M's unveil statue for Dave Niehaus
SEATTLE -- With his grandkids crawling all over his bronzed likeness, the Seattle Mariners honored late Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus on Friday with the first statue in franchise history.
The sculpture sits on the right field concourse of Safeco Field and the radio booth where Niehaus called hundreds of games serves as the backdrop.
"When I first saw the pictures of the clay version of this amazing statue, I cried with a smile on my face," Niehaus' widow, Marilyn, said during Friday's ceremony.
"He would be humbled by this honor," she continued. "I know his family is."
The image created by Chicago artist Lou Cella is of Niehaus, who was the Mariners' lead broadcaster from the first game in franchise history through the end of the 2010 season, sitting behind a desk wearing a headset, with a scorebook and microphone on the desktop.
There are other little features specific to the Mariners' fixture throughout the statue. The tie around Niehaus' neck was one of his favorites and his son Andy wore that exact tie for Friday's ceremony.
The scorebook on the desk is open to the page of Seattle's memorable Game 5 victory over the New York Yankees in the 1995 American League Divisional Series.
The setting also has an empty seat next to Niehaus allowing fans to sit next to the statue, and the custom railings around the sculpture features some of Niehaus' famous tag lines, including "My Oh My!" and "Fly Away!"
"The thing that hit me was the word appreciation," former Mariners catcher Dan Wilson said. "... As fans we really appreciated how Dave could tell a story."
Niehaus died of a heart attack last November. The beloved broadcaster was the 2008 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award and inducted into the broadcaster's wing of the Hall of Fame.
He had called Diego Segui's first pitch in franchise history on April 6, 1977, through the end of the 2010 season, all told 5,284 of the Mariners' 5,385 games. He helped teach the game to a region void of the major league with the exception of the Seattle Pilots' one-year experiment in 1969.
Adults and kids regularly tuned in on summer evenings to hear Niehaus try to put his best spin on what were among the worst teams in baseball during much of the club's history.
"Nobody had a better relationship with the fans than Dave," broadcast partner Rick Rizzs said.
The placement of the statue in right field also is a nod toward Niehaus' affinity with the trains that would pass just outside the stadium.
Seattle previously honored Niehaus this season with a large sign above his press box radio booth and a patch the team has worn all season.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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