As a sports writer, Lassen would sit in the “press box” at the home games of Seattle’s professional baseball team – then a Coast League team called the Indians. The press box was just a cramped, rickety cage suspended from the rafters above the spectators, where he would sit with two other sports writers, plus the radio announcer. By 1930, Lassen was still single and his widowed mother was living with him in his two-story Wallingford home (valued at $6,500) at 4517 Latona Ave. NE. In 1931, when the broadcasting position became open, Lassen moved—quite literally—from the sports writer’s chair to the announcer’s chair with ease.
Lassen, who lived and breathed baseball, once told an interviewer, “Baseball is the greatest sport ever devised by man.” His lightning-fast and incredibly accurate descriptions of the action was legendary. Seattle Times reporter Don Duncan wrote, “The lag time between the voice and the double play, the throw to first, or the long fly ball could be measured in fractions of a second.” Lassen’s intricate knowledge of the game and all of its players even allowed him to effectively “re-create” away games for his listening audience. For this, he would sit at his microphone while a telegraph operator sent the barest of details, such as the batter’s name and the ball-to-strike count, with Lassen filling in all the details using only his extensive knowledge and imagination. He was so good at doing this, countless fans had no idea he wasn’t actually at the games watching the action unfold.
In 1938, the struggling Seattle Indians were purchased and became the more successful Rainiers. With this success came more Seattle fans and more Lassen admirers. One man is said to claim that Lassen’s explanation of the infield-fly rule was so good, “even my wife understands it.” People started calling him, “Mr. Baseball,” and often entertained themselves by trying to imitate his famous nasal twang, known as “The Voice.” He endeared fans with his famous phrases, still known as “Lassenisms,” like when he told listeners during close games, “Hang on to those rocking chairs!”
In 1960, the Rainiers were purchased again, and a salary dispute ensued. Unable to reach an agreement, Lassen walked out at the end of the 1960 season, after almost 30 years with the club. Dejected, the normally happy and outgoing lifelong bachelor became a virtual recluse who continued to care for his aged and almost blind mother in his same home on Latona until her death in 1968 at the age of 98. In 1975, Lassen endured several hospitalizations for lung congestion and on December 5, 1975, “The Voice” was forever silenced, leaving only his friend and housemate, Edward Egerdahl, to make his final arrangements. For 29 seasons, Seattle’s beloved baseball announcer signed off by saying, “Uh, this is Leo Lassen speaking. I hope you enjoyed it.”
Leo Lassen was inducted into the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame in 1974.