11/10/2008 9:27 PM ET
Remembering Seattle's 'Tuba Man'
Longtime local musician was fixture in Emerald City sports
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- The city of Seattle has lost a beloved part of its community, and Mariners games will never be the same.
Edward McMichael, a popular 53-year-old local street musician known as the "Tuba Man," died recently from head injuries sustained when beaten, allegedly by five teenagers in a robbery, according to the King County medical examiner's office.
And while Tuba Man's quirky, fun songs and vibrant, generous personality will never again be witnessed outside Safeco Field, Qwest Field and other local sports and entertainment venues, the Mariners, Seahawks and the city McMichael lived in and loved will not let him be forgotten.
On Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. PT, the Seahawks' Qwest Event Center (between Safeco and Qwest Fields) will host a public memorial service, with doors opening at 5:30. Mariners president Chuck Armstrong will speak, as will Seahawks/Sounders FC CEO Tod Leiweke, Storm CEO Karen Bryant and McMichael's brother, Kelsey.
"He was just a gentle soul," Mariners spokesperson Rebecca Hale said. "Just completely harmless and pleasant. To have something this violent happen to him, it doesn't make any sense. It's going to be a little strange without him outside the ballpark."
McMichael had been a Seattle sports regular since the early 1990s. He would wear Dr. Seuss-inspired hats, often in the colors of the Mariners, Seahawks or SuperSonics, and would also show up outside music halls before operas.
"He goes all the way back to the Kingdome for us," Hale said. "He would set up in his usual spot with his tuba, wear a funny hat, and he would just play as folks would go by.
"He had this pretty interesting songbook. He'd interpret modern rock classics for the tuba, and it was always very fun and funky. People would pass by and get to know him. He knew thousands of people on a first-name basis. Within minutes, you'd have a friend."
According to the Associated Press, police said McMichael was near a bus stop after midnight on Oct. 25 when he was approached by a group of youths who beat and robbed him.
McMichael was treated at a nearby hospital for head injuries and was sent home to recover, but he was found dead in his room at a downtown inn on Nov. 3. A Seattle police spokesman said the police believed McMichael's death was directly connected to the assault.
Longtime Seattle Post-Intelligencer sports columnist Art Thiel got to know McMichael through mutual local radio appearances and said his email in-box has been flooded with notes from mourning Seattleites since Thiel wrote about McMichael's death last week.
"Ed was always very sharp and he had this incredible memory for people," Thiel said. "You could go up to him and request your favorite song, and the next time you went by him he'd remember your name and the song and chat a bit. People were struck by the fact that every time they saw him, he'd remember them, even in a crowd of 60,000 people at a huge sports event. That's pretty unusual in this day and age, and it's one of the reasons, besides the senselessness of it, that so many people were struck by this tragedy.
"There are connections in life that are built, and people treasure them. And that's what Ed was. You were attending something fun, and he made it more fun."
A scholarship will be established in McMichael's name with the Seattle Youth Symphony (McMichael was a member of the Youth Symphony for eight years), and a memorial fund has been set up to help with the costs of his funeral, plot, grave marker, etc. Donations can be made at any Bank of America branch or by sending check or money order made out to the Edward "Tuba Man" Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 4985, Federal Way, WA 98063.
Doug Miller is a senior writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.