I should have written this to you years ago. I thought about it when I was 10, when Nintendo of America bought the team. It never felt real to me that my baseball team could leave. I mean, what would we use the Kingdome for? But when the Mariners made it official that they were staying I wanted to write you and say how happy I was you weren't leaving.
1995, my god. I think I actually did start to write you a letter in pen at that point. We never had cable growing up and you were it, Dave. Sitting in my bedroom, shooting hoops in the driveway, driving to and from youth group events with my mom; you would vacilate between a low, baritone purr, rapid-fire auctioneer, and then of course the explosions, where you shouted like one of the enraptured at a tent revival. You did all that in 1995, sometimes in the same play.
Life happened there for awhile, Dave, and I kind of lost track of you. But by 2009 I was back home, and I'd bounce my toddler son on my lap, and be right back listening to you, day after day. It was after The Old Time Religion call that I thought, for the final time, about writing you. But my intentions have always greatly outstripped my actions, and being a new parent frankly completely overwhelmed me.
If I really trace back my fandom in the Seattle Mariners you are vastly more indispensable than any Kid or King. You had this amazing, unfathomably deep well of abilities, Dave. The Mariners were slight variations of miserable and mediocre the majority of your career. Somehow, you were able to express your frustration with that in a way that was honest without growing embittered. I'm sure it wore on you, but you always told us the way it was in a way that left me feeling both represented and protected, somehow.
The truth is without you Dave I don't think any of this is here; the website, Safeco Field, the Mariners. Your influence, who you were and what you meant to fans is such a keystone to the very idea of the existence of the Seattle Mariners that I can easily imagine an alternate reality where the team hires some generic rando way back in 1977, and the team is forced to try and sell baseball with its play on the field. That, that would not have gone well.
My favorite memories are always what you would do in the quiet times. Being an announcer is like being a fan; neither of us really has any agency in what happens in between the chalk. Most announcers struggle with this, as they attempt to soften the edges of the game into something more malleable for their pre-created narratives. Maybe it was all those miserable losses in the 80's that seemed to teach you that the game couldn't be controlled. Rather as the Mariners would buck, charge, and flit to and fro you learned to dance atop them, spinning, flipping, and dancing in the saddle, not giving one damn about pretending you were holding the reins.
If I'm being extremely honest Dave none of it has ever really been the same since you left us. The team is a harder sell for someone who hopes his children will learn to love the game the way I do. That's no slight on Dave, Rick, Mike, and Aaron. We like them all very much, and they're all smart enough to realize that there's only one Dave Niehaus. But I'm always left with this nagging inclination that regardless of wins and losses we'll never have it better than we had it with you. Victory and defeat are only as good as the company you share either with, and you were the best damn company I know of.
This letter is both overdue to end and theoretically just beginning. You see Dave there's nothing interesting, unique or special about it. Everything I've said here, and these are sacred memories to me David, they are all echoed by the tens and hundreds of thousands by my fellow Mariner fans. Imagine that, a person who could spend hours pouring out their thanks to you, and attempt to crudely express the profound way you've figured in and shaped their lives. Then imagine that bond, that moment that comes from both expressing and receiving honest thanks. Then you look up and see that there's a line hundreds of miles long of people patiently waiting to do that all again. That's who you were, Dave Niehaus. You were our region's patron saint of Baseball.
I'll end it with a little story: I was only 13, and it was that damn '95 run again. I'm just old enough that my friend and I are allowed to sleep in a trailer in the yard, with no parental supervision. We have one of those double A battery AM-only transistor radios, and we're listening to the Mariners. The trailer was one of those fifth wheels with a small sleeping area above the trailer hitch. I was 13, and a moron, both traits combining perfectly to form a kind of Meta-moron so even though there are vastly better places I contort myself into that space and lay there, listening to you.
It's the Vince Coleman Grand Slam game, as the Mariners rallied from a 6-0 deficit, but it's about to become the Alex Diaz game. Those days the Mariners had names and alternate names for seemingly every game. I am 13, and I am a human electrical wire, waiting for a charge. Then on a 2-0 fastball from Rick Honeycutt Diaz crushes a flyball to left, and Dave is pure electricity:
"Alex BELTS the ball, DEEEEEP to left field, Rickey Henderson goes back and that will (screams from the crowd over comethe call here)."
I screamed, and jumped out of my bed. Except that it's dark, and there's ~28 inches between my face and the top of that trailer. Another scream, a smashed nose, blood everywhere, the smile never leaves my face.
It's just one memory, Dave. One of thousands I have, and one of the thousands held by thousands. Thousands times thousands, millions of smiles. That's your legacy, that's your gift to us all.
I love you, and I miss you very much. Thanks for everything.