SEATTLE — Dave Niehaus, the Hall of Fame broadcaster who called Seattle Mariners’ games from their first season through this year, has died of a heart attack. He was 75.
Niehaus died at his home in suburban Bellevue, according to his family.
Niehaus was the voice of the Mariners from their first game on April 6, 1977, through the end of the 2010 season with his golden Midwestern voice punctuated by his trademark “My oh My!” and “It will fly away!” calls.
He was the recipient of the 2008 Ford C. Frick award and was inducted into the broadcasters’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Dave has truly been the heart and soul of this franchise since its inception in 1977,” Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln and team president Chuck Armstrong said in a statement tonight.
From the Mariners’ debut in 1977, Niehaus served as an instructor for baseball fans in the Pacific Northwest, a region void of the major league game sans the Seattle Pilots’ one-year experiment in 1969. Adults and kids regularly tuned in on summer evenings to hear Niehaus try and put his best spin on what were among the worst teams in baseball during much of the club’s history.
But no matter how bad the Mariners were, Niehaus never let the on-field product affect his approach to the game. He always brought enthusiasm and drama to some horrible teams, horrible games and horrible seasons.
“All of us in this business, guys, this is the toy department of life,” Niehaus said before his Hall of Fame induction in 2008. “It’s a narcotic. Anyone who is involved in this business, whether it be my end or (the writing) end or the front office end, we’re lucky. We’re lucky people.”
Niehaus got into broadcasting as a student at Indiana. He worked for the Armed Forces Network in Los Angeles and New York before anchoring himself in the L.A. market in the late 1960s and early ’70s, calling games for the California Angels and UCLA football. In 1976 at the baseball winter meetings, Niehaus was encouraged to interview for the lead play-by-play job with the expansion Mariners.
As much as Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez and Ichiro Suzuki were responsible for making Seattle relevant in professional baseball, it was Niehaus telling their stories along the way.
“He was a consummate pro at everything he did,” former Seattle outfielder Jay Buhner said. “I am going to miss everything about the guy — going to miss his face, his ugly white shoes and his awful sport coats. He was one-of-a-kind.”
When Griffey returned to Seattle for the 2009 season, he was constantly on Niehaus’ case, playfully badgering the broadcaster while checking in to make sure Niehaus was eating right and feeling OK.
Even though Niehaus has never announced a World Series game with the Angels or Mariners, his calls during Seattle’s remarkable rally during the 1995 season still bring chills to those who fondly remember the brightest time in Mariners history.
Seattle trailed the Angels by 13 games on Aug. 2 before surging to win the AL West for its first playoff berth.
His call of Edgar Martinez’s double that beat the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the AL Division Series that year was being replayed all over Twitter and Facebook tonight.
“Right now, the Mariners looking for the tie. They would take a fly ball, they would love a base hit into the gap and they could win it with Junior’s speed. The stretch … and the 0-1 pitch on the way to Edgar Martinez, swung on and LINED DOWN THE LEFT-FIELD LINE FOR A BASE HIT! HERE COMES JOEY, HERE IS JUNIOR TO THIRD BASE, THEY’RE GOING TO WAVE HIM IN! THE THROW TO THE PLATE WILL BE … LATE! THE MARINERS ARE GOING TO PLAY FOR THE AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP! I DON’T BELIEVE IT! IT JUST CONTINUES! MY OH MY!”
Niehaus later said it wasn’t his favorite call during his career, but the one he’d be the most identified with.
“I was lucky enough to be there,” he said.
Memorable Dave Niehaus calls (Seattle Times)