SEATTLE – Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus was honored by the Seattle Mariners before Friday night’s home opener against Cleveland, the first time in franchise history Niehaus didn’t call Seattle’s first home game.
Niehaus died of a heart attack last November. He had called Diego Segui’s first pitch in franchise history on April 6, 1977, through the end of the 2010 season, all told 5,284 of the Mariners’ 5,385 games.
He helped teach the game to a region void of the major league with the exception of the Seattle Pilots’ one-year experiment in 1969.
Adults and kids regularly tuned in on summer evenings to hear Niehaus try to put his best spin on what were among the worst teams in baseball during much of the club’s history.
Many of them showed up Friday night as the team honored its narrator.
“He was the heart, soul and voice of the Mariners,” public address announcer Tom Hutyler told the sold-out crowd as the team began its tribute to Niehaus.
Even newcomers seemed to understand Niehaus’ impact. When his image was first shown on the stadium videoboard, new shortstop Brendan Ryan took off his cap and joined in the standing ovation from the rest of the crowd.
Seattle rapper Macklemore performed a tribute song to Niehaus on the grass in front of home. That was the precursor to Niehaus’ widow, Marilyn, throwing out the first pitch to A.L. Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez.
With Niehaus’ tag line of “My Oh My” written in dirt behind second base, his grandchildren called out “Play Ball!” before the first pitch.
Niehaus was the recipient of the 2008 Ford C. Frick award and was inducted into the broadcasters’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is the lone Mariners representative in Cooperstown.
Before the gates of Safeco Field opened, a section of First Avenue South outside the stadium was renamed “Dave Niehaus Way South.”
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