My Oh My: The Dave Niehaus Story
by Billy Mac, edited by J. Michael Kenyon
It was Burlington. Just off Hopper Road.
That’s where I got the news.
A dark November day, sloggy rain, cloggy traffic, and I needed one more coffee for the last hour on the road. I started the truck, took a sip, turned on the radio.
Where were you when you heard?
In that crush of grief, reflexes took over. I called my daughter at college.
“Uhhh…” I didn’t expect to go mute. I was a big strong man. “Dav-”
“Dad? What’s wrong?”
“Dave… Niehaus died.”
The rest of that conversation is buried in history. Seven years later she bought Billy Mac’s My Oh My: The Dave Niehaus Story and wrapped it up for my sixtieth birthday.
I’ll admit, this fan was skeptical. The back cover described Mac as “a friend of Dave Niehaus.” Would it be just another smarmy violin-filled shakedown of emotional fans who couldn’t let go? Hmmm. There was hope, y’know, whoever this Billy Mac guy was, if Kenyon was there to edit the words and rescue the story.
I hugged her and thanked her as the tears burned my cheeks again with the memory of that November afternoon. That day when Dave left us empty and rudderless.
Billy Mac talked his way into the Kingdome press box in 1979, knowing he was destined to meet Dave Niehaus. Imagine that, you’re trying to do your job, there’s a live microphone in the room, and some random dude shows up like “Yo. I’m your biggest fan.”
Billy Mac was blessed. The man he wanted to meet did not press the panic button and call the bouncer. Dave Niehaus treated Billy like he treated all of us who listened to him for 34 seasons. Like an old friend. Like a man who just wanted to take a seat, lean back into the ancient rhythm of the game, and talk baseball.
Billy writes the book like a man who knows he was blessed. There’s a little of the worshipful fan in his writing. There’s a lot of plain respect for Dave and his character. Billy’s not shy about the human side, the cigarettes, the nips of a see-thru vodka drink, and the off-mic killer frustration at the quality of ball he saw on the field for all those years.
But it’s Niehaus’ loyalty that shines through most clearly in Billy’s words. Loyalty to the generation of friends he made in the booth and in the game, the ones he treated like family. Loyalty to the Mariners’ organization, through all its long struggles. And most of all, loyalty to the fans and community that welcomed him every day into their lives, their homes, their cars, their summer back-yard barbecues.
Dave’s heart had no boundaries. His thousands, more likely millions, of fans loved him. And as Billy says, he loved us right back. Somehow we already knew that. But it’s nice to have someone tell us.