Dave Niehaus' words helped blind woman see baseball




Posted on November 11, 2010 at 7:48 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 11 at 8:30 PM

SEATTLE - Marlaina Lieberg describes a night when she and many other members of the Washington Council of the Blind went to a ballgame at Safeco Field.

They were all listening to the game on the radio, of course, and when broadcaster Dave Niehaus heard they were in the stadium, he welcomed them and then took a few minutes to describe for them what they couldn't see.

"He told us about the pennants that were gently blowing in the breeze," said Marlaina. "He told us about how you could look out and see the mountains. It was amazing. He must have taken two or three minutes just describing it for us."

Marlaina, blind from birth, grew up a baseball fan in Boston, listening to the legendary Curt Gowdie call Red Sox games. When she and her husband, Gary, moved to the Seattle-area in 1997, they became instant Mariner fans and instant Niehaus fans.

As someone who has never seen a second of the game she loves so much, she appreciates the ability to bring the scene alive, an ability Niehaus has developed over decades in the broadcast booth.

"You know, I don't consider blindness to be a horrible thing. To me, it's a gift. But there are times when it has its limitations. When you meet someone or you hear someone like Dave Niehaus, blindness doesn't matter anymore," said Marlaina.

As a member of the Washington Council of the Blind, Marlaina was the driving force behind the development of the "One World Award," and she had Niehaus in mind. He was the first recipient in 2004, honored for his ability to bring the experience of the blind and the experience of those who can see closer together.

Dave Niehaus had always called it one of the highest honors of his career.

The Mariners will hold an open house at Safeco Field Saturday, noon – 3 p.m., so fans can gather to share their memories of Dave Niehaus. Fans may enter through the Home Plate Gate. The Mariners say they are still working with Niehaus' family to plan a more formal, public service.