"Surreal" in Cooperstown
Dave Niehaus underwent his Hall of Fame initiation Saturday — nonstop ribbing. Current Hall of Famers are said to be merciless on...
Seattle Times staff reporter
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Dave Niehaus underwent his Hall of Fame initiation Saturday — nonstop ribbing.
Current Hall of Famers are said to be merciless on each class of newbies. While Niehaus technically is not becoming one of their brethren when he receives the Ford C. Frick Award during today's induction ceremony, the distinction didn't seem to matter much.
On the bus to a lavish reception hosted by Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark on Friday night, Wade Boggs was the first to let Niehaus have it.
"You're going to cry, you're going to cry [during the induction speech]," Boggs teased. "Welcome to the family — what took you so long to get here?"
Bill Mazeroski, an old friend from his Mariners' coaching days, chimed in.
"I know you're going to cry," he told Niehaus.
Mazeroski is renowned for giving perhaps the shortest speech in Hall of Fame history in 2001, because he was so overcome with emotion he couldn't continue.
"I said, 'Maz, let me tell you something. Remember your speech in 2001? If I inhale, that will be longer than your speech.' That broke up the bus," reported Niehaus.
Niehaus's time in Cooperstown leading up to today's ceremony, in which he will be honored for broadcasting excellence, continues to be "surreal," to use his word.
Niehaus was in awe at meeting Hank Aaron in the lobby Saturday morning. He chatted with Yogi Berra ("a delight"), and hopes to meet Sandy Koufax. One of his few regrets is that former broadcast partner and close friend, Don Drysdale, is not here. Drysdale died in 1993.
Drysdale's widow, Ann Meyers Drysdale, sent a bouquet from Beijing, where's she's preparing to broadcast the Olympics. Former Seattle GM Pat Gillick called to offer congratulations and give his regrets for not being to make it. Niehaus even had a long conversation with an old friend from his youthful days in Los Angeles, entertainer Jim Nabors.
"People are crawling out of the woodwork," he marveled.
At Friday's dinner, Niehaus and his wife, Marilyn, were seated with Al Kaline, Phil Niekro, Mazeroski and their wives.
"We became rather well-bonded before the evening was over," he said.
Another highlight Saturday was receiving a private tour of the Hall of Fame, along with 15 members of Niehaus's family who made the trip. He showed them the Frick Award display and was surprised to see that his picture was already up. It hadn't been on Friday.
"One of the things that means the most to me is I'll be the first true Mariner to go in," he said.
Goose Gossage, whose career ended with Seattle in 1994, and former M's manager Dick Williams will be inducted into the Hall today. Barney Dreyfuss, Walter O'Malley, Billy Southworth and Bowie Kuhn, all deceased, also will be inducted. The late Larry Whiteside of The Boston Globe receives the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing."
Niehaus gave a small glimpse of his speech, which must be limited to five to seven minutes.
"I'm going to mention an incident in 1994, when Gossage was closing his career with the Mariners," he said. "We had a real cocky first-round draft choice named Roger Salkeld. He was down in the bullpen, and he was always chirping, always spouting off about how great he was.
"Gossage went up to him and said, 'Son, how many Cy Young Awards have you won, anyway?' That stopped that. It showed Goose's demeanor, how tough he was."
Niehaus was to attend the Hall of Fame banquet Saturday night, followed by a dessert reception that included a red-carpet arrival for all the Hall of Famers and honorees.
"I'll see if I'm still vertical," he said. "This is all very tiring."
But very exhilarating.
"It's just unbelievable that they've been so nice to me, a kid from Princeton, Indiana," he said.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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