I can’t say I knew Dave Niehaus well. But in the years I spent covering television and sports in Seattle, I came to appreciate him not as legendary broadcaster or gifted storyteller – certainly he was both – but as a person of enormous dignity.
Niehaus, who died Wednesday at age 75, was old school. I remember when Fox Sports Net introduced The Best Damn Sports Show Period in 2001, Niehaus was expected to promote it on the air during Seattle Mariners broadcasts. He did so, but he changed the name slightly. He wouldn’t say “damn.” Niehaus knew his audience. And he knew himself.
In 2004, when I was still a relative newbie on the sports beat, Niehaus made it a point to tell me that a column I'd written about Major League Baseball umpire Dave Palermo, whom Niehaus knew well, contained a humorous anecdote Niehaus had never heard before. I was impressed on so many levels – I’d told a story Dave Niehaus didn’t know; Dave Niehaus actually read my column; Dave Niehaus sought me out to tell me he read my column – that the memory will always be fresher than Safeco Field on opening day.
The sports journalism fraternity is more cliquish than anything you remember from high school, and for a guy like Niehaus to approach a newcomer like me and offer up a kind word, well, it says more about him than 5,000-plus Mariners broadcasts ever could. Seattle magazine's last contact with Niehaus was for John Hickey's story about Ken Griffey Jr. that ran online last summer. Niehaus said Junior put the "snap, crackle and pop" into Seattle baseball. He may have been right, but Niehaus put the class into Mariners baseball, and so I say, "Thanks, Dave."