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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

November 10, 2011 at 11:58 AM

Rizzs on Niehaus’s passing: “After one year, it still hurts like crazy”

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(Rick Rizzs kisses Marilyn Niehaus at the ceremony in September to unveil the Dave Niehaus statue at Safeco Field. Photo by Associated Press).

Yes, it was one year ago today — Nov. 10, 2010 — we got the awful news that Dave Niehaus, the beloved voice of Mariners’ baseball, had died of a heart attack at age 75. I’ll never forget the shock of receiving the first report of the news, hoping it turned out to just be a bad rumor. And then getting confirmation, and having the somber task of calling friends, co-workers and colleagues of Niehaus for reaction. It was one of the hardest nights of my career.

But it was exponentially more difficult, of course, for Niehaus’s family, and for his closest confidants like Rick Rizzs and Kevin Cremin (long-time executive produce/engineer of the broadcasts). I talked today to Rizzs, who not unexpectedly was in a very melancholy mood as he reflected on the one-year anniversary of Niehaus’s death.

“I just talked to Marilyn (Niehaus’s wife),” he said. “She’s been amazing, shown such strength through all this. One year later, it still hurts. The guy had the biggest influence on the franchise. He never threw a pitch, never hit a home run, never put on a uniform, but he was the voice and face of the franchise. Like any other fan, I listened to Dave for 35 years. I miss him like crazy. He meant so much to me and the fans because he made us feel a part of Mariner baseball.

“During those lean years — and we had plenty of those — we had Dave to take us through it. When it was time to take the national stage in 1995 and 2001, Dave was there to take us on that journey No one did it better, telling stories and helping to create that drama, setting the stage and coming through with great calls. It was part of the making of a legend, a true Hall of Famer.

“After one year, it still hurts like crazy.”

The entire year has been trying, Rizzs said.

“It was tough, real tough. Especially the first day of spring training. Every spring, we fly together, Kevin and Dave and I, talking about the new year, the prospects of the season. Dave wasn’t on the plane. Dave wasn’t there for the first game against San Diego. I looked to my left — my goodness, how do you replace someone who is irreplaceable? Then he was not there for Opening Day in Oakland, Opening Day at home. Each stage along the way was difficult.

“The one thing we wanted to do was carry on his legacy. We remembered him with stories, and laughed about the good times. We’ll never forget this guy. He has a statue out there in right-center field for one of the greatest of all time. The stories will live on. I’ll make sure of that, and so will the guys in the booth, I guarantee you that.”

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