Dan Wilson sits with the bronze Dave Niehaus. Credit: Sue Frause
Last Friday (Sept. 16) Safeco Field unveiled its newest attraction — a statue of legendary Seattle Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus. It was a small by-invitation-only event, with members of the Niehaus family seated on a special red carpet on the Main Concourse near Section 105 in right-centerfield.
Dave Niehaus was the Voice of the Mariners for 34 years, from 1977 to his passing on Nov. 10, 2010. He broadcast 5,284 of the 5,385 regular season games played in club history. As one of four members of the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame, he also received the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions to baseball broadcasting in 2008. He was presented with the award during the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York on July 27, 2008.
I spotted a few familiar faces in the crowd before the afternoon ceremony, including former Mariners Jay Buhner and Dan Wilson, along with former Mayor Charles Royer. Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs welcomed the gathering, warning them about possible train interference. “Dave loved the sound of a train,” said Rizzs. Two minutes later, the train whistle wailed through the baseball stadium. “Right on time!” said Rizzs.
The bronze statue is fan friendly, with Niehaus seated at a desk and an empty chair beside him where people can sit and pose for photos. “Nobody had a better relationship with the fans than Dave,” said Rizzs. The statue was designed by Chicago artist Lou Cella, a “portrait sculpturist” who worked from dozens of photos to capture the essence of Niehaus. Cella has sculpted dozens of sports figure statues, including one of Seattle native and former Chicago Cubs player Ron Santo that was unveiled in August outside Wrigley Field.
The smiling Niehaus, wearing his trademark headphones and seated behind a microphone, is wearing a favorite tie, one adorned with tiny baseballs. His wife Marilyn, along with their daughter Greta, selected it. A bronze scorebook in front of him is open to the Oct. 8, 1995 American League Division Series game against the New York Yankees — the unforgettable game won by an Edgar Martinez double down the left field line. The pages are engraved with Niehaus’ actual notes and scoring of the game. Behind the statue is a railing with Niehausisms, including “Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma, it’s grand salami time!”
Marilyn Niehaus, accompanied by her children and grandchildren, was emotional when talking about the bronze likeness of her husband. “When I saw it I cried with a huge smile on my face,” said Marilyn. “He would have been humbled by this honor, and I know this family is.” Former Mariners’ catcher Dan Wilson summed it up this way: “This statue allows us all to pull up a chair next to Dave and tell us one more story.”