Farewell, Dave: Heroes never go away

We lost a personal friend a couple of weeks ago. It just isn’t right for someone like yours truly, who grew up with Dave Niehaus, to let his passing go unnoticed.

I first became a fan of the “Great American Sport” far longer ago than I care to admit—the current phrase is “back in the days.” First there was the “Knothole Gang,” when the Seattle Rainiers played in the Rainier Valley, listening on my Grandmother’s vintage RCA four-foot-high AM radio. Back in those days it was Leo Lassen and his then-trademark, “And it’s a long fly ball to right field, and he’s going back, back, back and” (at this point Leo would either say “He makes the catch” or “It’s outta here.”)

I served my country for a few years then came back home in time to hear most of the career of Dave Niehaus. We would turn down the volume on the TV and crank up the radio. Even attending games we would take a small portable and listen to his play-by-play. His trademark phrases became our phrases. His enthusiasm for our team and his attitude in general affected all true fans.

Even people who had given up on the Mariners after a poor season would tune in to hear Dave and his descriptive comments and baseball stories liberally mixed in with his game calling.

I’ve lived in a few places in our great country, I’ve even had the privilege of having my own “airtime,” not as a sportscaster but as a DJ back east in the Tidewater area of Virginia. Nowhere, under any circumstances, have I ever heard of any broadcast personality garner the respect and memories that Dave has left his many fans to treasure during his career.

He has been timelessly honored in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He holds a place of respect in the Mariners Hall of Fame, and people of all ages, in all the many parts of the Pacific Northwest where local stations carried the Mariners broadcasts, knew the voice and waited eagerly for the words “Get out the rye bread and the mustard, Grandma, its Grand Salami time.”

In these days, when you hear about so many professional players being fined, jailed, suspended for any number of crimes, these highly paid athletics’ who should be busy setting good examples for their fans and young people with high aspirations, in these days, how refreshing, no, how wonderful to have a public person inspire such good feelings, such admiration, such love.

I would not like to see a bobble-head Dave come out as a tribute; it would not be a good idea. I would rather remember Dave as he sounded, and as he looked, standing on the field before the game mike in hand, reporting, and storytelling while wearing that rich smile. Perhaps a well-done film or CD featuring some of his “Greatest Hits” would be a fitting tribute. But please, not a bobble-head.

Thank you, Dave, for being a part of our lives and for leaving us such fond memories. We always have, and always will, love you.

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