|Reunited with Dave Niehaus|
Hello from Minnesota. I’m calling play-by-play for the Mariners until Sunday. That’ll be it for me for this season (of course the season ends three days later). But it’s been a joy and an honor to once again be part of the Mariners’ broadcast crew. And so, on this last week, I wanted to take a day to thank Seattle. It’s impossible to step in for the great Dave Niehaus, but Mariner fans have made me feel incredibly welcome. And for that I am forever grateful. I’ve had great great fun calling these games and hopefully that fun has been infectious.
So thanks to all the fans, especially the ones who made it a point to come up to me and say nice things. Thanks to the blogs. You guys were very accepting. Usually when you crushed me I deserved it. To my broadcast partners at KIRO – Rick, Kevin, Dave, Mike, Shannon, and Brian at the station – you guys are the best. I’ll wrap this up fast before the walk off music starts. Thanks to Randy Adamack and Churck Armstrong of the Mariners for letting me reconnect with the team and city I really love.
I hope to talk to you all again.
And now, some highlights from this year in the booth.
The first batter on the first pitch in my first inning hit a home run. That player was later sent to the minors and then traded.
During spring training I almost didn’t get out to the ballpark one day because I couldn’t open my rental car. Turns out I was trying to open the wrong car. I’m lucky I wasn’t sent to the minors and traded.
Safeco Field is one of the nicest ballparks in America. And you don’t need to take out a loan to get a ticket.
For opening night the entire broadcast crew wore white shoes in memory of Dave Niehaus who passed away last November. Dave always wore white shoes. We looked like deck boys on a cruise ship all attending Pat Boone's wedding.
One of the things I love about the organization is that they have a sense of humor. Centerfielder Franklin Gutierrez got the nickname “Death to Flying Things” and one night the M’s gave away “Death to Flying Things Fly Swatters”.
We were the surprise of baseball for most of the first half of the season. As late as July the Mariners were only a couple of games out of first place in the AL West.
One night there was not one but four streakers. Talk about idiots. One was in the military (probably Corporal Klinger) and another was scheduled to get married the next day. Try explaining that to your fiancée the night before her wedding.
My best pun: Eric Bedard was pitching for the Mariners, coming back from three years of surgeries. At one time he had been the ace of the Baltimore Orioles. He was pitching one night against the birds and doing well. I said on the air, “The Mariners are hoping the Orioles are hoisted on their own Bedard”.
I called the game where the Mariners roughed up the Detroit Tigers’ starting pitcher – Justin Verlander. That tape is rarer than a copy of Jerry Lewis’ THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED movie.
One night the Mariners were trailing Toronto 7-0 going to the 7th inning and won. It can happen.
Just this Monday I called a Mariner nine run inning.
It’s always special when you see a rookie make it to the big leagues for the first time. Their joy and excitement is palpable. This year with the Mariners I got to see it eleven times. One of the kids, Alex Liddi, became the first player born in Italy to ever play in the big leagues. Baseball is not big over there. As a sport it ranks right behind jousting.
Another sensational rookie story is Steve Delebar. A former lower-minor league pitcher, he broke his elbow two years ago and was out of baseball. He became a substitute high school teacher in Kentucky. He discovered a program that would help add to your velocity and recommended it to the high school baseball team. He started the program himself and pretty soon was throwing 95 miles an hour. So he went to a tryout, got signed by the Mariners, worked his way up the minors, and made it to the major leagues. And last Wednesday beat the Yankees. He's just like Dennis Quaid in THE ROOKIE but better. He doesn't have to pay alimony to Meg Ryan.
Another rookie pitcher this year, Tom Wilhelmsen, was out of baseball a couple of years ago tending bar in Tucson. Didn't we do that show on CHEERS?
Kids – don’t try this at home: Our catcher, Miguel Olivo was safe at first on a bang-bang play. His face hit the bag just before the tag. Face planting is not a good way to slide.
For midweek day games I offered on the air to write a note to your boss, teacher, or spouse excusing you for the day. All you had to do was send me a Twitter message. I must’ve written fifty notes, many to government offices.
My son, Matt joined me in Boston. It would have been a very special father-son bonding experience except I had to throw him out of the booth for rooting for the Red Sox.
Where were you when you heard Bin Laden had been shot? I was somewhere over North Dakota on the team charter. But if they didn’t announce it on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball my guess is no one would have known until we landed.
I called Trayvon Robinson’s first major league home run. It was a crappy call. He thought it was a double and stopped at second base. So it turned into one of my classic “It’s Gone…No, wait a minute!” calls. The umpire told Robinson to keep going. I told him in the future, if he hits the ball during one of my innings to just keep running. Don’t even look. Just keep going.
The Tampa Bay Rays have a great manager, Joe Madden. To promote team camaraderie he has “themes” for traveling. On their trip to Seattle the entire traveling party had to dress in grunge. Usually a team dresses in jackets in ties. The Rays blew into town wearing leather, torn shirts, and jeans. Their next stop was Anaheim and they all had to dress like surfers. They boarded their plane in Hawaiian shirts, flip-flops, shorts, shades, and a few sported straw hats. I’m sure that trip would have been more joyful had the Mariners not beaten them three out of four.
Some of Brendan Ryan’s plays at shortstop would make Ozzie Smith say, “How did he do that?”
Whenever you go to a baseball game you never know what you’re going to see. There’s always the unexpected. Like that Saturday night in Anaheim when 40,000 white people stayed after our game to watch the Ludicris concert.
Other things I’ve never seen before: Brendan Ryan got an infield single, alertly noticed that no one was covering the next two bases and made it all the way around to third. It was ruled a single/fielder’s choice, but to my mind it was an infield triple.
The fans were booing our leftfielder, Milton Bradley so mercilessly that he started wearing earplugs. And this was during home games.
In Detroit, catcher Miguel Olivo hit a fly ball that bounced off of outfielder Ryan Rayburn’s glove and kangarooed over the fence for a home run.
An umpire lost track of the count and sent a batter to first on a three-pitch walk. And this same thing then happened to us one week later.
Despite the team’s struggles, they took two of three at home against the Yankees and Phillies. Don’t ask about Texas and Chicago.
I’m sure I’ll have a few more highlights from this week. Gee, I miss it already… and I’m still doing it!
Thanks again, EVERYBODY!