Marilyn Niehaus shares memories of Dave as the Niehaus sculpture is unveiled
The wait was over. The sculpture that first started to take form in April had made its journey from Chicago to Seattle and was quietly installed in front of a railing adorned with “Get out the rye bread and the mustard, grandma, it’s the grand salami” and “Swung on and belted!” at Safeco Field.
Two hours before the private unveiling ceremony Marilyn Niehaus and her family got to spend some time alone with the statue. Marilyn looked on as her grandchildren climbed on the statue. Some were pushing to get close, some where holding on to the arm, another went for his lap.
“I got to see it early with the grand kids and I was just flabbergasted,” said Marilyn. “It was so wonderful. The sculptor Lou Cella just did the best job possible. Just to see him like he was in 1995 and doing what he did best, what he loved. The passion in the game, it leaves me speechless.”
Greta Niehaus Dunn, Dave and Marilyn’s daughter concurred.
“I was floored,” she said. “The pictures don’t do it justice. When you see it is so much like him. Obviously it looks like him, but it almost feels like him too. He really captured his personality and the way he would be in the broadcast booth. He liked to talk with his hands and down to the details of his wrinkles on his face and how he smiled.”
Of course the ultimate approval came from the grandchildren.
“My kids and all of the grandkids, I saw them climb on him and it was like he was sitting on the couch at home and they were climbing on him,” said Greta.
For his part, Lou Cella the sculptor received a special gift from Marilyn today. One of Dave’s 162 ties, one that caught Cella’s eye when he visited the family home this spring to learn more about Dave.
“You could have given me an Academy Award and it wouldn’t mean more to me,” he said.
Rick Rizzs introduced Marilyn at the ceremony by telling the group that a few years ago Dave Niehaus walked up to a young woman at a dance and asked if she was a baseball. Her answer was no. I asked her if this was true.
“It’s true, it’s true,” Marilyn said with as smile. “I was at a party and he walked up to me and said do you like baseball and I just looked at him and said no. He then asked me to dance and that was it.”
That was it. Dave could live with Marilyn not liking baseball but that didn’t last long.
“I guess it didn’t matter at that time but I do love baseball and he taught me so much. That was the first thing he said to me,” said Marilyn.
Baseball would become a huge part of her life. She spent plenty of time at the ballpark with her family and when she wasn’t there the television or radio were on so she could listen to her husband. Every now and then he would surprise her.
“Grand salami,” she answered immediately when asked if she had a favorite call. “I was just floored, he never mentioned that to me. It just came out…of (a pause, then Greta laughs and says “his mouth” like things like that only could) nowhere but I imagine he thought about it for a long time and was just waiting for that opportunity. And I know Rick Rizzs just looked at him and was, what was that? Where did that come from. It was great.”
“He was so good at that,” Greta remembered. “He came up with things, that was just him. Of course we really miss him to death.”
There were times they missed him when he was still with us for a good part of his life was spent away from home. Marilyn understood that baseball was a part of him. When she spoke at the ceremony she said that he never wanted to retire. We who worked with Dave saw that. Marilyn realized that it would be baseball forever with her husband.
“I did,” she said. “I thought maybe someday he would retire and we would be able to travel but I don’t think he ever thought about it that much, he loved it so much. He enjoyed every second of his baseball day from the time he got to the ball park until he came home.”
Baseball is still a big part of Marilyn’s wife and there is no place in baseball more special than Safeco Field. She told me that it was here at the park and at home where she most feels his presence. Still, it is not always easy.
“The first time I came and sat at my seat and looked at that sign out there I started to cry,” she said. “And then I saw the patch and that’s hard too. But I am glad to be here. It is so much a part of my life. I am still listening to games. I have the radio on, the tv on every single game. I cannot not do it.”
As Dave cultivated a love for the game in thousands, perhaps millions across the region, he did the same for his wife, and in this game she still sees her husband.