Arts & Entertainment

Spanish voice of the Dodgers Jaime Jarrin reflects on 57 years of baseball

Los Angeles Dodgers Spanish language broadcaster Jaime Jarrin is interviewed before a ceremony honoring his 50 years with the Dodgers before a game against the Chicago White Sox on June 24, 2008 at Dodger Stadium.
Los Angeles Dodgers Spanish language broadcaster Jaime Jarrin is interviewed before a ceremony honoring his 50 years with the Dodgers before a game against the Chicago White Sox on June 24, 2008 at Dodger Stadium.
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The voice of the Dodgers will be back next season--and the fans are happy.

But we are not talking about Vin Scully, who is returning for at least one more year.

The other voice that will return is Jaime Jarrin, the man who's called play-by-play for the Dodgers in Spanish for 57 years, and says he'll be back for at least three more years.

Jarrin has been at the Dodger microphone for more than half-a-century of World Series victories, game-winning home runs and more than a few no-hitters, like the one Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw threw against the Colorado Rockies last year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUD7ltcUL2M

Jarrin spoke more with All Things Considered’s Nick Roman about his storied career.

Interview Highlights

Before you began broadcasting the ballgames did you speak with Dodger owner Walter O'Malley about what he was hoping radio play-by-play in Spanish would do for the teams and the fans?

He was extremely interested in knowing the demographics of Southern California. He wanted to know about the Spanish-speaking people in Southern California because he was anxious to give the game to the community in their own language.

He asked me all types of questions about the community and the city, things like that. I would get very nervous because I was 21 years old and he was the owner of the dodgers asking me questions.

 

How long did it take before you were convinced there was a big audience for your Dodger broadcasts?

I thought probably I would stay with the Dodgers for 5, 6, 7 years and then move to something else. I thought [Spanish] television would be my next step. But I became a Dodger fan and I became in love with baseball and here I am 57 years later doing what I started doing in 1959.

I never looked for the job, I never applied for the job; they gave me the job.

We have a huge following but especially after 1980. We had a large audience but nothing compared to what Fernando Valenzuela created and the Fernando mania. That increased the number of listeners immensely.

 

I want to ask you about Roberto Clemente—the great Pittsburgh Pirate ballplayer who is held in such high regard by Latin ballplayers. Did you have a chance to speak with him?

Yes, I was very fortunate to know him because in those days not many Latinos were in the major leagues. But Roberto Clemente was a very special player and a very special friend and very special human being. In my book I think he is one of the best all-around baseball players I have ever seen. … He is really something special for the Latinos because he was a great, great human being and a great, great, great ball player.

 

Vin Scully will talk about how he'd have long conversations with Roy Campanella, the great Brooklyn Dodger catcher, about the ins-and-outs of baseball. Did you have someone who served as your baseball teacher?

I always say that I was very close to Roberto Clemente and to Juan Marichal. Especially Roberto Clemente because he already was very established, very well known and he really tried to improve the condition of the Spanish-speaking ball players [that] were trying to play here. In those days there were some racial problems in major league baseball. Roberto Clemente was for the Latino players and culture what Jackie Robinson was for the blacks and the entire game of baseball.

 

Is every night for you at the ballpark as special as that first season?

Yes it is. I am still in love with what I’m doing. I feel that I am very fortunate to do what I am doing. I have the best seat in the house. And I am in contact with people like Vin Scully and Charlie Steiner and the announcers so what else can I ask? They treat me well they pay me well, they respect me, I respect everybody. So it’s really a great marriage between myself, baseball and the Dodgers and that’s why I have lasted so long. I gave a 3 year number but I think if I feel physically well in 3 years I’ll keep going until I don’t know when.

 

You were pretty much by yourself as a Spanish language broadcaster when you began, right? And now it’s unthinkable for a sports team to not have a Spanish language broadcaster.

Without the audience we are nothing. Forty-six percent of the attendants at Dodger stadium are Latinos. When I started it was probably 8 percent.

 

How good is this current Dodger team?

It’s very difficult to foresee a playoff. Anything can happen. In 1988 when the Mets were very popular they said the Dodgers shouldn’t be there and they won. Let’s hope for the best. The good thing is the Dodgers have a very, very solid defense.