It was a warm, sticky night in June. Then again, in New Orleans, it's rare that the nights aren't warm and sticky. I was sitting at the kitchen table, sipping whisky and wishing I could go home. In New Orleans, after Katrina, people were transitory. My friends were leaving the city, I was two months into a bad breakup, and I'd just been diagnosed with a chronic illness. To put it bluntly: I wanted my mommy.
But I was a grownup, and grownups aren't allowed to run across the country at a moment's notice. Instead, grownups mask their pain with whisky. Still, even in New Orleans, there's a point where you have to find solace in something other than a bottle. For me, that point came on that sticky day in June, when friends were heading out to Frenchman Street. I didn't feel like putting in the effort, so instead there I was, in a kitchen without air conditioning, sipping from a sweaty glass and logging on to MLB.tv for the first time. Seattle were facing the Red Sox, Felix Hernandez was on the mound, and I wanted to be somewhere far, far away.
And it was Dave Niehaus that took me there. The Mariners may have been in Boston, but suddenly I was home in the Northwest. I was on the couch in my parents' family room, sipping cocoa and sitting under an Ms blanket, and all was right in the world. Felix dominated the Red Sox, winning 8-0, which gave Niehaus plenty to be excited about.
I don't remember the specific calls of that game. I only remember the place they took me to, a place of comfort, a place of home. Everything felt familiar. I could see The King on the mound. Adrian and his happy feet were clear in my mind. Even the oddity of Richie Sexson's three hits seemed ordinary, so perfectly could I picture it.
That night, sitting alone in my creaking New Orleans kitchen, thousands of miles from home, I certainly didn't want a detached, dispassionate announcer. It's like when you visit your grandparents for Christmas-you expect the same ornaments on the tree, the same glazed ham on the table, the same cheesy jokes made during the photography session. As much as you might roll your eyes, if any of those pieces are missing, suddenly your holiday just doesn't feel quite right. Your cheery wool sweater is now too tight, too itchy.
That's what Mariners fans will feel next April. Dave Niehaus has been with us since day one. We don't know what Mariner baseball is like without the sound of his voice. What's a home run if it doesn't fly away? Can we have a grand slam without the rye bread and the mustard? And most of all, is it really Seattle if there is no my oh my?
So many of us grew up listening to Dave, sometimes in the company of our families, sometimes hidden away in our rooms, ear to the radio, hoping our parents couldn't hear that we were up past our bedtimes. And when we moved away, we took that part of our childhood with us, seeking out the Mariners when we needed a reminder of home. Now that old cliché, you can't go home again, is ringing in our ears.
And yet we will try. Next spring, we will turn on the radios, flip on the TVs, head down to Safeco Field. The groundskeepers will still dance, the hydros will still race, the Mariners will still leave runners stranded. Through it all, we'll keep our ears perked up, straining for the sound of a voice that we swear is still echoing:
"I don't believe it! It just continues! My oh My! Edgar Martinez with a double ripped down the left field line and they are going crazy."