Joining Marilyn Niehaus at the corner of Dave Niehaus Way South and Royal Brougham on Friday afternoon, several hundred baseball fans voiced their love for her late husband.
They chanted his name and cheered replays of some of his radio calls of famed Mariners moments, and screamed “My, Oh, My” when the section of First Avenue South officially took on his name.
By being there, they accomplished something far more personal for Marilyn.
“The fans are really filling this big hole in my heart,” she said.
After having broadcast 5,284 Mariners games, starting with their franchise opener on April 8, 1977, Niehaus died last November at age 75.
For 33 seasons, he was not just the voice of the franchise but also the identity, and the one immutable constant example of quality and class regardless of the team’s performance.
A gaggle of politicians tossed out a half-dozen “whereas” and “therefores” while proclaiming it Dave Niehaus Day, and christening the block in front of Safeco Field in his honor.
Seattle City Council member Sally Clark said, “Street renaming is not something we do a lot of in Seattle.” Apparently, renaming is even rarer than repaving. But so well-deserved in this case.
After the politicians were finished, Marilyn did not speak to the gathering. But they spoke very clearly to her with their presence.
“It’s such an emotional day,” she said. “All the fans are so overwhelming, and he would be so proud.”
But daughter Greta Niehaus Dunn added an equally telling comment about her father: “He would want to know what all the fuss was about,” she said.
The “fuss” continued in the stadium before the game. There were the usual home-opener bunting-draped facades and red-carpet and smoke-machine player introductions. And a sold-out Safeco Field crowd enthusiastically cheered the presentations of Felix Hernandez’s Cy Young Award and Gold Gloves to Ichiro Suzuki – his 10th – and Franklin Gutierrez.
But they rose and cheered louder when the ceremony for Niehaus started. Pictures of him through the decades flashed on the big screen as Seattle rapper Macklemore sang a tribute. Jay Buhner helped unveil a sign on the press box “Dave Niehaus 1977-2010.”
Marilyn and the Niehaus family took the field. She said before the game that she was a little daunted by the idea of throwing out the first pitch. But she was composed and focused when they handed her the ball.
She lobbed a commendable pitch to “catcher” Felix Hernandez, who rewarded her with a warm hug.
She grinned and pointed up toward the press box, and blinked quite a few times on her way off the field, waving to the fans and mouthing the words, “Thank you.”
We are left to wonder how Dave might have called this, capturing the poignant qualities of the moment. But, like so many things about this season and future seasons, Niehaus will not be here to make the call.
Marilyn noted before the game that she has been on hand for every home opener in franchise history. So sad to think that she was solo for this one.
Former Mariners player and broadcaster Dave Henderson started with the team in ’77 along with Niehaus. As far as he’s concerned, every honor for Niehaus is warranted.
“He was No. 1,” Henderson said of Niehaus. “For any organization to have a history ... you have to start somewhere. That was Dave Niehaus. I don’t think anybody is trying to replace him, and you can’t replace him.
“But with the street being named for him, and the ceremony tonight, it marks his place with this organization. That lets everybody know – for all time – how important he was to this organization.”
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org