Remembering the Voice of the Mariners, Dave Niehaus


The Seattle Mariners lost their voice on November 10, 2010. Tuesday marks the fifth anniversary of legendary broadcaster Dave Niehaus’ passing. Put simply, Niehaus was the Mariners for 34 years, and he is arguably the most beloved figure in the history of the franchise.

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Born in Princeton, IN on February 19, 1935, not many people would have anticipated Niehaus calling Seattle home for the final 34 years of his remarkable life. Dave graduated from Indiana University in 1957. He got his start in radio with the military, broadcasting with the Armed Forces network.

After his stint in the military, Niehaus took his talents to Hollywood. Dave joined Dick Enberg in the booth broadcasting California Angels games, and moonlighted with the Los Angeles Rams and UCLA basketball. The Mariners lured Niehaus away from the sunny beaches of southern California to become the radio voice of the M’s in their inaugural season of 1977.

Niehaus took control of the microphone on opening day 1977, and proceeded to call 5,284 of 5,385 games played over the next 30 plus seasons. The first 18 years were filled with disappointment, but that didn’t stop people from tuning in to listen to Dave. The M’s radio broadcast was amongst the most popular in the sport, and Niehaus’ talent was a big reason why.

All the years of toiling in the Kingdome were forgotten during the magical 1995 season. A brilliant run in September allowed the Mariners to reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Known as “The Double,” Dave’s call of Edgar Martinez‘s game-winning double in game five of the 1995 American League Division Series still gives me chills. My eyes begin to water every time I hear the words, “swung on and lined down the left field line.” That call changed the course of Mariners’ history, and elevated Niehaus to the pinnacle of his profession. He described it as his, “seminal moment.”

Niehaus received the Ford C. Frick award from Major League Baseball in 2008. This prestigious award means Dave will forever be enshrined at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. In 2000, he became the second member of the Mariners’ Hall of Fame.

Dave’s catchphrases inspired a generation of baseball fans. ‘My Oh My” is essentially the Mariners’ motto to this day. His “fly away!” home run call is synonymous with the high flying, hard hitting M’s teams of the 90’s. “Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma, it’s grand salami time” is one of the most quoted baseball calls of all time.

Niehaus also coined many player nicknames that have become commonplace throughout baseball over the years. He was the first to call Ken Griffey Jr. “The Kid.” Dave also was the first to refer to Alex Rodriguez as a douchebag, or maybe he called him “A-Rod.” Franklin Gutierrez was christened “Death to Flying Things” by the M’s version of Shakespeare. Macklemore immortalized Niehaus with his song, “My oh my,” even performing it on opening day at Safeco Field in 2011.

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Unfortunately, I have lost all four of my grandparents in recent years. Naturally, I was emotional at all of their funerals. I cried the day Dave Niehaus passed away. That’s what he meant to me, he was family. I may have never met the man, but I think we all feel as though we know who he is. We listened to him everyday and saw the game through his eyes. He is the reason why I became a fan, and is the reason I am working as a sports writer.

A team is only as good as their broadcasters say they are. That may sound strange, but stay with me. In many ways, the broadcaster is equally as responsible for cultivating a fanbase as the players. The excitement on the field is not always there, but the sportscaster’s job is to spark enthusiasm in the mundane. For many years, there was no one better at this than Dave Niehaus. There were many lean years during Dave’s tenure with the Mariners, but his voice brought thousands of fans to the park every night.

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Despite Niehaus’ passing, his presence can still be felt at every Mariners’ home game. The street outside Safeco Field is named in his honor, and fans can get a picture with his statue located on the main concourse in right field. Beyond that, any M’s fan at a game is essentially there because of the joy Dave instilled in us.

My oh my, we miss you, Dave! Mariners’ baseball just hasn’t been the same without you, and it never will.