September 18, 2011

Honoring two Seattle legends

Saturday was the final public appearance for J.P. Patches.

The J.P. Patches Show ran from 1958 to 1981 in the Seattle market. Although it was a kids show, the humor was aimed at their parents as well, with jokes flying over the young heads with lots of double entendre thrown in. The show was live and largely unrehearsed. I don't know that this sort of local programming exists for kids anymore, replaced by SpongeBob and the like. But anyone growing up during those two decades has a soft spot in their heart for J.P. and his cast of characters.

There is a statue of J.P. and Gertrude in Fremont. The statue is called "Late for the Interurban" and is just a couple hundred feet east of the original "Waiting for the Interurban" sculpture. My brother Kevin bought a commemorative paver to support the making of the statue, engraved with the names of the three "Patches Pals" in our family.

J.P. continued to make appearances at fairs and events long after his show went off the air, and kids who are now parents would attend and put on clown noses while they watched J.P. entertain the next generation. But Chris Wedes, the man behind the clown makeup, is now 83, and has been battling cancer for the last four years. As much as he wants to continue, he just doesn't have the strength to do the thing he loves anymore.

So thank you J.P.  And thank you Chris Wedes.

The other legend that was honored this weekend was Dave Neihaus. Dave was the play by play announcer for the Seattle Mariners for 34 years, until his death from a heart attack last November. He was there from the very start, and called a beautiful game, even when the Mariners were terrible (which has been for much of their existence). Like all great announcers, he had a way of describing a game on the radio that drew a picture. More than once I turned down the sound on the tv and listened to him call the game I was watching.

The bronze statue is on the 100 level of the stadium, somewhere near right-center field. It depicts him calling a game, headphones on with a scorecard filled out in front of him. As a nice touch, the scorecard is from the 1995 playoff game where the Mariners beat the Yankees to win the series. A game won by "The Double" by Edgar Martinez, and called by Dave with excitement I can still hear.

Behind the statue, several of his favorite phrases are also immortalized. Every time a Mariner hit a home run, it was "Swung on and belted!" If the bases were loaded at the time, it was "Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma, it's grand salami time!"

Dave Neihaus was the Mariner's biggest fan. He was an institution. Dave Neihaus was the Mariners. Listening to the game just isn't the same without him.

My Oh My.