My, Oh My: Dave Niehaus Uplifted Struggling Baseball Team And City
Dave Niehaus was the “Voice of the Seattle Mariners.” His sudden and unexpected death on Nov. 10, 2010 from a heart attack was more than just a sports story. The news hit people hard. Niehaus was part of the cultural fabric of the Pacific Northwest, a role he played since the time he called the first pitch at the first Mariners game back in 1977.
One classic Niehaus call was a play now known in baseball folklore simply as “The Double.” It was Game 5 — the fifth and final match-up of the improbable 1995 Division Championship series between the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees. More than 50,000 fans were packed into the old Kingdome, and the do-or-die game was in extra innings.
Niehaus’ signature "I don’t believe it!” seemed to perfectly sum up the emotions of that momentous occasion. But even more importantly, Niehaus made 33 seasons worth of humdrum, often disappointing Mariner games, worth listening to on the radio.
On that dark November night in 2010, fans called local radio station KOMO to share their feelings about the loss of Niehaus.
“He was the only broadcaster that would make me want to listen to the radio instead of watching the game on TV, whether we were winning throughout the season or in the basement. He made it a blast. Bye Dave,” said one listener.
“Even when we didn’t have a chance in the season, the reason I listened to the game was because of all of the great commentary and all of his great insight,” said another listener. “We will miss you, Dave. The game is not going to be the same.”
And Dave certainly knew how much radio and baseball were made for each other. Niehaus quoted former baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti at Niehaus’ Baseball Hall of Fame induction in 2008.
“The real activity was done with the radio. The playing of the game in the only place it will last, the enclosed green field of the mind,” quoted Niehaus.
In the days after Dave Niehaus passed away, people placed flowers on a makeshift tribute outside Safeco Field. Plans were made to open the ballpark and let fans gather in the bleachers for a public memorial in honor of Dave’s life and career.
The Saturday after Niehaus died, KIRO Radio played a complete recording of Game 5. Anyone who hadn’t heard the bad news might have been confused. After all, baseball season was over and the 1995 playoffs were ancient history. But it made perfect sense to hear all 11 innings on the radio called by Dave Niehaus for one last time.
This piece was originally broadcast on November 9, 2012.