Busy day down at Safeco Field today as we caught up with Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Dan Wilson, Dave Henderson, Rick Rizzs, Kevin Cremin, Howard Lincoln, Chuck Armstrong and others who had come to remember the late Dave Niehaus.
On Saturday, you’ll get your chance as well. The Mariners will open the Safeco Field gates from noon to 3 p.m. to allow fans to come in, see memorabilia from Niehaus’s Hall of Fame broadcasting career, sign a book of remembrance and chat about the team’s longtime play-by-play man and ambassador.
There will be a larger, more formal celebration of Niehaus’s life. But the team is still working out the details of that, in conjuction with the broadcaster’s family. So, we’ll get you details of that as soon as they become available.
Today, it was more of the same from those who knew Niehaus well.
Armstrong, Rizzs and executive-producer Cremin paid a visit to the Niehaus family earlier today. Armstrong had his wife with him. Niehaus and his wife, Marilyn, took a trip to Europe with the Armstrongs several years back and it was one of the fond memories a visibly choked-up Armstrong shared this afternoon.
Armstrong said that, when Niehaus suffered the fatal heart attack, he’d gone out on to the back deck of his home on Wednesday afternoon to prepare to barbecue some ribs. Cremin had given Niehaus the recipe and if yoy listened to ESPN 710 this afternoon, you may have heard Cremin describe how he and Niehaus came together professionally while eating barbecued ribs on the road in the early 1980s.
Rizzs has spent 24 seasons alongside Niehaus in the broadcast booth. He was asked about his feelings today and whether some of the hurt had subsided.
“It’s going to hurt for a long time,” he said. “It’s not going to stop. It’s never going to stop. I’ll remember this guy until the day I die.”
Rizzs went on to talk about how it was Niehaus’s call to bring him out of Ohio, where he’d called football and Class AAA baseball games, and over to Seattle.
“That’s a big decision to hire your partner,” he said. “Without Dave, I wouldn’t be here.”
The tributes have kept pouring in all day.
Joey Cora texted me this morning to relay his thoughts.
“‘My, Oh My!’ has been part of my vocabulary ever since I played in Seattle,” Cora said. “I’m very sad to learn about this. He’ll be calling games from where he’s at forever. He taught all of us what being a Mariner really means.”
Mike Sweeney is on a three-day “spiritual retreat” and not supposed to be taking phone calls. But he also wrote a quick text message this morning after receiving the news.
“Dave is Home as I know he loved the Lord and he loved his neighbors,” Sweeney said. “I love him and will miss him.”
David Aardsma told me by phone that he knows the depth of what Mariners fans are feeling.
“I was a Cubs fan and I grew up with Harry Caray, so I know what it is to grow up with that type of icon,” he said. “And when you lose somebody like that, you just can’t replace them.”
No, you can’t. Speaking of which, for those who keep asking, the Mariners plan to take a couple of weeks before approaching their broadcast partners to broach the subject of who will replace Niehaus in the booth.
Somebody has to. But, as Howard Lincoln told me today, that won’t be an easy task. Pretty much an impossible one.
“I think it’s going to be very difficult for anybody to fill his shoes,” Lincoln said. “And certainly, it’s not something we’ve even talked about, or thought about, but this is a man, who is not going to be replaceable. He is an institution. He is Mariners baseball.”