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11/10/10 10:41 PM EST

Legendary Mariners voice Niehaus passes

The baseball world reacted in sadness to the death of Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus on Wednesday, the voice of the franchise silenced after 34 years by a heart attack at his family home in Bellevue, Wash.

Niehaus, 75, had been the team's lead radio and television broadcaster since the Mariners' inception in 1977, his stories entertaining millions of listeners and his trademark "My oh my" and "Get out the rye bread and the mustard, grandma, it's grand salami time!" becoming part of the Northwest's sporting fiber.

Broadcast partner Rick Rizzs said he was stunned as he headed to be with the Niehaus family on Wednesday night.

"I lost, you lost, we all lost something," Rizzs told MLB.com. "He's the best friend I ever had with the Mariners. Just a great storyteller who made Mariners baseball during the lean years fun to listen to. He was always there, always there, for the great moment. That was the beauty of Dave. He didn't miss the great moments.

"The guy is in the Hall of Fame. That's all you've got to say. Right now is a real difficult time for his family, Marilyn and the kids. And we're part of his family, too. He made us part of his family and that's what the great ones do. That's why everybody feels so much sadness. We lost a big part of us all."

Niehaus is survived by his wife Marilyn and their three children, Andy, Matt and Greta, along with six grandchildren and an entire Mariners following.

"This is truly devastating news," said Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln.

Chuck Armstrong, Seattle Mariners president and COO, added in a joint statement, "Speaking for ourselves, our ownership and the entire Mariners family, our thoughts and prayers are with Marilyn, their children, Andy, Matt and Greta, and the grandchildren.

"Dave has truly been the heart and soul of this franchise since its inception in 1977. Since calling Diego Segui's first-pitch strike on Opening Night in the Kingdome some 34 years ago, Dave's voice has been the constant with the franchise. He truly was the fans connection to every game; to wins and losses; to great plays and heartbreaking defeats; to Hall of Famers and journeymen. ...

"He was the fans' choice to throw out the first pitch in Safeco Field history, and no one has had a greater impact on our team's connection to fans throughout the Northwest. One of the best days we've ever spent was in Cooperstown in 2008, as Dave took his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame."

Commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement as well, calling Niehaus "one of the great broadcast voices of our generation, a true gentleman and a credit to baseball."

"He was a good friend and I will miss him," Selig said. "But he will be sorely missed, not only in the Pacific Northwest, where he had called Mariners games since the club's inception in 1977, but wherever the game is played.

"Dave was a Hall of Famer in every way. On behalf of Baseball, I offer my condolences to his wife, Marilyn, his children and grandchildren, to the Seattle Mariners organization, and to his many fans."

Niehaus received the Ford C. Frick Award and was honored in the broadcasters wing at the Hall in 2008.

He has broadcast all but 101 of the club's 5,385 games since being hired by the Mariners for their expansion season in 1977 and had been an integral part of the team's persona from Day 1.

Niehaus threw out the opening pitch at Safeco Field when the new park debuted in 1999 and was elected into the Washington State Hall of Fame in 2009. He also shares the honor with former first baseman Alvin Davis as the first two members inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame in 2000.

Niehaus' words and personality touched everyone who worked with and listened to him over the years.

"He is the Seattle Mariners," Ken Griffey Jr. told MLB.com. "He had the same impact in Seattle as Harry Kalas had with the Phillies, Harry [Caray] had with Chicago. There isn't a baseball fan in this country who doesn't know that Dave Niehaus is the voice of the Mariners."

Niehaus, an Indiana native, fell in love with the Northwest when he came to Seattle after being hired away from the Angels' broadcast crew in 1977. And that feeling was returned by an entire region of fans and legion of players who came to know him.

"Words can't describe what I am feeling right now," said retired Mariners outfielder Jay Buhner, who played in Seattle from 1988-2001. "This is the saddest day of my life. It is like I am losing a dad, someone that was a father figure to me. He was the voice of Northwest baseball and the heart of the Mariners organization.

"He described everything with an art and painted a picture you could see in your mind. I've had the honor of working with him as a player and also in the broadcast booth, and there was no one better. He was a consummate pro at everything he did. I am going to miss everything about the guy -- going to miss his face, his ugly white shoes and his awful sport coats. He was one of a kind."

Kevin Cremin, who worked with Niehaus for the past 28 years as his producer and engineer, called his broadcast partner the best in the business.

"Best guy, best announcer, best friend," Cremin said. "No one could draw you into the moment, the drama of a game like he could. They broke the mold when they made Dave. His style, his mannerisms, he was one of a kind.

"He was like a brother, an uncle, a relative to me. He brought me here; it will never be the same without him. No one could paint the picture like Dave, and he was in his element behind that mic. There will never be another one like him. The Voice has been silenced, but we can still hear him. We always will."

Niehaus had a history of heart problems and was hospitalized in 1996, when he missed 17 games. But his passing took baseball by surprise, including colleagues from around the country.

"Dave was a sensational announcer who never lost an ounce of his passion for the game," said Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel, who has been doing Texas games for 32 years. "I loved driving home from our games listening to him do the Mariners' games from the West Coast on XM.

"He was a wonderful friend to me as well, really funny, and always willing to share his great wisdom and experience on the frequent occasions when I asked for his opinion or his help. I feel terrible for Dave's family, which I believe includes everyone whoever considered himself a Mariners fan."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.