On the Death of Dave Niehaus: One Year Later

One year ago, Dave Niehaus died, and I wrote about it. Dave’s death was a significant moment for me, the same as it was for every Seattle Mariner’s fan. It was significant both in how it made me feel and the fact that it compelled me into writing. I wasn’t writing then, and hadn’t been for some time. I wrote a lot in college, and after, I just kind of stopped. I don’t know if you know this, but writing is awful. Do not do it.

Only some people saw what I wrote at the time. I did not have this blog then. In a way, writing about Dave perhaps helped me break through some invisible barrier—it reminded me that I hate the process of writing but love having written more. And here we are now. Below, I have reproduced what I wrote one year ago:

I remember Dave’s call of The Double better than I remember anything from the year of 1995. And yet, remember is a misleading and confusing word. I was 10 years old then. I could swear I watched the game live on television. I remember it like it was yesterday. Sitting on the carpet in front of the TV in my living room to get a closer look. My mom and dad and younger brother behind me on one of the couches. My mother was always a wreck when watching the M’s that year. It was so surprising to me that a grown woman could seemingly care about a sporting event more than I did.

We sat there as a family. Watching some dingy screen, and Dave wanted a hit into the gap. They’d take a fly ball to tie the game, but a double between the outfielders could really end this thing. Junior could run then. And then, an 0-1 pitch to Edgar was on it’s way, and something both miraculous and inevitable happened. He hit a double. He always hit a double. I remember seeing that ball in the air, watching it land. Fair. As a ten year old, I don’t think I fully grasped what was about to happen. To be honest, in those first moments, I was more amazed that Dave had called for a double. For a few brief moments, I wasn’t even considering if Junior was going to make it from first. I wasn’t nervous. I was stunned that the man on television had predicted something and it had come true. Sure, it was down the line, not into the gap, but the result was going to be the same, and Dave had called it.

I remember all of this, and I’m searching around on the internet now, and I’m seeing that Dave Niehaus wasn’t even on the TV call that evening. I must have him confused with Brent Musburger. Something’s not right. I can recite that call by heart, down to the inflection in his voice. Down to the joy in the words.

We must have had the radio on, then. With the TV muted. Or maybe I was in the car with my father. Driving home from basketball practice on the highway. Ten minutes from home with Dave as our eyes and ears like he had been so many times before.

The point that’s developing, I think, is that the specifics do not matter. Dave Niehaus is ubiquitous. He is the voice of Mariners baseball and every exciting moment they ever experienced. He was there for it all. For every important and condensed and capitalized header in Mariners history. The First Pitch. The Kid. The Double. Ichiro. 116 Wins. The experience of these things are not the same if spoken by any other man. He was a singular and irreplaceable force. Equal parts dedication, enthusiasm, and love. His brilliance was many things. His tone, his attention to detail, his timeless catch phrases, the obvious joy he took in being part of the game. But it was mostly his impact. The way he made himself a part of every single fan’s life. Calling every game, every day. He is the voice of Seattle baseball, the voice of my childhood, and the voice that described to me just exactly what beautiful and amazing things baseball is capable of.

Dave Niehaus died last night. With him he took an era of Mariners baseball. The first era. From now on, there is only after. On my way into work this morning, I was driving through downtown Seattle and the radio transitioned from music to his call from ‘95:

Right now, the Mariners looking for a 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!

The call faded slowly, and behind it began to play Hallelujah, performed by Jeff Buckley. I drove for a while. I listened. I stopped at a red light and static from the telephone wires above started to take over the signal. I eased my car forward until the static broke, until the music began to transmit clear.

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