Category Archives: Mariners

Seattle Saturday Roundup 4/30

I’m going to try to actually make sports blogging a regular activity, since I often find myself talking about sports with folks. I just don’t have the discipline to sit down and write out my thoughts at the computer all the time. From henceforth, I will try to write a new post here once a week. Getting on Twitter helps when following sports. 🙂

Had a couple of exciting things happen in the Seattle sports world today. It was day 3, and, I believe, the final day of the NFL draft. The Seahawks primarily bolstered their O Line during the draft. I think James Carpenter was a good first round selection. Our right and left tackles are going to be beasts, and that will do wonders for our running game. However, wouldn’t Carpenter have been available in Round 2? He was so far under the radar that most folks were surprised when the Hawks picked him.

I’m a little disconcerted that the Seahawks did not pick a QB this time. Happened to catch Trent Dilfer’s commentary on ESPN radio yesterday, and he thinks the Hawks should have drafted a quarterback. Charlie “Clipboard Jesus” Whitehurst is not a good longterm solution for the Hawks, and this will likely be Matt Hasselbeck’s last year. Dilfer thinks the Hawks missed out on a potential NFL quarterback in TCU’s Andy Dalton. We’ll see.

This draft class may be wasted, anyway, because of the NFL lockout. All of these college players aren’t getting the training or the coaching they’ll need to survive the NFL. It could end up being very difficult for them to transition as a result.

Moving away from the NFL to the other league that plays at Qwest, the MLS — how ’bout them Sounders? What an emotional win today. USMNT Brad Evans and Alvaro “El Flaco” Fernandez were all over the pitch. Flaco, in particular, looked great. He’s really stepped it up. Seeing 36,000 fans holding #11 cards in the 11th minute for Steve Zakuani made me choke up. I hope someone recorded that or took pictures to send to Zak. We’re now tied with RSL for 2nd in the Western Conference, which is just awesome.

It will be interesting to see what happens when we play a competitive opponent. Toronto kinda sucks right now. We were making mincemeat of their defense. How will the team play against Columbus or the Timbers? We’ve got some tough opponents coming up. We’re going to miss the speedy Steve Zakuani. Rosales should be back soon, and will get more playing time with White and Zak both out. Hopefully White will come back as well — although Nate Jaqua surely proved able to fill his shoes today. Nate had some good shots on goal.

Last but not least, the Mariners. Believe it or not, the Ms are going for another sweep tomorrow! Fister pitched a gem today, and it sounds like the Ms took advantage of some breaks. Finishing 12-15 after starting out so poorly — hey, I’ll take it. As my awesome boyfriend and fellow die-hard Mariners fan put it “Nice to see them show a little heart.” This team is playing like it’s possessed. Whatever Eric Wedge said to them to make them go 8-4…well, he needs to keep saying it when they’re slumping. While I don’t think they’re going to make the playoffs by any stretch of the imagination — way too many holes in the offense — this team could very well break .500 ball. If they keep Felix and Pineida, and build around them as the core, we could be seeing some very good baseball in Seattle in the not-so-distant future. Hands off, Yankees. Felix is ours and there’s no way in hell you’re getting him.

Peace Out. Got an early Mariners game (10:35 our time) tomorrow I don’t really want to miss!

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Filed under Baseball, Football, Mariners, Soccer, Sounders

Sshhh…the Mariners are winning!

Don’t look now, but the Seattle Mariners are actually playing some decent baseball. Ever since Eric Wedge chewed them out for not playing up to their capability, the team has gone 8-4. They’ve benefited from some lights out pitching (Pinieda is AWESOME!) and some situational hitting. Mariners hitters have just been eating up relievers lately. And they seem to like hitting against Detroit. Particularly against Phil Coke.

My hope is that the Ms manage to take two out of three from Boston this weekend and come home from an awesome road trip. It’s going to be a tough series against Texas when they come home, but hopefully the Texas bats won’t be as potent in chilly Seattle. The White Sox are slumping. A 3-3 homestand isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

It would be interesting to me to see a graph of the Ms team batting average at home and on the road. Are they a better road team because Safeco is a pitcher’s ballpark?

I’ve been listening to most of the games now. Rizzs, I love to hear you call a game. No offense, buddy, but it’s just not the same without Dave. It doesn’t help that some of the broadcasters the Mariners have you working with are just awful. Ken Levine wasn’t so bad. And I kinda liked hearing Hendu. But one more game of “Captain Obvious” Ron Fairly and I swear I’m going to destroy my radio.

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Two months without blogging? Really?

Have I really not updated this for two months? Sorry sports fans. Grad school and work got to me, and I just haven’t had time! I promise a new, longer blog post soon.

This sportsologist has some exciting news. I’m going to Europe over Spring Break! And my buddy Dave and I got tickets to go see some Chelsea football! GO BLUES! We had to pay for a half season’s membership in order to even have a chance to buy tickets. It’s a racket, if you ask me. Is demand for Chelsea really that high? We’ll be taking in all the action from The Shed end. I promise I will write a blog post about it. How can I not?

Hope all you soccer fans are enjoying some Champions League action! Did you catch Barca-Arsenal last week? That game was absolutely AMAZING! We watched it in a bar, and I found myself rooting for Arsenal by the end of it. If you missed the first game, the second is coming up in a couple of weeks. It’s in Barcelona. Should be broadcast at 11:45 Pacific Time. Many Seattle area bars will have it.

What else folks? Sounders preseason is underway, and the Cascadia Cup is in a week! The organization really dropped the ball on tickets. My friend Sabrina and I were both trying to get tickets — she was successful, I was not. You betcha I’m going to be there, rooting for the Sounders to destroy Portland! Dave and I managed to get season tickets. We have to miss the first two games for the Europe trip. Come on over and give us a holler this season — we’ll be catching all the action from Section 125 row HH seats 1 and 2.

The 7-9 Seahawks won their playoff game in January. Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown run shook the earth. It was awesome. Go on Youtube and find the video of Lynch running to the Super Mario Brothers theme song. Hilarious!

The Mariners are at Spring Training. I’m having a hard time getting excited about baseball this season. Maybe it’s because I have Sounders tickets, or maybe it’s because Dave Niehaus is no longer with us (Rest In Peace, Dave). The last I read about them, they have a tall pitching staff. Intersquad games are beginning today.

How ’bout them Huskies? Husky men’s basketball is having a good season. They won’t win the Pac-10 due to some ill-timed losses to Arizona, but they’ve still been fun to watch.

And last but not least, I gotta give a shoutout to my alma mater. The Whitman College Fighting Missionaries won their first ever playoff game. Should they win tomorrow, they’re bound for the NCAA Div III basketball tourney. That deserves an enthusiastic MISSIONARIES MISSIONARIES WE’RE ON TOP!!!

More soon. I promise. I’ll come up for air.

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Filed under Baseball, Champions League, Football, Mariners, NCAA, Pac-10, Soccer, Sounders

Rainy Sunday Sports Roundup

It’s pouring outside. It’s raining so hard that I’m actually thinking about wearing my gaiters when I go grocery shopping later today. Or maybe I’ll skip the farmer’s market because it’s so nasty out.

Here are a couple of points for your Rainy Sunday Sports Roundup.

1. The Seahawks are 6-6, with four games left. My prediction is that they finish 9-7 and redeem themselves for that awful loss at St. Louis earlier in the season. The Hawks should easily win the division. It helps that they play in the worst division in football. Should they win the division, they’ll have a home playoff game, but I doubt they’ll go much further than the first round. There are way too many holes in that roster.

2. Things we’ve learned about the Seahawks thus far.
Mike Williams is awesome. Except he’s been hurt a lot. But he’s still awesome.
Leon Washington can return kicks and punts like nobody’s business.
Hasselbeck still has it. I hope he returns next season. Charlie Whitehurst is nowhere near ready to be an NFL starter.
When Russell Okung is actually healthy, the Seahawks have a running game. Too bad this hasn’t been the case for much of the games this season.
The defense started out promising, but has returned to it’s horrifying inability to tackle. You have no idea how many times I’ve yelled “will you please tackle him?!?” at the TV screen.
Earl Thomas is so fast Brett Favre didn’t get a chance to unretire.
Pete Carroll’s return to the NFL has largely been a success. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of this season plays out.

3. The Mariners were a bust at the winter meetings. An absolute bust. Miguel Olivo and Jack Cust? Please. If you’re looking for a catcher who can hit, it’s not Olivo. He was terrible with the Mariners, and I don’t expect him to be any better now. Cust has more of an upside as a DH, but can’t play the field. The Mariners won’t get any better until they get the Bavasi signings off their payroll. We’re shelling out millions to players who can’t play (like Carlos Silva).

4. Whither Cliff Lee? The Cliff Lee sweepstakes are in full swing, with teams throwing money at the Cy Young winner like it’s going out of style. Lee should choose between offers thrown at him by the Yankees and the Rangers tomorrow. I hope he picks the Rangers. He helped them get to their first World Series. Besides, when the Rangers played the Yankees in the playoffs at Yankee Stadium, Lee’s wife was the target of fan ridicule. She had stuff thrown on her and at her. If I was Lee’s wife, I’d be really pissed if he picked the Yankees. I’d think “really, honey? I know it’s a lot of money, but you’re going to go play for the team whose fans threw crap at me and called me names?” Nuh uh. No way.

5. Brett Favre is old, and may actually miss a game. This throws his starting streak into question. However, the Vikings game against the Giants has been pushed back until tomorrow night, as the Giants are stuck in Kansas City due to bad weather. Could this make a difference? Will the old warrior live to throw again? We’ll see. Personally, I’m tired of Brett Favre. He should have retired (and stayed retired) last year.

6. Huskies have a bowl game. Too bad it’s against Nebraska again. I hope we don’t get killed.

7. BCS title game is a matchup of Auburn and Oregon. I’m rooting for the Ducks because they’re in the Pac-10. Cool that a Pac-10 team got into the title game!

8. The Huskies have a pretty good basketball team. We were ranked #20 as of last week, but a one-point loss to Texas A&M will likely push us out of the top 25. No worries, though. The team has so much talent they’ll rebound (ha!) and find their way into the top 25 again.

9. Dave Niehaus to get a statue at Safeco Field. Fitting that the first statue at Safeco Field will be of our beloved long-time broadcaster, who died of a heart attack on November 10th. I know I’ll be crying like a baby when I turn on the radio to listen to Spring Training in February and realize I won’t hear Dave’s voice. As Rick Rizzs pointed out at the memorial yesterday, Tom Hanks had it wrong. There is crying in baseball.

Stay dry, folks!

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Dave Niehaus

Dave Niehaus died about a month ago. I wrote about it on my other blog, but not here. I can’t get to sleep, so I figured I’d finally update this one. I know I’ve been MIA as of late — it’s hard keeping up on sports news when one is a graduate student. I’ll try to revive this blog over the holidays.

Here is the post from the other blog:

I felt like a kid on Christmas morning when the Mariners said I could interview Dave Niehaus for my bachelor’s thesis in 2004. I’d been listening to the Mariners for my whole life, and Dave was my childhood hero. I couldn’t (and still can’t) listen to baseball without thinking of Dave’s voice. I see baseball through Dave’s eyes — when he describes the blue of the sky, and the cut of the grass, I could see and smell the field.

So it was with my heart pounding in my chest that I dialed Dave’s home phone number.

“Hello?” his wife picked up.

“Hi, is Dave Niehaus there please?” I asked politely. She went to get him. I had to remind him who I was and why I was calling, but once I did so, he made me feel right at home.

“Oh hi, Anna, how are you?” he asked in his deep baritone. Like I was an old friend. He switched phones because the one he was on was gonna run out of batteries. And then we started talking about Whitman, Walla Walla, and what I was doing. I think he could sense that I was nervous talking to him. But he put me right at ease, chit-chatting about Walla Walla, my hometown of Seattle, and what I was majoring in.

And then the magic began. For 45 minutes, I asked Dave questions, and listened to him reminisce about the bad old years, the exciting years of the ’90s, and where the team was going to go next. I scribbled notes and listened with my ear pressed up against the phone.

Dave started to get excited when he talked about the 1995 season. “It was about, you know, August of that particular year when, I think the Mariners were thirteen games behind the Angels, and funny things began to happen. And not only did they catch the Angels, the Angels caught them at the end. If you might recall, we were in Texas, and had clenched a tie for the division championship with two games to go, and then Texas beat us the last two games, and the Angels swept all four games down in Anaheim against Oakland. And tied, and then they came up here and then we beat them.
And then went to New York, and af – ironically, I’ll never forget this, because the first day we were in New York, uh, to play the Yankees in the playoffs, it was the day that the OJ Simpson verdict came down. And, uh, and then lost the first two games and that – certainly the second game, that bitter thirteen, fourteen-inning, fifteen-inning game. I think it was thirteen innings, where Jimmy Leyrich hit a home run into the, into – raindrops into the seats in right field, and we’re coming back down two to nothing, and you knew the season was over. And, well, as you know what happened, it wasn’t over. We won all three games, culminated by Edgar Martinez’ double down the left field line with Joey Cora scoring and then Junior scoring from first base.
And – and I think it was from August of that year that the town became absolutely rabid, fanatical.”

I could see Cora scoring. I could see Edgar’s double down the left field line. I could see Junior scoring from first base. That’s how powerful Niehaus was. Through his voice, you saw the game.

Dave was adamant that the 2001 Mariners had had more wins than the 1906 Cubs, and that their accomplishment was greater than that of the Cubs. “. Ironically, the hundred and sixteen wins were the most in baseball history. Uh, people say that no, the 1906 Chicago Cubs also won a hundred and sixteen games. They, they won a hundred and fifteen. They had one game given to them. It was forfeited to them, when John McGraw would not play, the Cubs wouldn’t put his team, the New York Giants on the field because he didn’t like the umpiring crew, and he said if this particular umpire is gonna umpire behind home plate he wouldn’t put his team on the field. And the umpire says “okay then, see ya later.” And they forfeited that game to the Chicago Cubs. So the Cubs actually on the field only won a hundred and fifteen games, the Mariners won a hundred and sixteen. But of course, you know, there are all kinds of nuances to that, too. The Cubs only played a hundred and fifty-four games, the Mariners played a hundred and sixty-two, so.”

Dave Niehaus died yesterday. He had a heart attack on his back porch. He was surrounded by family when he died, as it should be. The Northwest lost a legend. I cried for hours. And, not knowing just what I should do, I drove down to Safeco Field with a candle and a note for his family. I had to tell them what Dave meant to me. I wasn’t alone. Four other people were down there with the same thought. We left flowers and candles at the Home Plate entrance. KIRO 710 announced that a “spontaneous candlelight vigil” was going on at the stadium. All throughout the night and into today, fans of Dave Niehaus have been making the pilgrimage to Safeco Field, leaving their remembrances. The entire Northwest is grieving. It feels like we lost our grandfather, the one who told us stories about Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner. The one who could make a summer night come alive with magic and wonder. The one we listened to no matter what the score was. If the Mariners were down by 10 runs, I’d listen to Dave call for more. I learned to love baseball because of Dave Niehaus.

For me, some of the most poignant things Dave told me were about his role as a broadcaster. He knew that he’d become part of people’s families and people’s lives. And I think it humbled him. He said, “Baseball announcers like myself become ingrained in people’s families, because you come into their homes, if you’re a baseball fan, almost every day. And you become a part of their family.”

And that’s it. That’s why it’s so hard to lose him. He became a part of many people’s families.

Summer’s not going to feel the same without him. He said, “People start to listen, listening to me – or when baseball season comes around, let’s put it this way, it’s a portent of good things to come. Because the winter is over, Spring has started, the trees start to bloom, it’s, you know, it’s a – vacations are around the corner, beaches, hiking, trips, everything.”

When I heard Dave’s voice on the radio every February, I knew that spring was right around the corner. I knew that soon we’d be having beautiful long summer Seattle days and warm nights. I knew that it was almost hiking season. It’s just not going to feel like summer without Dave.

Before I hung up the phone, Dave Niehaus asked if I would send him a copy of my bachelor’s thesis when I was done. I couldn’t believe it. My childhood hero was asking me to send me what I’d written. “Well Anna, it’s uh – good luck to you. And, uh, if you get a chance, when you write this, let me, let me read it,” he said. So I bound a copy and sent it to him at Safeco Field. I don’t know if he read it, but I like to think he did. I hope he liked it.

I treasure that phone conversation I had with Hall of Famer Dave Niehaus. It just epitomizes who he was. He was one of the nicest men in sports, a real class act, who would talk to anybody. Even during the down years — and we Mariners fans have been in the midst of almost a decade of them — we still listened to Dave.

According to broadcaster Shannon Drayer, Dave believed that Hall of Fame ghosts came out at night and played baseball at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. On her blog, she related this anecdote.

“I thought that after they turned the lights off that they must sneak out of there and head over to Doubleday Field,” he said, “almost like a Field of Dreams, only everyone is a Hall of Famer and you have got the ideal pitching matchup against the greatest ball players of all time. The old Negro Leagues stars were there and it is one happy family. Why not bring them all back and play the Oscar Charlestons? Yeah, you’re darn right. There are ghosts there.”

I like to imagine Dave Niehaus among the ghosts of Cooperstown. He’s meeting Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. He’s talking with Harry Caray, his own childhood hero. And he gets in the radio booth as Cy Young throws a fastball to Babe Ruth with three men on, and it’s

“Babe Ruth points the bat out to left field, and it’s swung on and BELTED! Deep to left field! Ted Williams goes to the track, to the wall! This baby is gonna…FLY AWAY! GET OUT THE RYE BREAD AND THE MUSTARD GRANDMA, IT’S GRAND SALAMI TIME!!!”

Rest in peace, Dave Niehaus. It’s not going to feel like summer around here without you.

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“Don Wakamatsu Is Our Manager.” Right.

Big, predictable news out of the Mariners today. The organization fired coach Don Wakamatsu, along with a few other coaches.

I think this was a terrible call on the Mariners’ part. It’s not all Wak’s fault that the team is doing so poorly this season. In fact, I argue that it’s really the front office that got Wak into the situation he was in. True, the front office could not have predicted that Figgins and others would have horrible years. But let’s look at some of the major incidents of this year before assigning all the blame on Wakamatsu.

1. Front Office passes on Branyan. Team decides to rely on aging veterans (Sweeney and Griffey) and Milton Bradley for power.
This, to me, was the #1 problem with this year’s Mariners. True, Sweeney did well enough in Spring Training to earn a spot on the team. But Griffey only hit one home run. Which ended up being his final home run. (I happened to be there for that — big moment.) And Milton Bradley brought a powder keg of issues to this year’s team. Neither Sweeney nor Griffey could stay healthy long enough to make an impact, and Griffey’s slump was so bad that Wak couldn’t play him and expect to win games. There’s nothing sadder than a veteran who keeps playing longer than he should have. In my opinion, Junior should have retired on a high note, at the end of last year. Wak had to manage a no-win situation regarding Griffey, ’95 nostalgia, and the Mariners.

2. Milton Bradley blows up and leaves the team to get counseling.
I thought Wakamatsu handled this situation very well. Clearly Bradley needed to get his head on straight. But he’s not hitting at all.

3. Two catchers, neither of whom can actually catch. Or hit.
This turns the #9 spot into a black hole. We started telling RoJo to keep his bat on his shoulder so he could at least get on base.

#4 Starting rotation (save Rowland-Smith) pretty solid. But bullpen keeps blowing games.
Didn’t USS Mariner call it last year? Aardsma got lucky. Plain and simple. He has no pitches other than a fastball, and just throws as hard as he can when he gets in trouble. This is why he keeps getting lit up this year.

#5 Junior suddenly calls it quits mid-season.
OK. I’m a big Mariners fan, so I love the guy. But this put Wak in a bad spot. He couldn’t play Junior because Junior, well, couldn’t play. So he sat Junior. And Junior wasn’t happy with it, stopped talking to Wak, and abruptly retired. Wak is now “the guy who ran Junior out of town.” See the great USS Mariner post for more on this. Wak lost the respect of the clubhouse after this, and took the fall for something he really shouldn’t have.

#6 Chone Figgins blows up
Wak thought Figgins was dogging it on a play and pulled him from a game. Figgy didn’t like this, and threw punches. At the manager. You never, ever throw punches at the manager. Branyan got involved and calmed everybody down. And what did the Front Office do? It refused to comment until days later, when Jack Z publicly said “Don Wakamatsu is our manager.” But Figgins never really talked to the media about this. He never apologized publicly. The club tried to keep it all inside — giving the impression (despite Jack Z’s words) that it really wasn’t supporting Wak.

You can place most of these problems squarely on the front office. Here’s the main thing about the Mariners — they don’t have good baseball people where it counts. They’ve got the payroll to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox, but don’t go out and sign the players to do so. It’s disappointing and frustrating to fans. We’ve been “rebuilding” for far too many seasons. This is worse than a “bad year.” The culture of the franchise accepts losing. And where do you get the culture to change? It has to start at the top.

There will be no continuity or stability in this franchise until they can keep a manager longer than a season and a half. Since Piniella, the Mariners have gone through at least five managers. And it has to stop. They need to get somebody in there who can turn it around, and whom they can stick with through the down years. The Ms stuck with Piniella when the team was bad. Why wouldn’t they stick with Wak?

Wak will manage somewhere else. I wish him luck and success. He’s a good manager. It’s just that the Mariners are toxic.

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Apologies for the long delay.

So, I guess I got a little bit caught up in World Cup fever. And now I’m going through some serious withdrawal. My days for the past couple of weeks have gone like this:

6 AM — Wake up
7 AM — Watch early match (I could not get up for the 4:30 AM ones. That would have killed me.)
9:40 AM — Class
11:00 AM — Watch lunchtime match
1:10 PM — Class
4 PM — Home. Homework
6 PM — Dinner
7 PM — More homework
10 PM — Bed

Yeah. No time in there to blog. But now that the World Cup is over, I’ve got a bit more time and can catch you up on all the sports news.

First off — Diego Forlan wins the Golden Ball! I totally called that. Without Forlan, Uruguay would not have gotten as far as it did. He was clearly the leader on that team, and an absolute inspiration. I loved watching him play. Even a newbie like myself could tell that he just dominated the pitch. Kudos to you, Diego. I’m going to try to watch you with Atletico Madrid, or with whatever team picks you up, soon.

Secondly — Viva España! One of the nice things about this World Cup final was that neither Spain nor Netherlands had won before. I was rooting for the Oranjje (or however you spell it in Dutch), largely because of Wesley Sneijder. See, I’m an American football fan, and my favorite footballers were the ones who played futbòl like it was, well, football. Sneijder played like a badass. And he looks like a miniature Freddie Ljungberg. Gotta respect that.

Thirdly — Sounders. Watching MLS after watching the World Cup is so disappointing. So many missed passes and missed opportunities for goals at Sunday’s game. I was there with a friend. It was rough. They tied. Again. And they played well enough to win. At one point Zakuani was one-on-one with a defender, and did not take a shot on goal. So frustrating. But keeper Kasey Keller is awesome, and one of his saves was so amazing that the entire stadium chanted his name in unison.

Fourthly — Cliff Lee is no longer a Mariner. OK, I totally saw that one coming. We got Rangers 1B prospect Justin Smoak and some minor leaguers in the deal, including one guy who pleaded no-contest to forced sex and unlawful imprisonment of a woman. Why he is still in the Mariners minor leagues, I don’t know. Honestly, they need to release him right away. Domestic violence has no place in sports.

Anyway.

I hope that the Lee trade ends up being like the big trade which sent The Big Unit to the Astros and netted us Halama, Carlos Guillen and Freddy Garcia. That was a good trade. Smoak is very good, has a great name for baseball (I can’t wait to hear what Niehaus comes up with), and provides some much-needed power to our lineup. But I will miss seeing Lee in a Mariners uniform. And, as my friend Loren pointed out, the Mariners threw away a perfect opportunity to build a team around a core of two phenomenal pitchers — Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. True, they *could* win the Cliff Lee sweepstakes after his contract is up this season and sign him. But will they really? And can they afford him? Had the Mariners locked him up, we would have kept our killer 1-2 knockout punch and built a team around that. One of these days the Mariners Front Office has to face the music — fans are tired, dead tired, of “rebuilding.” We haven’t made the playoffs for almost 10 years. That’s a long time. The Mariners better get off their butts and start building fans a team they can actually rally around before fans lose interest and start following the boys in green (Sounders) across the street. At least the Sounders Front Office will refund fans their tickets for a poor performance against the LA Galaxy earlier this season. How many poor performances does the Mariners Front Office expect us to put up with?

Lastly — I’m going to try really hard to update this a couple times a week. Honest. But Landon’s amazing goal inspired me to learn how to play soccer. And I’m learning how to rock climb. And I’m going to climb Mt. St. Helens. So this is going to be a busy summer for yours truly. It will be fun — and sometimes, fun is all you need.

OK. The Premier League needs to start soon. I’m going through Clint Dempsey withdrawal.

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Pac-10 Expansion Update

ESPN is reporting that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State are all leaving for the Pac-10. But Texas may actually stay in the Big 12.

Colorado has gone to the Pac 10. Nebraska to the Big 10.

Oh, and for Seattle sports fans — the Mariners won yesterday. Word.

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An Old Interview with Dave Niehaus

Just in case you were wondering what it is I actually want to do as a sportsologist/writer, here is an example. I’m really interested in the sociocultural aspects of sports — how individuals and groups interact with them, and how sports fan communities are created. Who’s in and who’s out? And just what is a “fair-weather” fan, anyway? How do we fans see sports, and why do we love them?

On the page entitled “Be in the Book,” you’ll find information about how you, too, can participate in the book/interview project. I’d love to hear from you. Write me!

In the meantime, here is the transcript of the interview I did with Dave Niehaus for my 2004 bachelor’s thesis. Niehaus, the Mariners play-by-play broadcaster, generously agreed to do a phone interview with me. I called him up one afternoon prior to Spring Training, and was treated with 45 minutes, one-on-one, with Dave. As a lifelong Mariners fan, this is pretty high up there on my own personal sports highlight reel. Dave is great, and still makes Mariners baseball fun to listen to after 30+ years with the ballclub. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame last year.

Unless I can get ahold of Dave again to get permission, this will likely not go into the book. But it’s a good example of some of the questions about sports and culture of interest to me — and what I hope to write the book about!

I love the first part of this interview, where Dave is quizzing me about Walla Walla and college. I was on the other end of the phone, trying really hard not to be too nervous. My idol was asking me about college!

In addition, I’ll be at the George and Dragon tonight, looking for a few good Sounders fans who are willing to talk soccer with me. Stay tuned for some upcoming interviews with soccer fans who will tell me what this whole World Cup craze is all about!

Dave Niehaus — January 26th, 2004

ANNA: The Soc department has asked me to get a statement of informed consent from everybody, so I’m using this interview my thesis – is that okay with you?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Sure – what are you? Thesis for what – MBA, PhD, undergraduate degree, or what?

ANNA: Undergraduate.

DAVE NIEHAUS: Okay.

ANNA: I’m a student at Whitman College.

DAVE NIEHAUS: Yeah, I know. What are you majoring in?

ANNA: Sociology.

DAVE NIEHAUS: Great. Are you from here?

ANNA: Yes, I am. I live out in Shoreline when I’m not in Walla Walla.

DAVE NIEHAUS: Okay. How do you like Walla Walla?

ANNA: It’s great, it’s a little small.

DAVE NIEHAUS: Yeah, I know.

ANNA: It’s definitely – right now it’s pretty cold. But it’s a nice place and I’ll be sad when I have to leave.

DAVE NIEHAUS: There’s a lot of new wineries out there – aren’t – isn’t there?

ANNA: Yeah, there seems to be a new one opening almost every year.

DAVE NIEHAUS: Yeah, I know, I read an article about that.

ANNA: Yeah.

DAVE NIEHAUS: Alright, I’m sorry, go ahead.

ANNA: That’s okay. Okay, so my first question for you is why did it take so long for baseball to catch on in Seattle?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Well, you know, for the first fifteen years, we – we were not a .500 ballclub, and I think that – and, for the most part, quite frankly, not even that much of a competitive ballclub. And to be competitive, you have to get to .500 first of all. And we did that in 1991, when Jim Lefebvre was the manager here and fell off the face of the earth again the next year, when, uh, Bill Plummer took over. And then Lou Pinella came on in 1993.

But that having been said, let’s not forget that in the original, inaugural year of 1977, we, uh, we established a new record for attendance for, you know, an expansion ballclub. So you knew that the interest was there. But you had to give the fans, you know, a competitive product. I’ve always said that. I knew this was going to be a Mecca of baseball if, you know, ownership would just give the – the fans a competitive product. And they have. This new ownership has done a marvelous job, and it’s turned into maybe the baseball Mecca of the United States right now, as we’ve been either one-two in attendance the last couple of years with the New York Yankees and it’s proven to be, you know, a bonanza.

ANNA: Do you think it’s important that Seattle has a baseball team?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Well, in a – yeah, what is this, the thirteenth largest market in the country and there are thirty major league baseball teams. You know, I’m – I’m, you know, very subjectively, I think it’s the greatest game in the world, and I think, I think in a city, indeed in this case, an area – the Pacific Northwest, identifies with a Major League Baseball team more than any other kind of professional team for a couple of reasons. Number one, it stretches out, not only six months out of the year but it’s almost, you know, a daily thing. Uh, that’s the reason I think that, you know, baseball announcers like myself become ingrained in, in-uh, people’s families, because you come into their homes, if you’re a baseball fan, almost every day. And you become a, a part of their family. And because of that, you know, they look – and baseball, let’s not forget, baseball at least from the broadcasting standpoint of view, people start to listen, listening to me – or when baseball season comes around, let’s put it this way, it’s a portent of good things to come. Because the winter is over, Spring has started, the trees start to bloom, it’s, you know, it’s a – vacations are around the corner, beaches, hiking, trips, everything. It all happens during baseball season, and it’s, and that’s the reason I think it’s so, you know, people look forward to it so, because it’s the best part of the year. I mean, the Winter is over, Fall is over, and, uh, you know, life begins anew.

ANNA: I would definitely agree with you there. I mean, I’ve been listening to you since I was really little, so. (Laughs)

DAVE NIEHAUS: (Laughs).

ANNA: Regionally speaking, how large would you say the Mariners fan base is?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Regionally speaking?

ANNA: Yeah.

DAVE NIEHAUS: I would say it stretches, obviously from Northern California, or certainly Southern Oregon, maybe Northern California – I’m not, I’m not sure about that. As far as south as that, as far north, certainly, as north of Vancouver. As far east as, probably, Boise, Idaho, if not a little bit farther, maybe even into North Dakota. That would probably be the area.

ANNA: How would you describe the average Mariners fan?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Well, you know, I don’t know what – I don’t know what your definition of average is. I guess, the average Mariner – the average Mariner fan is pretty, is a, is a pretty well-versed fan. I mean, they know the game. I’m not sure they knew the game or took that much, you know, took that much interest in the game until quite frankly, 1995. In 1995, as you know, was a “bastard year” – I use that phrase because it was the year that started out in Spring Training with, with replacement players, remember?

ANNA: Yeah.

DAVE NIEHAUS: They were on strike, and so we had a bunch of guys that were, you know, that were really amateurs trying to make a major league team. It looked like we were going to play with replacement players, and then they settled the strike, and then the real big-leaguers came in, and we had a short Spring Training. We played, you know, I think we only played about three-and-a-half to four weeks of exhibition baseball, which proves you can – you don’t need six weeks at Spring Training, which they do now. Which they always do. And then we had, a hundred and forty-four games scheduled, because it – because of the strike, it bit in so deeply into the regular season. As it ended up, it turned out to be a hundred and forty-five game season for the Mariners because they tied with the Angels and had to beat them in a playoff to get into the playoffs.

And it was about, you know, August of that particular year when, I think the Mariners were thirteen games behind the Angels, and funny things began to happen. And not only did they catch the Angels, the Angels caught them at the end. If you might recall, we were in Texas, and had clenched a tie for the division championship with two games to go, and then Texas beat us the last two games, and the Angels swept all four games down in Anaheim against Oakland. And tied, and then they came up here and then we beat them.

And then went to New York, and af – ironically, I’ll never forget this, because the first day we were in New York, uh, to play the Yankees in the playoffs, it was the day that the OJ Simpson verdict came down. And, uh, and then lost the first two games and that – certainly the second game, that bitter thirteen, fourteen-inning, fifteen-inning game. I think it was thirteen innings, where Jimmy Leyrich hit a home run into the, into – raindrops into the seats in right field, and we’re coming back down two to nothing, and you knew the season was over. And, well, as you know what happened, it wasn’t over. We won all three games, culminated by Edgar Martinez’ double down the left field line with Joey Cora scoring and then Junior scoring from first base.

And – and I think it was from August of that year that the town became absolutely rabid, fanatical. I’ll never forget, there was – UW was playing Notre Dame, a rare time that they played Notre Dame in football, over at, over at Husky Stadium. And as we began a playoff game, I looked in the upper deck off to my right at the Kingdome, and there were all these empty seats. It was a game that the Huskies had won and blew at the end. I don’t know if you remember it or not, but it was a game that they had in their pocket and let slip away. And then all of a sudden, after that game was over, the entire – that entire area that was unoccupied, all of a sudden, people rushed and rushed from Husky Stadium over to the Kingdome to see this particular playoff game. I remember that vividly.

But ever since that time, ever since that time, this town has, uh, basically belonged to the Mariners.

ANNA: Mmmhmm. So do you think the 1995 playoffs then, had a huge role in?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Oh, absolutely.

ANNA: Okay.

DAVE NIEHAUS: The 1995 playoffs built the new stadium. It, it, you know, they did lose that – they did lose that vote that particular year, and then they put the pressure on the, barely lost the vote, the popular vote, and then they put the pressure on the state legislature. And the state legislature came through, and Safeco Stadium was built, and uh, again, I think it’s the best stadium in baseball. It’s not my favorite, but I think it’s the best.

ANNA: Okay. So Mariners fans have sometimes been criticized as fair-weather fans. How would you respond to that?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Well, I, you know – fair-weather fans, I think every fan in base – basically, every fan in baseball is a fair-weather fan, maybe with the exception of Boston and Chicago. Cubs, the Cubs draw because of Wrigley Field. Boston draws because of Fenway Park. And, the Yankees, if they don’t win, they’re not gonna draw just because they’re the Yankees. But, as I mentioned, and what your definition of fair-weather is, I mean, they want a good product. Yeah, I – yeah, I would say that most fans are fair-weather fans.

ANNA: In the ballpark, are there behaviors or actions that Mariners fans do that are unique to Mariners fans?

DAVE NIEHAUS: (Sighs) Goodness, you know that’s a good question, and I don’t know if I have an answer for it because quite frankly, I am concentrating on the baseball game so much, I don’t pay a heck-of-a-lot of attention to what’s going on in the stands. Uh, I, I do know that all of a sudden Ichiro has become a cult hero out there in cen – in right field. And they have what they call Area 51. And you know, there are a lot of people now that come over from Japan to see Ichiro play, not only that, but Hasegawa pitch and Kazuhiro Sasaki pitch, but he’s not gonna be here this year. But, uh, uh, you know, it – it just seems like they have a wonderful, wonderful time when they come out.

And because of this stadium, and the atmosphere that it produces, and it’s, you know, almost always full. Uh, it – it’s a wonderful place to be. I – I think that the Mariners have done a – a great job, of – of watching the drinking. There are non-drinking sections, and you know, they don’t put up with any baloney out there. And you – you can’t really be a, you know, a ruffian and come out to the ballpark and disturb other people. And I think people appreciate that, too. It’s a nice, wholesome place to come, and have entertainment.

ANNA: Okay. Throughout your involvement with the team, what players do you feel have received the most support from fans?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Well, you know, I think right now, of course Ichiro. He’s been the most popular player in baseball if you, if you take the All-Star vote the last two or three years, last two years. Uh, he’s been very popular. Bret Boone has been very popular.

I – I think, without Ken Griffey, Jr., we probably wouldn’t have Safeco Field. Uh, baseball wouldn’t be as popular. I think, when Junior arrived on the scene in 1989, he became, you know, the fair child of baseball. He started hitting home runs, he did everything magnificently, he had a great arm, he hit – hit for average, although he probably could have hit for a higher average if he didn’t go for home runs, and was magnificent defensively. The only problem was staying healthy, and crashing into walls, breaking bones and things like that. But, but, I certainly he – he would, I think, be number one in, uh, in Mariner fans hearts. If you had to name Mr. Mariner.

But, finishing a very close second, if maybe not edging him out now would be Edgar Martinez. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it, because, Edgar is – Edgar is, you know, I named Alvin Davis Mr. Mariner, because of the gentleman that he was and everything. And Alvin Davis, uh, personifies everything I think a man should be. And uh, and uh, but, but Edgar Martinez may have taken that mantle away from him now and, uh, you know, Bret Boone – so many, uh, so many favorites. John Olerud (missed).

We have, we have a – a group of ballplayers that are really good guys. And I mean that, right down to the twenty-fifth man, uh, so, you know, to name one probably would not be fair. But if I had to name one, it would probably be Junior.

ANNA: Do you think these players have received support mainly because of their onfield skills or also because, as you mentioned, fans perceive them as good guys?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Well, I – I think, almost by definition, uh, one goes with the other. But if you don’t have onfield skills, and if you don’t have – you were talking about fair-weather fans – if you’re not competitive, and you don’t have wins, then you’re not going to get that – you’re not going that recognition anyway. So I think one goes with the other.

ANNA: Okay. In Out of Left Field, Art Thiel referred to you as “the most beloved figure in Mariners baseball.” And, many of the fans I’ve spoken with strongly connect you with the Mariners baseball experience. Um, how do you perceive your role among most fans?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Well, you know, that was very kind of Art Thiel – Thiel to say that, in, in the book. But, when you’ve been here as long as I have and I’m starting my twenty-eighth year, I – I can, you know, like Harry Carey to me, when I grew up was the Cardinal announcer, and I identified with him. And I was just talking about how you become a member of your family – if it wasn’t me, it would be somebody like me because of, you know, the number of times you visit with people during the course of the year. Now the last several years, we have been doing every exhibition game. So I’m doing thirty-one, thirty-two exhibition games, a hundred and sixty-two regular season games. If you get into the postseason, you’re probably doing more than two hundred games a year. That only leaves a hundred and fifty days in the year when you’re not on the air three or four hours a day, right?

ANNA: Mmmhmm.

DAVE NIEHAUS: So, I mean (laughs) – so that’s the reason you become so familiar, I think, to families, and probably become popular. Uh, uh, the thing of it is, I’ve been here so long, and that has a lot to do with it. Plus, you know, I’m one of these guys – I, I quite frankly think, you know, has had the opportunity – never have had to go to work a day in my life. Because I enjoy it so much. I am a fan, and I, and I try to exude that, you know, that to people that listen to me. They know that I wear my emotions on my sleeve, and that, you know – I, I also try – and this may – this is going to make no sense at all. But I try to be as objective as my subjectivity will allow me. You cannot be what a group of people from the middle of February until hopefully near the end of October, if you go to the World Series, and not be for them, root for them. But also, a guy in a gray uniform can make just as great a play, if not a greater play, than a guy in a home uniform. And, uh, and I have – and I have – the one thing I have to keep, is, is my credibility. I, you know, you can show signs of rooting and things like that. But I don’t, if you listen to me, I’m not that much of a homer. And, and I really want to keep it that way, because I want to keep my credibility. The one thing people – I, I’d like to think, do, is believe in me, and believe in what I have to say, and once I lose that, I might as well step away from the game.

ANNA: Okay. From your perspective, what was a typical Kingdome experience like?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Well, it depends on what era you’re talking about. You know, it depends if you’re talking about the first fifteen years when it was kind of a drab experience. It was, to my, to my way of thinking, it was laboratory baseball. You had, you know, and I – quite frankly, I liked the Kingdome. And, believe me, on cold, April days, I still miss the Kingdome, and May when you go in there, but, but not during the course of the long year, you know. Not, not with the majesty of, of the elements that we have here in the Pacific Northwest. But, you know, the Kingdome was utilitarian more than anything else. I, I didn’t mind the Kingdome at all.

But it could be cavernous, it could be a lonely place back in ’77, back in ’78 and ’79, when not very many people were showing up. It was – it was a fun ballpark in the fact that, uh, it was an offensive ballpark. A lot of home runs hit there. We established a new Major League record for home runs there. And uh, you know, it was – you know, a lot of people describe it as a wart, but you know, I – I, I, I liked the Kingdome. I really did.

ANNA: Okay. How does the Kingdome experience differ from the Safeco Field experience?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Oh, well, you know, it’s night and day, because, as I mentioned it was laboratory baseball. No wind, no sun, no clouds, uh, none of the shadows coming across the field. No – nothing to affect the flight of the baseball. It was, you know, the only time you get to see outdoor baseball in the Pacific Northwest when the Mariners played in the Kingdome was to go on the road with them. (Laughs) So, it’s a completely, it’s a completely different game. And it’s a better game outdoors. It was meant to be played outdoors, don’t get me wrong. But, at – the Kingdome served it’s purpose, but I would never want to go back there.

ANNA: Okay. What role do you think the 2001 season had in popularizing the team?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Well, the 2001 season was a freak, and it turned into a freak not only because of the Mariners win, but because of 9/11. I think, I think, the wind kinda went out of the balloon a little bit. We were in Anaheim when the terrorists struck in New York and in Pennsylvania, and, and it was, it was one of those seasons where you thought you were never gonna lose. And funny things happened that particular season, and yet, as you, as you got – we, as I recall, clinched a playoff berth Labor Day. And that never happens in baseball. You never clinch a playoff berth that, that early in the season, with a month to go. And, and after that, I was concerned about keeping the sharpness, the edge and everything, and it proved.

Ironically, that season there is one game that I remember more than any others, and it was a loss. And if you follow Mariners baseball, you will remember the one I’m talking about. And it was the game where we had a ten run lead against the Cleveland Indians in the seventh inning.

ANNA: Oh yeah, I remember that.

DAVE NIEHAUS: (Laughs). And blew that son of a gun. And lost that – the Indians came back and beat us that game. I’ll never forget that. Or we would have won a hundred and seventeen games. Ironically, the hundred and sixteen wins were the most in baseball history. Uh, people say that no, the 1906 Chicago Cubs also won a hundred and sixteen games. They, they won a hundred and fifteen. They had one game given to them. It was forfeited to them, when John McGraw would not play, the Cubs wouldn’t put his team, the New York Giants on the field because he didn’t like the umpiring crew, and he said if this particular umpire is gonna umpire behind home plate he wouldn’t put his team on the field. And the umpire says “okay then, see ya later.” And they forfeited that game to the Chicago Cubs. So the Cubs actually on the field only won a hundred and fifteen games, the Mariners won a hundred and sixteen. But of course, you know, there are all kinds of nuances to that, too. The Cubs only played a hundred and fifty-four games, the Mariners played a hundred and sixty-two, so.

ANNA: Okay. Do you feel that the Mariners contribute to the community, in Seattle?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Oh, well, you know, here today, for example, Jamie Moyer is receiving the Fred Hutchinson Award. He received the Roberto Clemente Award. So many charities and things. Dan Wilson – all these people, do so many – Jay Buhner, uh, when he played and still does. Uh, such a fabric of the community. They, they – they practically live at Children’s Hospital during the offseason. A lot of tours, we do that. And, uh, they’re a huge part of the fabric of the community. Everybody knows that.

ANNA: Okay. How do the Mariners incorporate local culture into Safeco Field?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Local culture?

ANNA: Mmmhmm.

DAVE NIEHAUS: What do you mean by that?

ANNA: Well, I okay, let me rephrase that – are there elements of Seattle, specifically, that you see in Safeco Field?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Elements of Seattle – you see elements of Seattle every time you go there, because you’re outdoors and you see Seattle. And you see downtown and things like that. But, but, but, uh, I, you know, I don’t know. That’s a – that’s a good question. I’ll have to give that some thought. I don’t think I have an answer for you right now.

ANNA: Okay. If baseball were ever to leave Seattle, what would we lose?

DAVE NIEHAUS: You would lose the identity of being major league, which I think is huge. When you, when you asked me earlier about, you know, what does baseball, Major League Baseball, mean to an area, I think that – I don’t care, you, you can – in the NBA, you’ve got what, you’ve got franchises in San Antonio and Indianapolis and all these different franchises, and the NFL you’ve got Carolina, wherever that is. And I’m being facetious of course, is in the Super Bowl this year. But you, you look at all the teams that are in the NFL, the National Hockey League, the NBA, uh, you know, and if they don’t have baseball, I don’t care. To my way of thinking, they’re not a major league community, and, and baseball puts that stamp on municipalities.

ANNA: Okay. Do you think the Mariners are unique in the way they unite Seattle, or are there other elements of the region that serve the same purpose?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Well, I think this ownership has, has, has made sure that they get the right people here to be able, you know, and we were talking about, talking about not only talent, but how people carry themselves. How they treat people, how, how the public perceives them, and how they operate in, in public. Uh, I think they try to get players like that, that will identify with the fans and have fans be proud of ‘em, and I think that goes all the way to, to Howard Lincoln and this particular ownership. They’re just – I, I, I think they, they really like to get quality people.

ANNA: Okay. And I have one last question, and that is what does Seattle’s relatively new status as a baseball town reflect about the region?

DAVE NIEHAUS: What does what?

ANNA: Seattle’s relatively new status as a baseball town reflect about the region.

DAVE NIEHAUS: You know, it’s, now that it’s going into it’s 28th year, it’s beginning to, to move out of the new status. And I said – I heard you say relative, and you’re probably right. But as they begin into their, their, their 28th year, they are beginning to leave a footprint, they are beginning to leave a little bit of history. And they are certainly identifiable, where I’m not so sure that the first ten years they, they were that identifiable on the Major League Baseball map because they were always last. They were “the Washington Senators of baseball” for so many years. The Washington Senators used to be baseball’s worse team, and now of course that, that mantle ironically is, has turned, at least in our division, kind of down toward Texas way, where they have all that money and they have Alex Rodriguez. And, and I think that uh, now, that Seattle has had the tremendous success that they have had the last ten years, I would say, that they are looked upon as the model for Major League Baseball. Even though they haven’t won a World Series yet, that will come, but because of the way they have conducted themselves. They have, they have probably the second – I don’t know this, you’d have to talk to the people in the front office – but I think probably they have, this, if not the most attractive radio and television contract in the major leagues, they have one of the two of them. Maybe the Yankees make, have more income from that, but I think the Mariners are number two.

ANNA: Okay, well thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I really appreciate it.

DAVE NIEHAUS: Well Anna, it’s uh – good luck to you. And, uh, if you get a chance, when you write this, let me, let me read it.

ANNA: Okay, um, yeah, I’m sending a copy to Howard Lincoln. Should I just send it care of the Mariners at Safeco Field, and it’ll get to you?

DAVE NIEHAUS: Yeah, send one in care of me, and one in care of Howard.

ANNA: Great, well thank you so much.

DAVE NIEHAUS: Good luck, honey.

ANNA: Thanks.

DAVE NIEHAUS: All right, bye bye.

ANNA: Bye.

(End of interview.)

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