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:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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

Umpire Cory Blaser made two atrocious calls in the top of the 11th inning

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images
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The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.

Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.

Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.

James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.

The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.