31 March 2008
The Voice of Summer
The Northwest has seen some bizarrely unseasonal weather over the course of the last couple of weeks, but the gray pall of winter gets thrown off today. It is, of course, Opening Day for my beloved Seattle Mariners, signaling the onset of Spring for all of us fans. This opener is sweeter than most, not only because the M's expectations are higher than they've been for years, not only because of the optimism and anticipation of warmer weather that are always engendered by the return of baseball, but because the heart and soul of the franchise will, at long last, be going into the season as a hall of famer. For many of us growing up in the Northwest the voice of Dave Niehaus has been as integral a part of summer as blue skies, idyllic temperatures, and hours upon hours of daylight. He has been a finalist for the Ford C. Frick Award (the broadcaster's equivalent of a Hall of Fame induction) for several years now, and this winter he was finally recognized as belonging among the game's great orators (he'll be inducted alongside Goose Gossage, meaning that for the first time two Mariners will be recognized in one year...sort of). I have listened to enough broadcasters to be able to state with conviction that Dave truly deserves this honor. For my entire life - indeed, for the entire life of the Mariners franchise - he has been synonymous with Northwest baseball and, for that matter, with summer. His approach to calling a game is a very narrative one, approaching each game as an unfolding story. Because of this, people sometimes complain that his style is rambling and unfocused, but to those of us that grew up listening to him, his voice is as familiar and his stories are as welcome as those of a grandfather. There is no Mariners fan out there that ever gets tired of listening to his calls from the 1995 postseason, in particular "The Double," a seminal moment in Northwest sports history. Here's hoping Dave gets a chance for an encore performance this Fall.