Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"My oh my!"

How's this for a phone call on your birthday? Dave Niehaus picked up the phone at 10:00 AM on heard this from the president of the baseball Hall of Fame:

"Dave, welcome to the Hall."

Happy birthday and WOW.

Dave Niehaus of the Seattle Mariners has been selected as this year’s broadcaster to go into the Hall of Fame. FINALLY!! It’s an honor long overdue and I could not be more thrilled. Even Castro’s resignation? Big deal. Dave Niehaus is going to Cooperstown!!

Dave and I worked together with the M’s and he’s the best partner I ever had. His enthusiasm, love of the game, and heart as big as the Puget Sound has always been an inspiration for me. He’s a throw-back to the days when announcers had distinctive styles, unique personalities, and memorable catch-phrases. “My oh my!” is how he punctuates a great play. “It will fly away” for a home run, and the inimitable “Get out the rye bread and the mustard, Grandma, it’s grand salami time!” for a grand slam.

For 31 years “the Veteran Spieler” (as we call him in the booth) has announced almost 5,000 Mariners games. And during that time they won at least 300 of them. From 1977-1994 he probably called more losing games than any announcer in baseball. But you’d never know it from listening. Dave is always up, genuinely having fun – and so what if the M’s are losing 8-1...in the first inning? When you hear “My oh my!” you know something thrilling is happening and you don't want to miss a minute. If I had to describe all those losses my signature catch-phrase would probably be "Kill me now!"

Because of Dave, fans in the Northwest grew to love this team, even though they were usually mathematically eliminated by opening day and played in a nuclear reactor (the Kingdome). It’s only been the last dozen or so years that the Mariners have been contenders. But ratings for Mariners games have always been the highest in baseball. Far higher than the Yankees. It’s gotta be ‘cause of Dave. No one made a point to tune in because Ron Vallone was pitching.

When I was with him our team was getting trounced on a daily basis. How do you keep an audience with that product on the field? Here’s how. Dave and I would sing the “Wabash Cannonball” anytime the Mariners fell behind by ten runs. Unfortunately, we sang it so often it literally became our theme song. But that was Dave. Instead of getting down on the team or angry he found a way to humanize its plight and spin it into a good-natured bit.

Dave has had a number of opportunities to move to other teams, winning franchises in major markets. Had he taken one of those jobs he probably would have been in the Hall ten years ago. But he felt a commitment to the team and a connection to Seattle. I’m proud to call him my friend, my colleague, and mentor.

Listen to the jingle the rumble and the roar
as she glides along the woodland
‘ore the hills
and by the shore

hear the rush of the mighty engine
hear the lonesome hobos call

he's riding through the jungle on the Wabash cannon ball

Next stop Cooperstown.

Congratulations, Dave. And happy birthday. Maybe next year you can get a World Series ring.

21 comments:

markdavies33 said...

I've lived in New York, Detroit, Los Angeles and Seattle and you and Dave were the best announcing team by far to ever call a baseball game. Many nights I stay tuned to games that the Mariners were out of by the fourth inning just to hear the two of you share your stories.

Jake Hollywood said...

As a biiiig fan of local baseball announcers, I love it when they get into the Hall of Fame.

My favorite announcer team?

No question: Harry Kalas and Whitey Ashburn (With an assist from Andy Musser)

My favorite Kalas call: "Swing and a long drive, there it is, number 500! The career 500th home run for Michael Jack Schmidt."

Did you know that up until after the 1980 World Series local announcers were not permitted to call the World Series live? Despite signed petitions NBC (yet another reason why I loved strike walking there) refused to allow local baseball announcers to call World Series games live. Following the 1980 Series, MLB did allow games to be broadcast by local outlets.


So, congrats to Dave Niehaus and the Mariners. Local broadcasters rule!

Elaine said...

I've been a Mariners' fan for as long as I can remember. Hearing one of Dave's calls brings a huge grin to my face - I can't help it. I did a little dance when I heard today's announcement. (As an personal aside to you, Ken, I love to stump people with the trivia question "What is Levine's Law?" I thoroughly enjoyed your stint with the M's.)

Schottzie03 said...

I was blown away when I read that he called 4,817 of the 4,899 Mariner games...and equally blown away by some of his great calls.

Congrats to Dave Niehaus, and congrats to Ken for helping him along in his career.

Geoff said...

I knew as soon as I saw this on the wires that you'd be posting about it. ;)

My congratulations to a fine broadcaster, to be selected from a group of people that ALL deserve the honour. And I hope that they all receive it in the future, especially the late Tom Cheek.

Phil H. said...

Levine's Law - The lead off walk always comes around to score. Unless it doesn't.
I've listened to Dave call games since I was nine years old and it never gets old. The warmth of his voice and the pictures he paints of the games made all those years surrounding 1995-2001 palatable. He calls the games like Junior used to play it, always with a smile on his face.

Michael said...

"Wabash Cannonball" is one of the traditional songs they play at University of Texas football games. I've heard it for 25 years and I never knew the song had words.

Mike Bell said...

When I first moved to Seattle in 1983, I was homesick for Vin Scully and his Dodger broadcasts - for about 15 seconds. The first time I heard "My oh my!" I was hooked. Niehaus had me.

Very well deserved. And when I finally got to meet him at a Seattle broadcasters get together he was friendly and gracious. Exactly as he is on the air.

Congrats Dave!

Anonymous said...

I have been in the Seattle area since 1979. When I first got out here I noticed right away how bad the team was and how good the broadcasters were. Dave and Ken Wilson were terrific in the early days and Dave and Ken Levine were a great team too. The one constant in the play by play booth since I have lived out here has been Dave. He has been a pleasure to hear every year I have tuned in to listen to the Mariners play. Congratulations to Dave on getting an honor he very much deserves.

Stan from Tacoma

CBB in Seattle said...

Ken,
Are you going to fill in for Dave when his on vacation again this year? You two were great in the booth together but we will settle for one of you at a time if we have to.

A. Buck Short said...

I know it has everything to do with knowing stuff, but I still find it amazing that announcers in any sport don't run out of things to say. Especially under the pressure of having to have something to say. Then to be the best at it - well that's really something.

Dinzer said...

Dave IS the reason I'm a Mariners fan. I have a lot of great Mariner memories, and his voice is a part of all of them.

Was it 2001 when the M's won all them games? Man, that was a great summer.

Frank Abe said...

Ken,
I just finished watching the video of Dave's news conference and what a thrill to come to your blog and find your tribute too. Dave is the best but in all honesty I have to say what really hooked me on Mariners radio back in the early 90's was hearing him in tandem with the wit of Ken Levine. I remember so many of your asides that had nothing to do with baseball but that just made me laugh out loud while I was preparing the Mariners post-game newscasts on KIRO. Great memories.

Frank in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

Dave Niehaus is the reason I like baseball at all.

I remember the days before cable, when the only game on TV was the Game of the Week. You either went to the game, or you didn't see baseball. But there was always Dave on the radio, describing everything is such detail you were sure you could see the glint of the sun off the outfielder's sunglasses as he caught the routine fly to left (at least, for away games). The way Dave called the plays made you able to picture the scene down to the last detail. The need to paint a picture for the listener is almost lost in these days of constant television, where the broadcaster's main job is to express excitement over action you can clearly see for yourself.

But it is Dave's descriptive call of a slow roller to short with a close call at first, or a bang-bang play at the plate, or even those routine plays that make baseball such a relaxed and wonderful game - it is those calls that define Dave as a Hall of Famer.

This honor is well-deserved. Happy Birthday, Dave!

Darth Weasel said...

who but Dave could make guys like Bill Caudill and Ed VenDeBerg seem like All-Stars, turn perennial Mendoza-line threatener Spike Owen seem dangerous, and make a pitching staff of 19 game losers seem like something worth listening to on a small band AM station that fades in and out so you sometimes miss a pitch or two. But then you get that classic "to the warning track, to the wall...fly, fly away!" Awesome. Thanks for the memories.

VP81955 said...

My favorite Kalas call: "Swing and a long drive, there it is, number 500! The career 500th home run for Michael Jack Schmidt."

Note what Harry didn't say: his trademark home run call, "outta here!" That's because Schmitty's hit was a rocket line drive, not a deep fly ball. As much as he probably would have liked to, Harry didn't shoehorn his call into the moment, but rode with it instead. That's the mark of a pro.

I remember driving along Market Street in Philly when Schmidt hit his 500th (rallying the Phillies to a ninth-inning win in Pittsburgh), and it still thrills me more than 20 years later even though I'm a Nationals fan now.

When Harry got his Ford Frick award in 2002, there were thousands of Phillies fans in Cooperstown. Getting from the Pacific Northwest to upstate New York is far more difficult, but I'm sure quite a few M's fans will make the trip. Congratulations, Dave.

Ron Vallone said...

Well, I never!

Mike Barer said...

SWUNG ON AND BELTED!

diane said...

Thanks, Ken for a great tribute to Dave. I didn't grow up with a love of baseball, but listening to Dave taught me how wonderful the game is. And I've developed a passion for hearing the game rather than watching it on TV because of Dave and you. I get so much more out of the experience if I'm listening that I even take my radio to the ballpark. Dave has and so do you, a natural rhythm that envelopes the listener in a real respect for the game. Even when it's poorly played. Could you fill in for Dave when he goes to Cooperstown for the presentation or will you want to be there?

Ron Villone said...

Never did I, either.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I couldn't be happier for Dave if he'd found a cure for cancer and a formula for peace in the Middle East. I came to the Northwest in 1978 and thanks largely to Neihaus became a Mariners fan. When I was growing up I'd been lucky enough to hear games called by Dizzy Dean, Jerry Coleman, Phil Rizzuto, and Ford Frick--charaters all--but Dave is the complete package. He's got a great voice, strong presence, and affable personality.

Quick story, but not about Dave: I was watching an M's game and the color man was Maury Wills. The M's batter had just whacked what looked like a base hit, but was robbed. The play-by-play guy, obviously frustrated, says, "Well, they say you're supposed to hit them into the holes, but it didn't help this time."
Maury Wills adds, "Sometimes you have to hit them over the holes."