SEATTLE -- The "Countdown to Cooperstown," which started with months and dwindled to weeks, has become days for Mariners broadcaster extraordinaire Dave Niehaus. The signature voice of the franchise since Seattle returned to the American League in 1977 as an expansion team, the 73-year-old legend will reach the pinnacle of his long career this Sunday afternoon in Cooperstown, N.Y., where he will be honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame with the 2008 Ford C. Frick Award. Mariners fans that have listened to Niehaus every spring, summer, and even a few falls, would say a good deed definitely has been served. He has been synonymous with Mariners baseball for more than three decades now, and has no plans to retire the microphone and headsets anytime soon.
On Sunday afternoon, he will join other greats in his profession inside the hallowed halls in Cooperstown, forever etched in MLB history. He took time out from his busy schedule to discuss what it means to be honored in such a way. MLB.com: How easy has it been to squeeze 50 years worth of broadcasting into a 10-minute acceptance speech? Niehaus: It's tough, because you are afraid that you won't thank some of the people you should thank. I know I am going to forget someone, so I will apologize for not mentioning them. It would take more than 10 minutes to thank everyone, so what I am trying to do is chronologically thank some of the most important people during my career, starting with the U.S. Government, who drafted me and put me on the Armed Forces Network. But the people here in the Northwest, without a doubt, are the ones I want to thank the most. MLB.com: You visited the Hall of Fame for the first time almost a month ago and said it was one of the best days of your life. How much better will induction Sunday be for you? Niehaus: It can't be any better than my first trip there last month, because I was by myself and able to see so much of the museum in a relaxed atmosphere. There will be so much more hubbub this weekend, with appearances and press conferences, which I am not crazy about doing. But it will be fun and I'll be a basket case by the time I leave Sunday night, drive to Albany, catch a 6:03 a.m. ET flight to Philadelphia [on Monday], change planes and go on to Dallas for our game on Monday night against the Rangers. MLB.com: It has been almost eight months since you were selected as the Ford C. Frick Award winner for 2008 and you always said it hadn't sunk in yet. When did it sink in? Niehaus: It began sinking in when they put that Countdown to Cooperstown sign up there at Safeco. That was a daily reminder and the only time it wasn't was when we were on the road. At home, it was a constant reminder that I had better get on the ball and write my speech. But basically every night I am reminded of it because I get phone calls from radio stations and reporters wanting interviews. It has been fun and I really appreciate it, but I'll be glad when it's over with and I can get back to a regular routine. MLB.com: What does it mean to be going into the Hall of Fame with longtime friend Dick Williams? Niehaus: In your wildest dreams, you never dream you will do something like that. We were together in Anaheim and again in Seattle and became great friends. I have always felt that Dick deserved to be in the Hall of Fame long before this, but I never, ever expected to be going in, let alone in the same year as him. One thing I will say in my speech is "bigger names have preceded me, and bigger names will come after me, but none have or will be more appreciative than me." MLB.com: There must be a "My Oh My" somewhere in your acceptance speech. Does that come early, midway, late, or all three? Niehaus: I do not have one in my acceptance speech, at least not so far. I don't know if I will or not. That's so extemporaneous with me. That would be like showing off and I can't do that. I can't go up there and perform. I will go up there and speak from the heart. MLB.com: Which of the many current Hall of Famers that will be in attendance are you most excited about rubbing elbows with this weekend in Cooperstown? Niehaus: Stan Musial is one of my boyhood idols and I've never met him. I hope he's there. I have always wanted to meet him. I also want to see Yogi [Berra] and [Bill Mazeroski] again. Maz is a dear friend of mine, since we were together in Seattle. He was the third-base coach [from 1979-80] and used to go to my daughter's soccer games. He took me back to Pittsburgh and had the mayor of Jeanette, the Pittsburgh suburb where he lived, make me an honorary citizen and give me a key to the city. I still have the key somewhere at home here. We had a big pig roast at Maz's house. Those are some great memories. MLB.com: If there was one person you wish could be with you at the induction ceremonies but won't, who would that be? Niehaus: It would be my dad, by far. I sincerely miss him and he will always be in the back of my mind. I know what this would mean to him, probably more than me. He always was my biggest fan. He would get a short-wave radio just so he could hear me on Armed Forces Radio. I had better stop talking about it or I'll get real emotional about it. MLB.com: Now that you will be in the ultimate Hall of Fame, what's left to accomplish for Dave Niehaus? Niehaus: I never have really thought about it, but broadcasting a World Series game involving the Seattle Mariners would be the one goal I would have. I would like to win it, but being able to broadcast a World Series, four games or seven, would be the greatest thing I can think of.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.