Dave Niehaus: 1935-2010

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Sad news out of the Pacific Northwest tonight.

According to Kirby Arnold of the Everett Herald, longtime Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus passed away from a heart attack this afternoon at the age of 75.

Niehaus was awarded the job of play-by-play announcer before Seattle’s inaugural season in 1977 and remained in that role through the 2010 season.  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame as 2008’s Ford C. Frick Award recipient and hearts are undoubtedly saddened this evening across the state of Washington.

Niehaus began his broadcasting career in 1957 on the Armed Forces Network.  He was serving in the military and had just graduated from Indiana University.

He broke into baseball in 1969 as Dick Enberg’s partner on the California Angels’ broadcast and eventually began contributing on calls for the Los Angeles Rams and UCLA Bruins.  In 1977, the Mariners wisely recruited Niehaus and made him the voice of the new franchise.  He became the epitome of a fixture, calling nearly every Mariners game that has ever been played.

The M’s haven’t experienced a whole lot of winning seasons, so Niehaus’ calls aren’t broadcast regularly in highlight clips and on baseball documentaries.  But he was an immensely talented announcer and he helped educate one of baseball’s most intelligent fan bases for the last 33 years.

Video-gamers in the 90s might also recognize his voice from Nintendo 64’s Ken Griffey Jr. Slugfest.

When the Mariners beat the Yankees in the franchise’s first ALDS appearance back in 1995, Niehaus shared in the joy:

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If you wanted to call someone “Mr. Mariner,” it would probably be Niehaus.  He will be missed.

Oakland Athletics reverse course, will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.