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Originally published Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Seattle Mariners announcer prepares for Hall of Fame honor

Longtime Seattle Mariners baseball announcer Dave Niehaus will fly Thursday to Cooperstown, N.Y., where Sunday he will be presented the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Dave Niehaus' Cooperstown speech is mostly written now, a valiant attempt at summarizing his broadcast career in the time constraints he was given: five to seven minutes on the podium.

"It's hard to thank everyone involved and go over 40, 45 years of your life in five to seven minutes," he said. "I know I'm going to miss somebody, and I want to apologize to them at the beginning of the speech, and I do, for not naming them."

But the hardest part of all, Niehaus acknowledged Tuesday upon returning to Safeco following his annual post-All-Star Game hiatus, will be getting through it without breaking down.

Niehaus will fly Thursday to Cooperstown, N.Y., where Sunday he will be presented the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

It was Bill Mazeroski — a former Mariners coach in 1979-80 — who set the bawling standard during his induction speech in 2001. Overcome with emotion, Mazeroski was unable to continue.

"I don't want to pull a Bill Mazeroski, but I'm not saying I won't," Niehaus said. "I think his speech lasted 45 seconds before he sat down. He probably got the biggest ovation of anyone in the history of the Hall of Fame.

"It shows his love of the game; that's what everybody appreciates. Certainly, I have that same love."

And the same emotional wellspring. During a session with reporters on Tuesday, someone brought up the Mariners' tiebreaking playoff game with the Angels in 1995 that put them in the postseason for the first time in club history. Afterward, the ecstatic crowd saluted Niehaus in the booth.

Recalling the moment Tuesday, Niehaus' eyes welled up with tears. He had to compose himself before speaking.

"That was probably the biggest thrill of my life until this weekend," he said finally. "I didn't know I meant that much to them."

Looking forward to the Cooperstown adventure that awaits him, Niehaus said, "I'm getting very nervous. Very nervous. It's intimidating, like I knew it was going to be. It's also going to be the thrill of my life. I know that."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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