We were all shocked to hear about the passing of Dave Niehaus on Wednesday evening. I was absolutely stunned, and had that empty feeling in the gut – you know, that hollow feeling that you never want.
The outstanding coverage by Matt Pitman and Shannon Drayer on ESPN 710 AM assisted with the healing, and got me remembering the first time I really met Dave.
It was 2003 or 2004 – I think, I probably have the year wrong. I had met Dave before, but only in passing – we hadn’t really talked. But on this date, it was Dave Niehaus Night at Cheney Stadium. He was obligated to do a promotional appearance on behalf of Budweiser, and the company elected to do it at a packed Rainiers game.
The Mariners had played a day game, and of course we were playing at night.
Before the game, Dave was introduced by our PA announcer to thunderous applause, and he waved to the Tacoma crowd and threw out the first pitch. Then, he came up to the booth on the roof to do an inning on the radio with me.
Now, this wasn’t Dave and Mike, calling the Rainiers game – this was me interviewing Dave, between pitches during the first inning. I was pretty nervous about it, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to go – I wasn’t interviewing some ballplayer; instead I was interviewing one of the legends in my own profession, a person I really looked up to.
The Mariners had gotten creamed in their game earlier in the day – for some reason 9-2 sticks in my memory as the final score – and, well… here’s how it went:
Mike: “And joining me in the booth today, the Voice of the Seattle Mariners, Dave Niehaus. Dave, it’s an honor to have you here, but what are you doing here tonight? You already called nine innings today!”
Dave: “And nine miserable innings they were, Mike.”
And we were off and running – he put me at ease, just like that. It was fun – I asked him about his background, what he likes about the job, etc. He gave the listeners a peek into what his working life was like, which was a real treat.
This year, when the Rainiers played PCL playoff games at Safeco Field, I was given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to broadcast the games from Dave’s booth. Dave worked every home game surrounded by pictures of his friends and family – the photos cover every square inch of wall space.
Condolences to everyone in the Niehaus family, and the Mariners family. Dave Niehaus was one of the greatest broadcasters in the history of the sport, and he is a true Hall of Famer.