mariners would ever play. And they outlawed radios.

Looking back, I can’t believe my parents made me go. What a ridiculous decision that was, and one that I’m going to yell at them for now that I think about it. But, they did make me go, and so on the day of Game 1, I piled into a bus with my sleeping bag and various assorted toiletries, and off we went. When we got to the camp, I went to our little a-frame cabin and unpacked my stuff, including my super-secret weapon against their nefarious plot to keep me from playoff baseball – an alarm clock. I had to wake up on time to get to breakfast, after all, so the chaperone couldn’t put up a fight about me having that one item that needed to be plugged in. It was pure coincidence that I brought an alarm clock that happened to have a radio, of course.

The real problem came from the time difference. Since the game was on the east coast, it was played at around dinner time, and I had no reason to bring my “alarm clock” to dinner or the night meeting. I had to try, though, so I stuck the bulky thing in my jacket and sat near a plug while I ate. I managed to catch the first few innings before we had to head over to the Lodge, as Dave gracefully informed me that Chris Bosio was pitching like, well, Chris Bosio. Unfortunately, my contraband was detected and I was asked to surrender the radio before we transitioned to the meeting at night. Luckily for me, my captor was also our basketball coach, who happened to be a pretty big sports fan himself.

During the meeting, he decided to put my radio to good use, plugging it in in a back room somewhere and occasionally running me updates. Bobby Ayala was terrible? Well, I knew that already. Game 1 ended before our meeting did, and I was informed of the bad news before getting my alarm back for the evening.

Wednesday, though, the game ran long. You may remember it as a five hour, 15 inning epic affair that featured four innings of Norm Charlton, among other things. This time, I had brought my radio to the accomplice, figuring some updates were better than nothing. When our meeting ended, however, the game was still going on. I got there in time to hear Dave call Jim Leyritz’s home run with just enough disgust in his voice, but I also heard Dave remind us all of how crazy the season had been, and how Randy Johnson was taking the hill on Friday, and that we couldn’t give up on this team now.

I can still hear Dave’s encouragement in my ears. He imparted hope to a young boy who was not ready for the team’s playoff run to be over.

Four days later, we got The Double. I watched that one on TV, but we weren’t listening to Brent Musberger. We were only interested in hearing one voice call that final game, and it came through the radio. Everyone knows how that call went, and while I’m part of the masses that get goosebumps every time I hear Dave yell “the throw to the plate will be late…”, I also remember sitting in the woods, gathered around a crappy alarm radio, hearing Dave tell me that the Mariners were coming home, and with The Big Unit on the mound, anything was possible.

When Dave Niehaus was broadcasting a game, anything was possible. We’ll all be back for opening day, but it won’t feel as special without Dave around. You will be missed greatly, sir.


21 Responses to “My Favorite Dave Niehaus Memory”

  1. Carson on November 15th, 2010 9:57 am

    Great story. Thanks for sharing.

    Mine isn’t as great – but moving to Seattle from California in 1995 made it pretty easy for an impressionable 15 year old to fall in love with the magic. Especially with Dave telling us the story. Even having my grandma call and tell me that the news in California was talking about these Mariners refusing to lose.

    It’s still just so, so hard to imagine never hearing a grand salami call again, or to be told how it’s another perfect day for baseball.

  2. Ben Ramm on November 15th, 2010 10:01 am

    How old were you during this camp, early teens?

    I listened to the last innings of the one-game play off over a telephone connection that my father put up next to the radio.

    I pretty much quit college because of the 1995 run. I stopped working on an honors thesis because I couldn’t get any work done while following that run. I just cashed it all in to finish my degree early without the thesis. The lack of an honors thesis doesn’t seem to have affected my life, but those memories of those games do stick.

  3. Drew Garret on November 15th, 2010 10:04 am

    How many of us had the TV on, the volume off, and listened to Dave on the radio side of the brodcast? I had the pleasure of meeting him in Spring Training in 2009 shortly after the hall of fame induction. He was a very gracious person.

  4. ZVAZDA on November 15th, 2010 10:05 am

    When I was a kid, I had to go to bed before the game was over, so I would lie in bed with the radio on trying to stay up until the game was over. I didn’t want to stay up so I could hear the outcome of the game; the outcome was secondary to getting to hear the replays of Dave’s calls of things I had missed, things I had seen on TV or just wanted to hear one more time.

    Similarly, after my Dad and I went to games we always rushed back to the car to put the post game show on eager to hear how Dave had called the exciting moments of what we had just seen.

  5. BLYKMYK44 on November 15th, 2010 10:09 am

    I was at Game 5 (and Game 4, which I really wish would get replayed some day…it had almost as many dramatic moments as Game 5) so I had never heard Dave’s play-by-play of the game until Saturday.

    In general, I have a hard time watching sporting events that I already know the outcome. Even when I try to do the old DVR a game and not find out the score I still find myself getting antsy and FF through slow moments of the game.

    Saturday’s experience was completely different. I could listen to that replay on any lazy Saturday afternoon and be completely happy. It was pretty much close to perfect…and it made me want to be 16 again to experience it all over again. Like Dave said the first WS win probably won’t match 95 and that is even more true now that we know it won’t have Dave calling the victory.

  6. Grizz on November 15th, 2010 11:06 am

    Back before the internets and the ESPN ticker, the M’s used to have a 1-800 Mariner Fan Phone number that would play a recorded message from Dave or Rizzs providing the final score and the audio highlights of that night’s game. When I was away at college, I would call it just about every night, and if Dave had a particularly good call, I would call back just to listen to him again.

  7. beaudini13 on November 15th, 2010 11:26 am

    I totally remember that 1-800 mariner deal! I found out that we traded Jose Cruz Jr. that way when I was at Boy Scout Camp. Man Whenever I was away from technology I always found a payphone to catch up on my Mariners.

    I was also one of those watching the tv and listening to Dave call it on the radio. I was in fifth grad and we had almost every radio on in the house. I kept running all over because I was so excited! I think after Jr. scored I went into every room of a 4 story house in about 15 seconds. I bought the 20th anniversary M’s highlight cd, just so I could listen to that call over and over and over again.

    I am going to miss Dave a lot.

  8. awolfgang on November 15th, 2010 11:30 am

    For a minute I thought we might’ve attended the same school. My highschool had a getaway trip but it fell on game 5. I got to go to games 3 and 4, and had tickets to game 5, but decided that I couldn’t miss our Senior Sneak. So we all listened to game 5 huddled around the radio on Blake Island, and when the M’s won, all the guys stripped down to boxers and jumped into Puget Sound, and all the girls got a good laugh.

  9. MBK on November 15th, 2010 11:38 am

    During “The Double” I was playing shortstop for my softball team, the game was pumping out on probably half a dozen car stereos. When Junior scored, both teams exhaled and we jumped around like our pants were on fire. I grabbed the nearest person and hugged the crap out of him, which happened to be the baserunner on second base. Dave’s call in that moment will always be etched on my mind. I will miss him terribly.

  10. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on November 15th, 2010 11:58 am

    Great story, Dave. I think about how many people Dave Niehaus touched, that he never knew in person. We do that, don’t we? Create a familiarity with announcers like him such that it becomes almost like a personal relationship in our own minds. It FELT like Dave and I were friends because he made this game accesible, and for so many years of our lives he talked to each of us.

    My story of the “double” game was sort of like yours of the first two games. I didn’t hear Dave call the actual hit, though. I was forced to work that night, as a buser at an Italian/Greek restaurant. I remember vividly that the owner and his wife had the normal selection of crappy music on, the kind you play at such places. I pleaded with them to put on the game, and they agreed. The wife was a bandwagon baseball fan, and she made the final decision.

    Dave’s voice could be heard over the speaker, but not as clearly as I would have liked. In the back room, however, where the pizza boxes were put together, I could hear perfectly. I have never folded so many boxes in a single shift. Every pitch was full of anticipation. The patrons at the restaurant got into it too. Dave made us feel like we were there in the booth with him. I finished work and made it to a friend’s house (with a little excess speed and the radio on), to see the final inning and the hit on t.v. The dog pile. The whole thing. It was amazing. I didn’t have time to tell my buddy to put the radio call on, but, Dave got me through most of the experience to the exclamation point on that play.

    I listen to his call now, and think about how much bad baseball Dave has brought us all through. How many games we enjoyed more than we should have because of him. I will unfairly compare to him all the announcers who take the mic going forward in the same way those who saw and loved Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle compare hitters of today with the greats they saw as kids. Nobody will ever be as good as Dave Niehaus.

  11. Swungonandbelted on November 15th, 2010 12:58 pm

    I was Stationed in Bremerton in ’93 when I was in the Navy, and was on West-Pac deployment for the second 1/2 of ’94, so 1995 was my first full season where I could follow the M’s. That season for really the first time, I actually had a team that was “mine;” if I wanted to go to a game on a whim it didn’t involve airports. Thus began a love affair with the M’s, thanks in a large part due to getting to listen to Dave Niehaus on a daily basis.

    As much as the ’95 run meant, I think that the memories of Dave Niehaus that I will cherish more than any others, were listening to him call the early spring training games. Hearing Dave on the radio calling baseball in Peoria on days when it was cold and raining in early March was the proverbial ray of sunshine.

  12. msb on November 15th, 2010 6:23 pm

    We’ll all be back for opening day, but it won’t feel as special without Dave around. You will be missed greatly, sir.

    I already had a twinge of that– there was a news-y note on 710 about the Cy Young coming this Thursday, and it was followed by the sound of Dave calling a Felix strike-out. It was still a jolt to realize that was it, no more Felix calls.

  13. DAMellen on November 15th, 2010 10:00 pm

    How old were you then, Dave?

  14. sciacca on November 15th, 2010 10:47 pm

    My favorite memories of Dave are of him introducing players as they took the mound or stepped up to the plate to make their major league debuts. You could just tell that Dave took special pleasure both in calling and witnessing a debut. You got the full story of the player–where and how he grew up, any troubles or highlights along the way to the big leagues, the story of his call-up the day before. Dave would always give a VERY thorough description of his looks and movements, so that having never seen the new kid yet, you could form your first picture of him in your mind. And he would wax poetic about how every kid playing little league would dream about this moment…

  15. kc10man on November 16th, 2010 1:58 am

    You just carbon dated yourself Dave. I??????????????????????????.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????.

  16. kc10man on November 16th, 2010 2:04 am

    I have no Idea whats up with those ????

  17. Greeff on November 16th, 2010 3:37 am

    Great story Dave!

    I became a Mariners fan because of the “Refuse to Lose” run in 1995! Baseball wasn’t really big back then over here but a team that refused to lose got my attention. And since my best friend was a Yankee fan we had a lot of fun trash talkin’ each other.
    Since i live near Amsterdam, The Netherlands we didn’t get any radio or TV broadcast. All we got were a couple of highlights on CNN and that was it. every day I was hoping to see some highlights. And then there was (is) also the time difference that’s making it hard to follow Mariners baseball. (thank god for the internet!)

    But 1995 was the first time I heard Dave’s voice. I don’t really have a story, but it all started there for me… With Dave’s voice telling me about a team that refused to lose.

    I’ve never met Dave and I have never been to Seattle but in a strange way I can relate to all the tribute’s and story’s.

    Even on the other side of the globe Dave Niehaus’ passing has been a terrible loss.

  18. Badbadger on November 16th, 2010 6:55 am

    My favorite Dave Niehaus memory was my first year in college way back in 1983. It was the first day of spring training, and I had to madly read Huck Finn by 1:00 because I knew I wasn’t going to be reading it afterwards.

    The only radio I had was built into a component stereo system and I couldn’t get the M’s station from my dorm room, so I had to lug the whole thing down to a tiny lounge at the corner of the floor and set it up there. I still remember Dave’s happy voice coming out of the speaker, telling me baseball was starting again and everything was right with the world.

  19. galaxieboi on November 16th, 2010 8:09 am

    I’m 33, lived in Seattle all my life until a couple years ago so I grew up an M’s fan in the 80’s.

    My dad was a baseball fanatic, just like his dad and his brother and it was passed on to me. When he passed away in ’85, I was 7, baseball is what really held it together for me for a long time. And a huge part of that was Dave Niehaus.

    For nearly all of my life Dave’s voice has been the soundtrack of summertime for me. Thank you, Mr. Niehaus for your hardwork, dedication and the joy you brought to millions and comfort to one boy.

  20. Phil on November 16th, 2010 8:51 am

    One of the best calls I remember from Dave was the Doug Strange granny against Jeff Russell and Texas. I have never seen the Kingdome at that time rocking as hard as it was. Dave was awesome and even during these hard times he was the only reason I liked listening and watching this team plan. Dave you were the man and will be truly missed!

  21. MrZDevotee on November 17th, 2010 6:28 am

    Grizz & ZVADA
    Thanks for those memories… I had forgotten both of those, but also loved them both.

    The replays of the exciting moments during the radio recaps were every bit as good hearing them the 2nd time… ‘Cause it was all moments where Dave got that contagious enthusiasm going in his voice… It would bounce up a couple octaves, and the smooth deep tone would get gritty and fast. Great memories, lying in bed, falling asleep to the recap.

    And I also remember being on camping trips with my family, and my Dad and I would head to the local grocery store for a candy bar (or donut) and a payphone to get the M’s score from the night before.

    I really wonder how many local kids childhoods are absolutely tied to the voice and imagery of Dave Niehaus? He was the Pacific Northwest’s Norman Rockwell. We can all recognize Dave’s vivid paintings every bit as instantly.

    I really am a little apprehensive about the start of next season. And I’ve NEVER ever thought that before, no matter how awful I thought the team was going to be, I was always counting the days until the season began. That first week’s games are gonna be tough to listen to. It’s gonna be like a kid’s first Christmas after learning there’s no Santa Claus… Still rewarding, but not quite the same.

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