Statue captures the 'likeness and spirit' of former M's broadcaster.
If you want a testimony to the lifelike nature of the new Dave Niehaus statue, unveiled Friday at Safeco Field, there’s no better place to turn than his son, Andy.
“I half-expected him to get up and tell me to clean my room or go wash his car and mow the lawn,” said Andy Niehaus. “It’s an unbelievable likeness, and I’m just happy people can enjoy it as long as this building stands.”
Dave’s widow, Marilyn, said that the first time she saw a picture of the clay version of the statue, “I cried with a huge smile on my face.”
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Marilyn noted that the Chicago-based artist, Lou Cella of the Rotblatt/Amrany Studio of Fine Art, “captured David’s likeness and spirit perfectly.”
It was Niehaus’ spirit that was repeatedly invoked at the afternoon ceremony, emceed by his longtime broadcast partner, Rick Rizzs.
Niehaus, who called the first 34 seasons of Mariners games until his death from a heart attack last Nov. 10, becomes the first member of the Mariners family to be memorialized with a statue. It will be located on the main concourse near Section 105 in right-center field, which team president Chuck Armstrong called “the perfect spot.”
Added Armstrong: “We wanted a place where fans could sit with Dave, and people could get pictures of them and see Safeco Field.”
The bronze statue, slightly larger than life, depicts Niehaus seated behind a microphone, wearing headphones, with a Mariners scorebook in front of him. Next to Niehaus is an empty seat for fans to pose for pictures and, according to the Mariners, “reflect on Dave’s long and honored career.”
Friday, Niehaus’ family — including Marilyn, sons Andy and Matt, daughter Greta and seven grandchildren — did both.
“David never, ever wanted to retire from doing what he loved,” Marilyn said in her brief but poignant speech. “With this unbelievable statue, it’s almost like he never did. He would be humbled by this honor, and I know his family is.”
Added Rizzs: “Lou captured Dave in his best form — broadcasting a game. He’s been a part of the fans at Safeco Field for so many years, and now he’s going to be a part of the fans forever. His legacy just continues. This statue is here to remind us that this guy painted the pictures better than anybody.”
Among the subtle touches added by Cella is the fact that the scorebook in front of Niehaus is open to the American League Division Series game against the Yankees on Oct. 8, 1995 — the game won by Edgar Martinez’s double that inspired one of Niehaus’ classic calls. The pages are engraved with Niehaus’ actual notes of the game.
The statue shows Niehaus wearing one of his favorite ties, hand-picked by Marilyn and Greta, decorated with tiny baseballs. Behind the statue is a new railing designed by Creo Industrial Arts of Everett, emblazoned with several of Niehaus’ trademark expressions, such as “Swung on and belted,” “Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma, it’s grand salami time,” and “Fly away.”
Cella was on hand for the ceremony. He studied dozens of photographs of Niehaus for the project.
“The challenge is always the likeness,” he said. “The face has to be right. There was no swing, no pitching motion, to be replicated, but if the face wasn’t right, it wasn’t Dave Niehaus.”
Cella said he also listened to and watched Niehaus’ broadcast of the epic Game 5 in 1995.
“What we strived to achieve is to capture the personality, the essence, of the individual,” he said.
By all accounts, he succeeded.
“I love that this statue, and the design of the statue, allows us to pull up a chair next to Dave and let him tell us just one more story,” said ex-Mariner Dan Wilson.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org