A Celebration of Life for Dave Niehaus

Originally Published:  March 5, 2011

On a rain-drizzled Saturday afternoon, December 11, 2010, a collective of passionate Mariners fans gathered at Safeco Field to honor the life of Dave Niehaus.  The fallen long-time broadcaster, Hall of Famer, and local icon passed away a month and a day prior, but the community still had not recovered from such a shocking and tragic loss.

I showed up by myself, primarily because I couldn’t find anyone to go with, but also because I didn’t necessarily want or need anyone by my side.  This was an event I preferred going to alone.  The following is a photo-based entry from my crappy little camera.

This was just outside the gates.  As you can probably tell, there was a LOT of us who owe so much to the job this man did.

This was on the stairway leading up to the main concourse.

They had a few pictures as well as a bunch of open Guest Books for people to sign, give well-wishes, or just write out their feelings.  I saw one guy filling up almost a whole page (each page being, I want to say, twice the size of a regular notebook page).  I left a little message, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what was written.  Probably best left between me and the ether.

From what I understand, this was Dave’s favorite Mariners-related photo of him and Ken Griffey Jr.

Rick Rizzs was the emcee.  As is probably obvious, this was an extremely emotional event.  The crowd was behind him thoroughly as he tried to regain his grasp of speech; there was a solid minute or two of silence as the finality of this memorial overwhelmed him (as it did us in the stands as well).  Finally, fellow speakers Ron Fairly, Dan Wilson, Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez walked on stage to console Rick.  They remained standing behind him throughout the remainder of the opening comments.

I’m kicking myself for not bringing a better camera, but this is a Niehaus jersey that will be displayed in his broadcast booth for the entire 2011 season.  It’s one of many tributes to the irreplaceable Mariners legend.

Here’s another look at it.  Quite the haunting image.

I have a few other photos I didn’t post here (they’re on the Facebook page if you’re interested).  I didn’t take a ton, though, because I wanted to get video of some of the speeches.  Unfortunately, they didn’t turn out, so I’m unable to post anything of value.

Still, it was a touching ceremony and I’m sure everyone who was there was glad they went.  Dave’s kids spoke about their father.  Marlaina Lieberg, a blind woman, got on stage next to explain Dave’s value to those without sight; he had the singular talent to make any radio broadcast come alive with vibrant color and striking visual clarity.  She was followed by Ron Fairly who SERIOUSLY doesn’t look like he’s aged a day in the last 10 years.  As you know, I’m a Ron Fairly guy, so it’s always entertaining to hear what he has to say.  Then, the three ballplayers:  Dan, Jay, and Edgar who all had fabulous tributes (Jay, especially, with his stories of playing practical jokes on Dave back in the day).

Last, we had Chuck Armstrong, who looked about as broken up as Dave’s family.  I’m glad he faced a warm welcome from the fans, given the circumstances.  He was there to not only say goodbye to a longtime friend, but to let us know what the Mariners would be doing to keep Dave’s memory alive.  There will be a statue, and in addition to the jersey in the booth, all Mariners players will wear a black arm band for Dave in 2011.  There may have been others that I’m forgetting, but all in all the organization takes care of its own.

Seattle fans, and Mariners fans specifically tend to share in a lot of misery; but that’s mostly for the heartbreaking losses on the field, or from quality players leaving for other teams.  On this day, we as Mariners fans shared in the misery of losing our baseball grandfather.  There’s no question which misery causes more anguish in our hearts.

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