Mariners to use committee to fill Niehaus' spot
At least five announcers will rotate after Hall of Famer's passing
SEATTLE -- The Mariners have made a decision on how best to replace Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus, with the answer being to use a group of familiar personalities to fill the void created by the passing of the franchise's longtime voice.
Randy Adamack, the Mariners' vice president of communications, confirmed Wednesday that the club will employ at least five announcers with prior experience in the booth on a rotating basis to work primarily with Rick Rizzs on radio broadcasts for the upcoming season.
Rizzs, who worked alongside Niehaus for 25 years, will be the main play-by-play man on radio. His partners will be Ron Fairly, Ken Levine, Ken Wilson, Dave Valle and Dan Wilson, with more names possibly being added to that list, Adamack said.
Dave Sims and Mike Blowers, who have been part of the announcing crew since 2007, will handle most of the television duties.
"All the conversations I've had publicly have said this is the direction we were thinking about," Adamack said. "The news today is that we're confirming it's the direction we're going to go."
The only possible change now is adding further partners for Rizzs, though Adamack said that pool will likely be limited to those who've previously worked on Mariners broadcasts.
"I'm still working on it, but these are the guys that have confirmed they'll be part of it," he said. "It'll be like putting a puzzle together now to figure out who can work which games with everyone's individual schedules."
Niehaus, who died Nov. 10 at the age of 75, had been the club's primary broadcaster since its expansion season in 1977. Rizzs said he appreciates the way the Mariners are going about the difficult task of replacing their legendary broadcaster.
"I think this is the right way to go," Rizzs said. "These are the guys who worked with Dave in the past and are best at carrying his legacy and telling stories about him and the franchise. It would be rough to replace Dave, because Dave is irreplaceable. The fans are familiar with all these guys, and for me, they'll be great to work with as well."
Niehaus split time between the radio and television broadcasts each game, but the Mariners now will keep those crews separate.
Though Sims and Blowers could do some radio games during the season, their primary duty will be on the TV side. Similarly, Rizzs will do a few television games, but for the most part, he will stick with radio. And there will be no flip-flopping between radio and TV mid-game in the new format.
Fairly, Levine and Ken Wilson all have play-by-play experience and will be able to handle that duty at times, allowing Rizzs to switch over to a secondary role or take an occasional break. But other nights, when former players like Valle or Dan Wilson are his partners, he'll call all nine innings of action.
"In the past few years, Rick has done about 4 1/2 to 5 innings of play-by-play," Adamack said. "Now he'll likely be doing six to seven, and depending who he's working with, sometimes nine."
That's no issue for Rizzs, who noted he'd always done nine innings of play-by-play while switching between radio and TV with Niehaus for 21 years, until Sims was added to the crew four years ago.
"It's no problem at all," Rizzs said. "I look forward to working with the former players, because I get to talk nine innings of baseball with these guys who lived it and breathed it and wrote the history of this franchise.
"I told Randy, 'Whatever you need me to do, I'll do it.' I love doing radio because I get to paint the whole picture. That's what made Dave so great. He was able to paint that picture as well as anybody."
There has been no decision yet on who will pair with Rizzs on the radio for Opening Day or any specifics in scheduling. Instead, the focus to this point has just been how to do what many consider the impossible.
"I think everybody agrees that replacing Dave Niehaus is not realistic," Adamack said. "What we've focused on at this point is how we move forward. With the commitments we'd already made with our full-time announcers, we're trying to do what's best for our radio and TV partners, our fans and for us."
Ken Wilson was Niehaus' original partner on Mariners broadcasts from 1977-82. Levine worked as part of the crew from 1992-95, while Fairly spent time in the booth with Niehaus and Rizzs from 1993-2006. All three have filled in briefly for Niehaus in recent years.
Valle and Dan Wilson are former Mariners catchers who've spent time as color analysts since retiring from the game. Jay Buhner and Dave Henderson are two other former players who've done games in the past, but Adamack said nothing had been finalized yet with them.