Players loved hearing Niehaus call their highlights
There’ll be a public ceremony to celebrate Dave Niehaus’ life on Dec. 11, the Mariners announced Wednesday, and you can bet it’ll be a moving event with lots of tremendous speakers and memories.
The irony, of course, is that the missing voice will be the one who would have lent the perfect dramatic touch to such a service.
When long-time Mariners players and employees gather to honor Niehaus, they’ll attempt to live up to the gold standard set by the man himself. Because, let’s face it, everyone who speaks will be trying valiently to pay back the ultimate wordsmith who so eloquently described their own lives for the past 34 years.
Many players and managers insist they never read the papers or listen to the radio when it comes to their own team, but as you’d expect, after Niehaus’ passing everyone acknowledged not only listening to The Voice, but taking special pride in hearing his description of their feats on the field.
“We all have egos and like to dig on ourselves,” Jay Buhner told me. “But when Dave is calling a home run, you’re going home and tuning in. You’re flipping through the channels so you can hear ‘My oh my’ or ‘Grand salami time.'”
Yeah, they’re human.
“You always wanted to hear him say ‘Grand Salami’ with your name right after it,” said Dan Wilson.
“On many occasions I’d just turn the TV or radio on or hear a play on the news and it was great,” said Edgar Martinez. “His voice is so different and he was so good at calling the game, I think we all took it for granted. But now that we realize he’s not going to be there, we’re going to miss him. We’re going to miss that voice.”
Former outfielder Dave Henderson says he used to turn on the radio in his car on the way home to hear the replays. And often, he said, Niehaus’ calls seemed more entertaining than the game he’d just taken part in.
“The inflection of his voice, when he go from the way down lows to the yells of the ‘My oh mys,’ it just captured you,” Henderson said.
Wilson, who caught for the Mariners from 1994-2005, said Niehaus elevated the games for everyone.
“When his voice rose and you could her the crowd roar behind him and the excitement building, it brought things to a new level,” Wilson said. “I think viewers could feel that and we could feel it, too, later on when we listened.
“As a player, you felt like you’d really done something when Dave called it.”
That’s what was special about Niehaus. He touched the players, he touched the fans, he touched an entire region for 34 years. And I have no doubt his memorial — or Celebration of Life, as the Mariners are billing it — will be something every fan and former player will want to be part of as a way to reach back.
Here are the details of the service.