Family, friends, Mariner Nation mourn loss of Dave Niehaus
The Mariners will hold an informal open house at Safeco Field on Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m., to honor their late broadcaster, Dave Niehaus.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Open house at Safeco FieldSaturday, noon to 3 p.m.
The Mariners will hold an informal open house Saturday at Safeco Field for fans to share memories and reflect on the life of Dave Niehaus. Fans are asked to enter through the Home Plate Gate.
Mariners officials say the club will eventually have a larger, formal tribute to the life of Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus.
But, for now, they will hold an informal open house at Safeco Field on Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m., where fans can view Niehaus memorabilia, sign a book of condolence for his family and talk about the life and legacy of the only lead radio play-by-play man the team ever knew.
Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong both say any larger event will be coordinated with Niehaus' widow, Marilyn, and close family members when the time is right.
"We will honor Dave, and plans are in the works," Lincoln said Thursday at a Safeco Field gathering of former players, team officials and media members.
Lincoln said plans are underway for "a formal celebration of Niehaus' life" and that details will be announced as soon as they are confirmed.
Armstrong visited the Niehaus family Thursday, along with the late broadcaster's on-air partner, Rick Rizzs, and executive producer Kevin Cremin.
Armstrong fought back tears as he described the conversations.
"They said they wanted to do something personal and private, and they're trying to figure out how to do that," he said. "And then, we offered to have a reception here, or a celebration of life. Whatever we can do. This guy was one of a kind. He's our first Hall of Famer and our most popular Mariner in history."
Armstrong said Niehaus, who died Wednesday at age 75, suffered his fatal heart attack on the back deck of his home near Bellevue. He was about to prepare some barbecue ribs, using a recipe given to him by Cremin.
The family is still in shock, Armstrong added, and largely unaware of the massive outpouring of public affection.
"We had to tell them about that," he said. "It's so tragic that they can't watch it. They can't listen to it."
Armstrong said one thing Niehaus had previously asked for was that "162" be inscribed on his gravestone, symbolizing the number of games he worked each season. Armstrong recalled with a smile the various times he and others tried to persuade Niehaus, who suffered his share of health issues, to pull back from the full-season workload he loved.
"I remember calling him on the phone," Armstrong said. "I said, 'David. Who's your boss?' And he said, 'Well, you are.' And I said, 'Right. Now you and I were both in the service, and when your superior officer gives you an order, you follow it, right?'
"And he says, 'Well, what are you going to tell me to do?' And I said, 'You're not doing the game, you're going home. You're going back to the hotel.' And he said, 'What if I say no?' And I said, 'I'll fire you.'
"And he said, 'No, you wouldn't.' And I said, 'I'm your boss!' So, we had a few things like that. "
Former slugger Dave Henderson, who got to work with Niehaus in the broadcast booth, also talked about Niehaus' magic in front of a microphone.
"One thing that I was really amazed by — being a broadcaster right next to him — is that he could start a story about baseball and actually stick the baseball broadcast in there and get it done before the third out," Henderson said. "And I always thought, 'He's starting this story with two outs, two strikes on a guy, and he's going to get this done before we go to commercial break.' I never could figure out how he timed that out."
Another former-player-turned-broadcaster, Dan Wilson, agreed Niehaus made the tough stuff seem simple.
"The way he could take a cutaway of a ferry going out to sea and turn that into something very Americana about baseball," Wilson said. "He was just an artist with words and an artist with emotion. He was just able to strike a chord with so many people outside of baseball, and that's why we all loved him."
But it didn't always come easy.
"He had a great gift, but he worked on that gift and worked very hard," Mariners CEO Lincoln said. "He was just as excited and working just as hard on the last game he broadcast as the first game he broadcast. And that's a great tribute to him."
Replicating that won't be easy. The club will take a couple of weeks before discussing how to replace him with its broadcast partners.
"I think it's going to be very difficult for anybody to fill his shoes," Lincoln said. "And certainly, it's not something we've even talked about, or thought about, but this is a man who is not going to be replaceable. He is an institution. He is Mariners baseball."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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