erik lundegaard

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Saturday June 25, 2011

Game 6: How a Home Victory Equals a Loss

At least we saved ourselves a half inning.

In other words, yes, it was cool that because of a scheduling conflict with a U2 concert, the Florida Marlins had to abandon their own stadium and play their home series against the Seattle Mariners here, at Safeco Field, under National League rules—meaning the M's wore road grays, batted first, and pitchers hit. All of that was cool to see. But the best part of the game may have been that, for this Mariners loss, we got to leave a half inning early. If you're going to see a home loss, better to see one that lasts a mere 8 1/2 innings instead of the full 9.

My sixth game of the season was an altogether unthrilling affair. In the bottom of the first, the Marlins got their first three batters aboard on solid base hits and plated them all. The Mariners only scored two the entire game. That's pretty much it.

But for the first time in a long time, I did get to see the game with both Tim and Mike, with whom I shared a 20-game package back in '94, '95, '96, etc. It was throwback night for us and we trotted out some new Chris Bermanisms to go along with the old standards: Bobby “I Am Curious” Ayala; and Bob “With Six You Get” Ayrault. Mike came up with: Omar “Au Revior Les” Infante. I came up with: Dustin “Heart attack, ack, ack, ack, ack” Ackley.

OK, so we're rusty.

Final score was 4-2, Marlins, which is also my score this season. Not final.

Seattle Mariners logo   Florida Marlins logo

In the battle of the water-themed teams, the Mariners couldn't catch themselves some Marlins...

Posted at 10:37 PM on Jun 25, 2011 in category Seattle Mariners, Baseball
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Tuesday June 14, 2011

M's Game Report: Lesser Angels Still Win

There goes my perfect record.

The Mariners, 4-0 in my previous appearances at Safeco Field—against, chronlogically, the Blue Jays, Rangers, Twins and Yankees—lost last night to the Los Angeles Angels, 6-3. It was less the Angels winning than the odds winning. I didn't think I'd see four wins all year, let alone to start the season.

Mariners logoIt was also less the Angels winning than the Mariners losing. M's were up 2-1 in the 3rd, with two outs, when Vernon Wells stepped to the plate against Jason Vargas. “Scoiscia's got Wells batting clean-up?” I said to my friend, Jeff. “Dude's batting .180-something.” A second later Wells hit it out to tie the game. M's go up 3-2 but in the 7th, the Angels get a leadoff double and a ground out to move the runner, and Torii Hunter, who's batting second despite having the lowest batting average on the team (what's Scioscia doing? I wondered), grounds to Chone Figgins at third. The throw to the plate arrives in plenty of time to preserve our lead. Except--no!--there goes the white ball, squiggling loose between catcher Miguel Olivo's legs. Tie game. An out later, which, if Olivo had held on, should've ended the inning, Vernon Wells again steps to the plate. “I still say he shouldn't be hitting clean-up,” I tell Jeff. A second later, homerun no. 2. Angels add another run in the 9th on a two-out balk, two-out single off of Chris Ray and that's your ballgame.

On the other hand, when was the last time I saw anyone hit two homeruns in one game at Safeco? Years.

The attendance was recorded as 20,238, but it was half that, if that. The area around Safeco feels increasingly abandoned, sketchy, and desperate, as more people fight over less people.

Posted at 08:29 AM on Jun 14, 2011 in category Seattle Mariners, Baseball
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Wednesday March 30, 2011

Divvying up M's Season Tickets at the Home of a Personal Friend of Raquel Welch

I'm part of a Seattle Mariners season ticket package—all Mariners season tickets, in my mind, should be split into packages, for the mental health of the ticket holders if nothing else—and tonight, at the home of Stephen Manes, personal friend of Raquel Welch, our group of eight ne'er-do-wells, amid jokes about M's run production and Ron Fairly, divvied them up.

Bummer of a schedule, though. July in Seattle is beautiful, but of the M's 26 games that month only 10 are at home. The Twins, my favorite team, come here just once, in May, and for only two games. Lame. We do get the Phillies, in mid-June, but I picked eighth, or last, and by the time it got around to me for my two picks (the last of the first round and the first of the second round), the Phils were gone. By the time it got back to me for my next two picks, all but one Yankees game was gone, so I snatched that one up. Missed Boston, though. Good teams at a premium when your team is this lousy.

In the end I managed to get tix to see the M's play the Twins, Angels, Braves, Rangers, Rays, Jays, ChiSox, Royals, Yankees and A's. Avoided April, which is too cold here, but wound up with three games in September, when the weather's nice but the M's record won't be. But maybe we'll have some good September call-ups? Maybe we'll play spoiler to the Yankees? Maybe they'll declare Sept. 27, the second-to-last game of the year, “Moneyball Night,” because Billy Beane's A's will be in town and Bennett Miller's film will be in theaters?

For more than a decade now M's management has put M's players on our season tickets. Is this the first year, though, they included their names? Not their whole name, mind you, just their first names. As if we're all pals. I wound up with four Franklins, three Felixes, two Chones and only one Ichiro.

“Any Miltons?” somebody asked, amid laughter.

It already feels like one of those years.

Ichiro Suzuki

At least we got this.

Posted at 10:51 PM on Mar 30, 2011 in category Seattle Mariners
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Thursday November 11, 2010

Lancelot Links (My Oh My Edition)

Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus died yesterday of a heart attack at the age of 75 and appreciations immediately rolled in. I wrote mine upon hearing the news but didn't feel like I captured how much he meant to me. I wrote about meeting him, and I resurrected quotes, and audio clips, and LINED DOWN THE LEFT FIELD LINE FOR A BASE HIT, and all of those are good, but I tend to associate him with, of all things, cleaning my apartment on 44th and Evanston in upper Fremont on some weekend afternoon, the sun streaming in, a hopeless game on the radio. Cleaning isn't any fun, and Mariners games often aren't any fun, but he made them fun. Roger Angell has said that baseball is like life, because there's more losing than winning in each, and Dave was a guy you wanted to hang around with during all that losing. He made the losing, and thus life, bearable. Hell, he made it fun.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments field below. Here are some others:

  • Mike Henderson at crosscut opens with a bang and tries to capture that Niehaus-Ron Fairly banter during an M's shellacking.
  • Rob Neyer visits the broadcast booth. “I didn't imagine, for even a second, that I would never have another chance. I sort of thought Dave Niehaus would live forever.”
  • Various clips and remembrances, including this one from Jay Buhner: “He could call a sunset.”
  • This U.S.S. Mariner piece needed to be longer, but I like the Bip Roberts remembrance. That's the Dave I remember. He's been called a “homer,” but he always got excited about good play from the opposition.
  • Kirby Arnold gives us reaction from Junior, and Dan Wilson, and Kevin Cremin. Ron Fairly says, “He was a huge Mariners fan; probably the biggest one in the Northwest.” 
  • John McGrath, in a piece about Niehaus' induction into the Hall, on how a Jay Buhner homerun call made him feel welcome in Seattle.
  • Mike: Off Mic, the voice of the Rainiers, on sharing the broadcast booth with a legend. “And nine miserable innings they were, Mike.”
  • Jim Caple on Joey and Joy. Here comes one, there goes one.
  • I choked up listening to these radio calls. They even have the grand-salami call off Roger Pavlik from '95. But make sure you stop it before the end. For some reason, KIRO 710 ends their tribute with an awful, generic radio voice; I'd rather end it with his very distinct radio voice.
  • Finally, Seattle Times' sports columnist Steve Kelley writes one of the best eulogies I've read: “He could be calling a baseball game, and it would seem as if literature broke out. ... In the cynical world of big-city sports, Dave Niehaus truly was beloved. I bet he didn't have an enemy in the game, in the business, in Seattle. And — my, oh, my — there will be times next season when his absence will feel almost too heavy to bear.”
Posted at 07:40 AM on Nov 11, 2010 in category Seattle Mariners
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Wednesday November 10, 2010

Dave Niehaus (1935-2010)

Seattle is less an unforgiving city than a city that doesn’t care one way or the other about you—people walk by with empty faces, “everyone in their own cave,” as a friend of mine once said—so it’s tough to move here in the middle of a life and feel like you belong.

One of the first things that made me feel like I belonged in Seattle was the voice of Dave Niehaus, the Mariners broadcaster, who died today at the age of 75.

It was an old-school broadcaster’s voice better suited for radio than television. To me, it always recalled rocks that had been worn smooth over time. It felt chummy, like he was sidling up to you at a bar, with a beer, to talk about the game.

Dave was a homer, he root root rooted for the hapless Mariners, and even more so, in ’95, when they became a little less hapless; but more than anything he appreciated good baseball. I remember more than once how he talked up this or that kid for an opposition team. Dave was always excited by possibility. I think that’s how, through the years, he stayed excited about the Mariners, who gave him 10 good years and 24 bad ones, and who never got him to a World Series.

I interviewed him a couple of times—the first time on the Kingdome field in ’96. Later that day, or night, I got to spend an inning in the broadcast booth with him. I was nervous, of course, and spent too much time trying to get it all down to really have a good time, but he was a gracious host and gave me some wonderful soundbites. There were a couple of errors and overthrows in that half-inning, and Dave told the fans, “This is an ugly, sloppy ballgame.“ He never pretended the game wasn't what it was. He never minced words.

It was better when he didn’t have to; when his enthusiasm was allowed to burst out. For months, maybe longer, in ’95, and maybe into ’96, I had the following on my answering machine. It was his radio call of a grand slam by Ken Griffey, Jr. against the Texas Rangers on one of the last games of the ’95 season:

And Junior right down on the knob of the bat, waving that black beauty right out toward Pavlik; has it cocked and Pavlik is set. The pitch on the way to Ken Griffey Jr. and it's SWUNG ON AND BELTED! DEEP TO RIGHT FIELD! GET OUT THE RYE BREAD GRANDMA, IT IS GRAND SALAMI TIME! I DON'T BELIEVE IT! ONE SWING OF THE BAT, THE FIRST PITCH, AND KEN GRIFFEY JR. HAS GIVEN THE MARINERS A 6-2 LEAD OVER THE TEXAS RANGERS. MY OH MY!

Of course, there was also this. And this. And all of these.

For that ’96 piece I interviewed fans in the stands, including Peter Maier of Seattle:

Niehaus is the best, no question about that. I brought the radio because I came with my son and his four friends for his birthday party, so Niehaus is my adult friend. He has a modulated kind of voice that allows you to follow the game by his tone. You know when to tune in and find out what's going on.

I interviewed Lou Piniella:

I've gotten a chance to listen to him at times when I've been thrown out of ballgames by the umpires. Also from time to time I go in and watch the game on television for a couple of hitters. ... He's a manager up there too once in a while, right? No, I don't talk to him about strategy, but I'll tell you this: He knows the game of baseball.

I interviewed Rick Rizzs, his long-time broadcasting partner:

So many times he'll be doing his innings of play by play and I'll be sitting there, and I'll lose sight of the ballgame, because I'm listening to him like I would be in my backyard listening to, you know, Dave on the radio. He's able to reel you in whether or not you're in your backporch or your car or whether you're sitting right next working with him. To me he's the best broadcaster in baseball because he can set the scene, he can bring you in, he can make you feel it, smell it, touch it, and be a part of it.

Mostly I interviewed Dave. I asked him if he ever had trouble with M's management:

They have never, ever put words in my mouth. I say what I believe, what's in my heart, and I think you have to do that or you lose your credibility with the fans. If you lose your credibility with the fans you might as well get out of town anyway. Even though I'm hired by the Mariners, I think of myself as a fan guy. Somebody that the fans can believe.

I asked him if he preferred radio or TV:

I think baseball is a radio game. I can play with people's minds on the radio. That's one of the reasons I don't like indoor baseball. You don't have the elements: you don't have the wind, you don't have the cold. When you're outdoors you can explain all of this: the humidity, how hot, the beads of persperation. You go to Fenway Park in Boston, for example—which is my favorite park by far and it was built in 1912—you can smell it, you can smell baseball. I almost genuflect when I go in there. You can smell the stale beer and the popcorn and the hotdogs, even though they scrubbed it from the night before. And all of a sudden you walk down the aisle and you look at that green monster out there and just, ”Wow."

He told me this well-worn story about how he became a broadcaster in the first place:

I was going to go to dental school and I woke up one morning in college and said 'I can't stare down somebody's throat at nine o'clock in the morning the rest of my life' and I wandered by the radio and television school there and changed my major.

We’re glad you did, Dave. Thanks for welcoming me to Seattle. Fly, fly away.

Posted at 06:01 PM on Nov 10, 2010 in category Seattle Mariners
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