April 21, 2014

Remembering Dave Niehaus

I was out of the country on vacation last week when the great Dave Niehaus unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack.  As a baseball fan who spent his 20s in Seattle, I listened to a LOT of Mariner baseball games.  In those days, the Mariners played in the cavernous Kingdome and were really, really bad (it wasn’t until 1991 that they finally secured their first .500 season), but there were a number of jewels that captivated the minds of baseball fans across the Pacific Northwest, including Ken Griffey, Jr., Jay Buehner, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, Tino Martinez and, of course, Dave Niehaus.

Outside of Vin Scully, Niehaus was the best baseball broadcaster I ever heard.  Like Vin, Dave had a conversational style, but he also had a passion for the team and game that always brought a smile to your face.  The guy could definitely be a bit over the top at times, but he was a big guy with a big heart and had a big, big love for baseball in Seattle – something that was a needed antidote to the anemic play that often took place on the field.

I’ve read a lot of articles over the past few days about Dave Niehaus’ passing, but one of the best remembrances I read was from “Dodger Talk” co-host Ken Levine, who teamed up with Niehaus in the broadcast booth during the 1992 season.  While Levine’s hiring seemed unconventional at the time, I really loved listening to his calls with Niehaus.  They were a great team. 

Earlier this season, after a routine Joe Torre pregame media session at Dodger Stadium, I was trudging up the stairs to the press box with Ken and I offhandedly mentioned how much I enjoyed listening to him and Dave during that 1992 Mariners season.  Ken stopped, turned around and told me how much he appreciated the comment.  From our short conversation on those steps, I could tell that his experience with Niehaus meant far more to him than I had originally expected.

It’s for that reason that I was really looking forward to reading Ken’s thoughts on Dave, and I was not disaapointed.  It’s a must read for anyone that loves the art of baseball broadcasting and just fantastic insight into a great man:

Still, people in the Pacific Northwest clung to his every word. The attraction was not the team; it was listening to Dave. His passion for the game, vivid descriptions, and magnificent voice made any baseball game sound exciting, even a Mariners’.

Sound familiar, Dodger fans?

Ken was also recently a guest of Mike Gastineau on 950 KJR AM in Seattle and shared a little more insight into how he first met Dave during a college internship, as well as some additional personal anecdotes that can’t help but make you smile.

Finally, for baseball fans in the Northwest, the Mariners are planning a free public “Celebration of Life” to honor Dave Niehaus on Saturday, December 11, at 1:10 p.m. at Safeco Field.  The program is still being developed, but will include tributes from the Niehaus family, Mariners players and Dave’s close associates throughout his long and celebrated career in the game of baseball.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/The Seattle Times, John Lok