Mariners honor Niehaus with statue unveiling
Bronze sculpture of late broadcaster features seat for fans
SEATTLE -- Dave Niehaus may not be up in the Safeco Field broadcasting booth anymore, but that doesn't mean fans can't kick back and enjoy a game with the beloved broadcaster forever.
In a heartfelt ceremony Friday afternoon, the Mariners unveiled a statue of the late Niehaus on the Main Concourse of Safeco Field in right-center field. Several members of the Niehaus family, including Dave's wife, Marilyn, were on hand to get a look at the bronze and beautiful statue.
"David never, ever wanted to retire from doing what he loved," Marilyn said during her short speech at the ceremony. "With this unbelievable statue, it's almost as if he never did."
It's true. The artist, Lou Cella, studied numerous pictures of Niehaus to handcraft a statue with incredible likeness. Niehaus is seated behind a microphone, has a headset on top of his head and sports his famous blazer along one of his favorite neckties with tiny baseballs that was chosen by Marilyn and their daughter, Greta. His son, Andy, was wearing the exact same tie on Friday.
"As players, one of the things we appreciated about Dave was his wardrobe," former Mariners catcher Dan Wilson said. "And I think that's been pretty well documented."
Perhaps the most impressive part of the statue, the first in franchise history, is the scorebook Niehaus is writing on. Cella used Niehaus' actual scorecard from the famous American League Division Series Game 5 against the Yankees on Oct. 8, 1995, when Edgar Martinez drove home the game-winning run in one of Niehaus' most famous calls.
And then there's the face, which Cella called "the big hurdle." Niehaus is smiling -- as he always was -- and the resemblance of the facial features is uncanny.
"If you don't make the face look right, nothing counts," Cella said.
Next to the statue is an open seat where fans can sit next to Niehaus, who was with the Mariners from the first game in 1977 and broadcasted 5,284 of the 5,385 regular-season games until his passing in November 2010.
"As fans, we really appreciate the way Dave could tell a story," Wilson said. "I love the design, which allows us to sit down next to Dave and let him tell us one more story."
Behind the statue, which faces the concourse and has the Safeco Field press box as a backdrop, are custom railings with famous Niehaus phrases, such as "My, oh, my," "Fly away!" and "Get out the rye bread and mustard Grandma, it's grand salami time."
After the unveiling, the Niehaus family took pictures and was able to get a good look at the statue, with the grandkids giving their late grandpa hugs. Also in attendance were former players Wilson and Jay Buhner, Mariners president Chuck Armstrong and general manager Jack Zduriencik, along with Niehaus' longtime broadcasting bud, Rick Rizzs.
"This statue means that Dave's legacy, that spirit, that joy that he gave for us so many years, is going to continue for generations at Safeco Field," Rizzs said.
By the time the gates opened for Friday's game against Texas, fans were already lining up and wanting take a seat next to the "Voice of the Mariners."
"I think that's the best part of the statue, that the fans get to sit down next to him and help broadcast a game and be a part of what he did for so many of us for so many years," Rizzs said.
For years and years to come, generations of fans will now be able to experience games with Dave, just like they did for the past 25 years.
Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.