Dave Niehaus Looking Back at 1995 in 2008

In the wake of Dave Niehaus’s death, Jason Pagano at KCTS Television passed on a link to a Conversations at KCTS 9 interview of Dave that Enrique Cerna did in the fall of 2008, talking about his career. The nearly half-hour video is available here, but I’ve typed out a transcript of Dave talking about a few things that have to do with the ’95 run.

First, he said the Mariners first game on April 6, 1977, was his most memorable moment as the Mariners broadcaster, not anything from 1995. He emphasized the importance of being able “to be the man to reintroduce major league baseball to this area.”

When asked where the “my oh my” phrase came from, Dave said, “You tell me where ‘my oh my’ came from. I don’t know, when there’s nothing else to say, what do you say. ‘My oh my’-I’ve just always said that.”

In explaining where “get out the rye bread and the mustard Grandma, it’s grand salami time” came from, Dave said:

It was 1995, when Tino Martinez seemed like he was hitting a grand slam home run every other at-bat, but he wasn’t. But I’ve always called a grand slam home run a salami. And I went back to the hotel one time and said, “Well, what goes well with salami?” And I came up with rye bread and mustard, and then I thought when I was a little kid and never got my way I went to my grandmother’s house-I wanted that extra piece of candy, and I’d go over there, and Grandma would say, “You mean they won’t give you another piece of candy?” and she’d say “here.” And I’ve never forgotten that, so it was sort of a salute to her.

We were in Detroit, and Ron Fairly was with me on television, and it was Tino Martinez who hit another grand slam. And I said, “Get out the rye bread and the mustard Grandma, it’s grand salami time.” He looked at me like I had taken a step on the other side, and I looked at him, and I knew I had taken a step on the other side.

I got back here, and the town went bananas about that phrase. The Oh Boy Oberto people had salamis sent up to the booth. At the Kingdome above me there was the upper deck and people used to drop jars of mustard tied on ropes and twine down into the booth for me so I could make my own sandwiches, they would send sandwiches down.

In talking about 1995, Dave said of the shadow the strike put over the start of the season:

That’s what I remember most, because we went to spring training with what they called replacement players. Guys who were trying to make a roster because the other guys were out on strike. And I’ll never forget we went through a whole spring training, we went over to Dunedin, Florida, to play the Toronto Blue Jays. Lou Piniella said to me, “If you see me walk down the right field line in the sixth or seventh inning you’ll know the strike is over. These other guys are going to be coming in a couple days.” I saw Piniella take off down the right field line and said, “This strike is over.”

After we beat the Angels you knew it was over because we went to New York, and I’ll never forget seeing Jimmy Leyritz hit that home run about 1:15 in the morning with the rain coming down at Yankee Stadium. And we had a three thousand mile flight home, and you had to win three games. That wasn’t going to happen. Ah but it did. Yes it did. That was the magic that captured the imagination here in Seattle.

The Mariners can win the World Series one of these days, and they will, I hope I’ll be here to see it, but they will win a World Series here one of these days. I might not be here, you might not be here, but let me tell you something, it will not be as exciting as 1995. It’ll be much talked about, it’ll be nice to hang that pennant out there that says “World Championship,” but nothing ever will take the place of 1995.

Singing About the ’95 Mariners

Recently Tim Hunter wrote to me. He said, “I was working the morning show at KLSY radio in Seattle back in 1995 when our program director, Bobby Irwin, was contacted by ‘the people’ representing a new singer, Sari. They were offering to go back into the recording studio and sing new words to her single they were pushing, ‘Faith.’”

Tim explained: “I hurriedly wrote some lyrics, we shot ‘em off…..she went in, recorded as promised and that gave us a song that we played to death during that playoff run. We added some clips” of Dave Niehaus game calls, “and the rest is history.” He sent along the mp3 file of the song, called Faith in the Mariners. I uploaded it to Archive.org, where you can download it.

Also, I found a Seattle Times article, “Grand Salamimeister Spices Up M’s Songs Across The Radio Dial,” by Janet I-Chin Tu, from October 12 of ’95, a few days after the ALDS ended. Here’s a couple excerpts:

There’s Dave screaming about grand salamis while country singer Tim McGraw drawls his chart-topping tune “I Like It, I Love It” on KMPS 94.1 FM.

Turn the dial. There’s Dave, my, oh, my-ing through R & B singer Montel Jordan’s dance hit “This Is How We Do It” on KUBE 93 FM.

And wait. Isn’t that Dave lending his crackling explosions to Sari’s adult-contemporary ballad “Faith” on KLSY 92.5 FM?

Dave! Have you left the land of Edgar and Randy to join Madonna and Michael?

Not to worry, Mariner fans. Niehaus hasn’t abandoned the field of miracles. But these days, the voice of the Mariners’ play-by-play announcer can be heard up and down the radio dial, thanks to local stations that are writing Mariners-touting versions of hit songs, often with Niehaus’ announcements thrown into the mix.

It’s a town in collective ecstasy, and what better way to express strong emotions than through song?

Tu added this:

A few notches up the dial, KING 98.1 FM, a classical station, plays Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” in honor of the Mariners. KBSG 97.3 FM has “Seattle Mariners Are On A Roll” to the tune of Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock n’ Roll.” STAR 101.5 FM features “We Will Cheer For You,” sung to the Rembrandts’ theme from the TV show “Friends.” KISW 99.9 FM has a slew of song parodies. There’s “Randy Johnson’s Fastball,” sung to AC/DC’s “Big Balls” and “Pennant Fever,” a version of “The Fever” by South Side Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.

Bob Rivers, writer of the Mariners-version lyrics and morning host at KISW, has penned at least 12 song parodies about the Mariners in the past six years. Highlights include “Will They Stay Or Will They Go,” sung to the Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” during the tenure of former owner Jeff Smulyan; “Lou Pi-niel-la” sung to the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s “Messiah;” and “Bye-bye To Those Mariners Guys,” sung to Don McLean’s “American Pie,” before the recent stadium-funding vote.

Bad Planning, but in the End a Good Time…

My wife and I were on an anniversary cruise to the Bahamas during the Yankee series, due to travel on the water we were only able to catch game two and game five on the TV. We were a very small majority on this boat. Other than me, my wife, her cousin from Minnesota (converted for the trip from a Twins fan) and a family of 5 from Walla Walla, the rest of the cruisers were Yankee fans.

When the Yankees went ahead in the top of the inning, I got very mad and left our room for the fantail of the ship. At the bar a Yankee fan commented that the M’s had two runners on and Edgar coming up. I ran into the inside bar and joined my little band of M’s fans in front of the TV. When Edgar lined the ball down the left field line I turned to the gang and said, “At least we’re tied again.” When I looked again, Junior was rounding third and I knew we had won.

Unfortunately I did not get a chance to hear Dave Niehaus do the call live (National TV), but every time I hear it now I get goosebumps…

(To make matters worse for me, I had a chance to go to the Angels playoff game (co-worker had seats 4 rows behind homeplate), but since I left on my vacation the next day, my boss was a little unwilling to let me go.  To add insult to injury, radio reception in our building sucked.  Once again I never got to hear a classic M’s call (Everybody Scores!!!!!).

By Grant Kenn

The other day I popped in one of my favorite videos of all time, “My Oh My.” Recently, the Mariners have been pretty depressing, and every once in a while I need to remind myself that at one time, the M’s were really good. The mid ’90s were the golden years of baseball in Seattle. We had this guy called Ken Griffey Jr. No doubt, Kenny was the best player of the league at the time and of the decade as well. You’re a pretty good player when you’re drawing comparisons to Babe Ruth and Willie Mays.

There was also this guy on the ’95 team named Randy Johnson. He was the most dominant pitcher in baseball. With his bad ass mustache and his trend setting mullet, he mowed down hitter after hitter, guaranteeing the Seattle bats a chance to win the game.

I could go on and on about all the talent we had on that team; Edgar, Tino, Cora, Buhner, etc. With the best player in baseball (Griffey) and the best pitcher (Johnson), expectations were high for this team. However, 27 games into the season, on May 26th, Ken Griffey Jr. was injured, breaking two bones in his left wrist while making a highlight catch. It wouldn’t be until August 15th that Griffey would return to a team clinging to a 51-50 record and 12.5 games back of the California Angels.

The Playoffs

Many baseball fans consider the ’95 ALDS the best of all time. Coming from two games down, the Mariners tied the series at 2-2, forcing a decisive game five to be played in the Kingdome. Game five would produce one of the most memorable games in any Mariners’ fans’ heart…

The game was tied, 4-4, going into extra innings. In the top of the 11th, the Yankees drew first blood with a single by Randy Velarde driving in pinch runner Pat Kelly to seize a 5-4 lead. But the Mariners Refused to Lose. Little Joey Cora started things off by drag bunting and safely reaching first base, then Griffey singled and Cora advanced to third base.

With no outs, runners on first and third, Edgar Martinez stepped to the plate. Jack McDowell wound up, and Edgar hit a double into left field, scoring Cora to tie the game. And then Griffey was waved in, all the way from first. The throw was late, and Griffey slid into home late safely. Cementing an ALCS BERTH! In one of the most celebrated images in Mariners history, Griffey was mauled by his teammates at home plate as they were one series away from the world championship! The words of Dave Niehaus echoed, “MY OH MY”!!!

The Mariners would go on to lose in six games to the Cleveland Indians, dropping the last game on their home turf, the Kingdome. Although the magical ride ended, the fans in Seattle finally knew what it was like to have a successful baseball team, and the Mariners were no longer a crappy expansion team but a permanent part of Seattle culture. That double by Edgar is known for how it sent the M’s into the ALCS, but it could also have been the hit that built Safeco Field.

By Kevin Cacabelos, adapted from his posting athttp://www.seatownsports.net

This is the single most emotional sports moment of my entire life. Not an avid fan and smarting from the 1994 baseball strike, I vowed never to watch baseball again. Then IT happened.

The 1995 Seattle Mariners comeback was nearly orgasmic for the entire city. I was going to college and by mid-season, the Mariners were in their usual poor form and 13 games down. Then from nowhere, they started to not only win, but win in spectacular fashion. It seemed game after game, they would get behind and then through heroic effort, come back to squeeze out a win. And it seemed every night, it was a different hero until the entire city were in a near religious fever. For the first time in their 19-year history, we really felt like they had a chance for the World Series.

Every night, the city would practically shut down as everyone rushed to a television set. Forget getting a ticket because it was sold out every night. I was working as a security guard at the University and I would sit in front on a TV and ignore my duties for three hours (sometimes not even starting my lock-up rounds until after 10:00 PM and then spend half the night catching up.)

End of Game 5 vs. the Yankees

Far and away the single most emotional moment I’ve ever experienced as a result of sports. Little Joey Cora was on second and Ken Griffey, Jr. was on first. With two outs in the ninth, the Mariners were 1 run behind and all seemed lost. Then there was this moment.

I’ve watched the video and when they show Junior rounding third base, my eyes bulge. He is a home run hitter so not known for his base running speed but when he approaches third and rounds it, for the love of God he is accelerating like a wild, graceful, powerful animal. There was no need to wave him anywhere; he was going for everything and giving the same. When he gets to home and they miss the tag, the team rushes out and dog piles him and the entire dome erupts in a super nova. I thought Dave Niehaus’s heart was going to explode and expected to see glass shatter out his booth in a big explosion.

By Jason Grose