Swung on and belted...
It will fly away...
Break out the rye bread and mustard, grandma, it's a grand salami...
Make no mistake: Dave Niehaus is the man.
The sad thing is no one outside of the Pacific Northwest may ever know this. Mr. Niehaus may be a perennial nominee for the Ford Frick Award, but he will probably never win this outstanding baseball announcer award because he's our own best-kept-secret. Being the modest man that he is, Dave will probably say, "I'm certainly honored just to be nominated" and then, graciously, congratulate the winner. "They deserve it." He'll say.
Sometimes M's fans wonder whether or not Dave Niehaus knows just how good he is.
When Niehaus comes on the radio, after an inning or two break in which his longtime second-banana Rick Rizzs calls the game, the atmosphere changes. The electricity and excitement in his voice brings even one-sided blowouts to a fever pitch of near-Olymp0ian proprtion. It's not that Rick Rizzs is bad. Rizzs is actually very good, in a craftsman-like manner. Rizzs' own homerun call of, "Goodbye, baseball" has it's own lopsided charm. But where Rizzs is smooth and professional and ever-so-cool, Dave is the perpetual kid in the candy store; still so excited to be calling a baseball game that he's practically beside hismself with glee.
He made lackluster Mariners players seem like gods. At least at the time. Jim Presley, Darnell Coles, Pete O'Brien, Jeffrey 'Hac Man' Leonard. Like the Will Rogers of Baseball, Dave Niehaus never met a player, manager, coach, trainer, umpire, or clubhouse attendant he didn't truly like. He even lavished true feelings of love and respect on rival players, tossing off anedotes gleaned from the team media guides. But make no mistake, Niehaus is a Mariner.
"The young left hander looks in for a sign... tugs at that baseball cap, that golden hair flying in the breeze. Joe Carter pinwheels the bat.. digs that front toe into the batter's box... ready for the pitch... the wind-up and the 2-2 pitch... swing and a miss... got 'im! Mark Langston with another big strikeout!"
I grew up in Los Angeles. I was raised listening to the great Vin Scully as he called Dodger games. I remember him talking about Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Maury Wills, Don Sutton, and the glories of Farmer John Sausage. Still, when I first heard Dave Niehaus call a Mariner game in 1986, I knew he had something that even Vin Scully didn't have. That deep bass purr that Niehaus can roll into with ease when announcing a "Striiiike, at the kneees!" That sheer joy of being at the ball game... other announcers can be smooth and professional (Rizzs, Scully, the younger Carays) others can be personable (Scully, Harry Caray, Jon Miller) some even exhibit the sheer joy of calling a game (Caray, Miller, former Niehaus partner Ken Levine) but Dave puts it all together in spades.
One of the greatest joys in my life has been listening to a Mariner game on the radio as Dave Niehaus brings me the sights, the sounds, the color, the personalities of the game. Even when we were losing. And when we did lose, and we did quite often, Niehaus was there to tell us how much of a "heartbreaker" it was, and then he'd sign off with a "We'll get 'em next time" tone of voice that left me raring for more.
The Mariners should erect a statue of Mr. David Niehaus in front of Safeco Field. The inscription on the pedestal should read:
"Dave Niehaus... the Voice of the Mariners: He Gave Us Hope.'