CHICAGO -- Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs walked into the studio at the Rotblatt Amrany art institute in Highwood, Ill., took one look at the clay statue of his longtime partner Dave Niehaus and let out a gasp.
"You captured him, buddy," Rizzs said to sculptor Lou Cella. "This is like Dave is right here."
Cella is midway through construction of the Niehaus piece that will be installed in the outfield concourse at Safeco Field sometime in September. At this point, the creation is done in clay. Soon that will be used as a mold for the bronze statue that will pay tribute to the Hall of Fame broadcaster who passed away on Nov. 10.
The piece has Niehaus sitting at a broadcast desk with his scorebook opened to the game of Oct. 8, 1995. You might recall that as "The Double" game by Edgar Martinez. Cella used Niehaus' actual scorebook and the engraving is a clear reproduction of his actual notes and scoring from that memorable day.
The detail on the piece is stunning, right down to one of Niehaus' favorite "baseball" ties. Fans will be able to sit next to Niehaus on the bench on the sculpture, as the Mariners want it to be an interactive piece given Niehaus' open relationship with fans around the Pacific Northwest.
The Rotblatt Amrany studio outside Chicago has done dozens of sports sculptures, including Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Vince Lombardi, Gordie Howe, Harry Caray, Carlton Fisk and on and on.
"The clay being used on Dave is from the same batch that was used for Jerry West and Frank Thomas and others," Cella said. "After the mold is bronzed, then the clay is recycled for other projects. The mold is what is important."
When finished, the project will be trucked to Seattle and unveiled, likely in the closing days of this season.
The bronze statue itself will weigh about 300 pounds, but the steel table at which Niehaus is sitting will weigh another 500 pounds. And the entire piece will be set on a 12-inch granite block that weighs another 1,500 pounds.
In addition to the intricate scorebook, Cella will work in such things as the All-Star ring that Niehaus always wore. His favorite tassle shoes are under the desk. Cella used dozens of photos of Niehaus to recreate his face.
"We get very detail happy," Cella said.
And, ultimately, Safeco Field fans will be happy to have the chance to sit next to their favorite broadcaster, now in bronze, in the center-field area at the ballpark for generations to come.