Thursday, December 23, 2004

Mama Told Me There'd Be Daves Like This.

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.'

6 Comments:

Blogger Mariner Optimist said...

Welcome to the blogosphere! Nice overview of what makes Dave Niehaus special. Enthusiasm without the overt homerism.

December 23, 2004 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger jim said...

It's not that Rick Rizzs is bad. Rick Rizzs is incredibly bad. Rizzs replaced the great Ernie Harwell in Detroit several years ago and they crucified him, sent him back to Seattle walkin' funny. Rizzs is a craftsman fashioning cottage cheese ceiling skinny houses. Danger! Listening to Rizzs and his inane sidekicks for long is like staring into the eyes of one of the thousands of black lab mutts roaming seattle, guaranteed to lower your I.Q. by 50 points if you've got that much brainpower left.

December 24, 2004 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger PositivePaul said...

The sheer joy of Ken Levine? That guy depressed me moreso than even Ron Fairly. I forgive you for that one!

Five bucks says Niehaus gets his award this year. If a senior writer over at ESPN can recognize the gift that he is to baseball (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=caple/041117), then so should Baseball. What am I saying -- Jim Caple's endorsement means that he's a shoo-in? Well, at least Caple got this one right (except that it's called Red Hook ESB, not ISB).

I had tears in my eyes right along with Niehaus when he was honored by throwing out the first pitch in Safeco. I haven't met him like I got to meet Pete Gross (when I was in third grade), but I'm sure there's not a phony bone in his body. He really fits this town and this team better than a glove.

Here's to good health for Dave so he doesn't go the way of 'Gar and miss out on being a part of a World Series. It would be as big a travesty, or even arguably bigger, if the M's can't make it to a World Series before Niehaus retires. Sure, there was 95 and 97 and 2000-01 with the playoffs. Still, even if we're swept, I want the M's to give Dave 4 World Series games...

December 29, 2004 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Jack Howland said...

Rick Rizzs is terrible! His home run call is forced, he has very little solid knowledge of the game, he does no legwork in familiarizing himself with the minor league players or with opposing teams players, he repeats himself over and over ad nauseum, and he's not funny even though he tries to be. The only thing he does well is slip commercial after commercial in between the play by play for which he will be rewarded a lifetime invitation to stay as long as he wants. As another poster commented, he was run out of town in Detroit by baseball fans with a little less tolerance for stupidity than we have in Seattle.

December 30, 2004 at 5:10 PM  
Blogger davidaniehaus said...

I'm only logging onto this because I was googling dad's name for the hell of it and found these comments.

In response to some of these comments, if anyone cares:

1) Dave Niehaus, my dad, really is the hardcore baseball fan and general sports lover you all assume he is. He sits on his ass during the World Series just like we do, eating and drinking and wishing he was there.

2) Dave Niehaus is a great husband to my mother, great dad to me and my brother and sis, and an even better grandpa. If you all think he would be a great family man, you are correct.

3) Dad knows he's going into the Hall someday; there's just some codgers in front of him (no, he doesn't say that). Jerry Coleman is f'n 80, dad is 70. They give it for longevity more than anything else.

4) About the World Series thing and dad not being there yet... how many Red Sox and Cubs announcers have there been since the 1920's? Don't feel that bad for Dave Niehaus then. He had 1995, and had a heart attack the next year. I think a World Series would kill my dad, but he would have a smile on his face when we found him. I'd prefer he outlived me - I'm 40.

Anyway, I never speak up but I hope someone who loves baseball in Seattle has a chance to read this crap.... my father is truly deserving of all the praise he gets... ciao.

March 31, 2005 at 12:16 AM  
Blogger Margimariner said...

In any heaven I might occupy someday, God will sound like Dave Niehaus. I came across this blog tonight, three and a half years after it was written, and am thrilled that this year he WILL be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Opening Day is six days away, the void is almost over, and I can't wait to be in the warm companionship again with a man I have never met.
Have to disagree with the knocks on Rick, but did prefer Ron. I always loved it when Dave and Ron got laughing about something.

March 25, 2008 at 9:58 PM  

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