By now, Jaime Jarrín’s career milestones are as well-known to baseball fans as his voice.
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The Los Angeles Dodgers’ legendary Spanish-language broadcaster is set to retire next month after an astounding 64 seasons with the team. He’s been a prominent voice of the Dodgers for virtually all of the Brooklyn-born franchise’s time in Los Angeles. After the legendary Vin Scully retired in 2016, Jarrín became the longest-tenured announcer in baseball.
“He’s outlasted owners, players — everyone,” says Jessica Mendoza, who is part of the Dodgers’ home announcing team on Charter’s Sports Net L.A. and covers baseball for ESPN. “No one can speak to what it means to be part of the Dodger franchise better than him.”
Jarrín, a native of Ecuador, moved to Los Angeles in 1955 at the age of 19 and wound up working as news and sports director of the city’s Spanish-language radio station KWKW. Today, Univision-owned KTNQ 1020 AM is the team’s Spanish radio home.
Jarrín called nearly 4,000 Dodger games on radio from 1962-84, never missing a contest until he was tapped to oversee Spanish-language coverage of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. His presence on air helped ignite the rocket that was Fernando Valenzuela’s career with the team, when the 19-year-old pitcher from Mexico took baseball and L.A. by storm.
Over the decades, Jarrín has become a beloved figure in Southern California’s Hispanic communities. In recent years, Jarrín has been joined in the radio booth at times by his son Jorge and by Valenzuela, who followed his mentor into broadcasting.
Jarrín’s long tenure was saluted in July during Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium. He will be feted by the team on Oct. 1 with a ceremony at the stadium paying tribute to his longevity. Following the death of Scully in August, Jarrín’s retirement cements a big generation transition for Dodger baseball.
As inspiring as Jarrín’s professional accomplishments are, to friends and colleagues what stands out even more is his warmth and natural kindness. Unfailingly, he always went out of his way to get to know players and others in the Dodgers’ universe.
“He takes the time to listen,” Mendoza says. “It’s a gift that Vin had. Because of that, throughout the broadcast, he has an understanding of the humans he’s covering on the field.”
In a wide-ranging Q&A, Jarrín reflected on his long career behind the mic and what it takes to endure in broadcasting.
It’s been a year since you announced your plan to retire at the end of the 2022 season. As that date approaches, how do you feel about your decision?
I think it is the right time. I don’t know if in the last days I will be suffering some. Right now I am OK. No second-guessing. … I think it’s time for me to change priorities. After 64 years of doing this, it’s time for more time with my two sons, my daughter. I lost my wife, Blanca, three years ago. That had nothing to do with my decision to leave the Dodgers. I think 64 years is quite enough. I’m going to be with my family, traveling more and working on the foundation to perpetuate the name of my wife, Blanca, helping kids go to universities in California.
You’ve spoken so eloquently about your marriage and what her loss has meant to your family.
Blanca was always one of the reasons why I lasted so long doing baseball. She was always supporting me even though she didn’t care much about baseball. She only came to games once a year – on Opening Day. She didn’t care about baseball most of the time. Despite that she never complained about me traveling so much. That’s one of the reasons why I have lasted so long with the Dodgers, because she was supporting me. She was fantastic. A very, very generous person. I’m sure she’s extremely happy now we have a foundation that carries her name that is helping kids.
After all these years, what have you learned about the essence of good baseball announcing? What is it that holds listeners attention?
When I do a baseball game, I keep in mind I am helping the community. So many people work so hard, morning to night. In baseball is a great chance for me to do something to relax. I feel like it’s an opportunity to help my community. … I am from the same school as Vin Scully. He was my professor, he was my friend, he was mentor. He didn’t give me too much advice but he did say ‘Jaime don’t believe that because you know the game you can do it.’ You have to do your homework. Baseball gives you many new things. You have to prepare. Baseball is a game where you have to fill airtime, a lot. Do your homework before the game. Be ready. I have followed his advice and his school. I am not a screamer. He was not a screamer. I try to keep a nice pace.
The Dodgers were early to recognize the value of bilingual broadcasting to make baseball more inclusive after they moved from Brooklyn to L.A. in 1958. What has that investment meant to the team and to baseball over the past 50-plus years, as you’ve witnessed it.
The Dodgers cultivated the Hispanic fan base. When I started with the Dodgers, Hispanics coming to the L.A. Coliseum were about 8% of the fans. Now its 42%, 46%. We have done a good job. The number one reason why so many new people embraced baseball is Fernando Valenzuela. It has really been a great ride with Fernando, to give the people a thing as beautiful as a baseball game.
For many years the Dodgers were the only organization with bilingual coverage. Many, many people asked why were we doing that? The Dodgers said ‘Look, we have a fan base that is Latino and very large in Southern California. [Former Dodgers owner Peter] Mr. O’Malley told me he wanted to give them something in their own language. I am very humbled and pleased to have opened the doors to many, many young [Spanish-language] announcers coming to the major leagues and really doing a fantastic job.
What is your advice for people working in sports and broadcasting today?
I try to help them and as much as possible recall the days when I came to this country in 1955 without knowing much English or anything about baseball. I have lasted so long and tried to assimilate. This is the greatest country in the world, no question about it, a marvelous country. I thank god for the chance to come this country and I’m so pleased to have chosen Southern California.
Do you have any favorite memories about the radio stations that you’ve worked with: L.A. Spanish-language powerhouses KWKW and now KTNQ.
I came to this country not as a sportscaster but as a newsman. I was able to work in that field for KWKW. They established a very solid news department. They were the first to have a mobile unit on the streets of Southern California. I have a special attachment to KWKW, that was my first station [in Los Angeles].
KTNQ is fantastic especially because of the coverage we have: 50,000 watts. It was a challenge because there was so many that KWKW didn’t reach. I have enjoyed my relationship with [KWKW owner] Howard Kalmenson.
Outside of baseball what have been your career highlights? You have also been active in boxing for some time.
Those sports have been my work. I always loved my work in the Olympics. I was in charge of all Spanish-language coverage for the [summer 1984] Olympics in Los Angeles.
I had done 4,000 [Dodger] games in a row until 1984. In 1984 Mr. O’Malley was working very, very hard to get baseball as an Olympic medal, so he asked me to leave the Dodgers for a couple of weeks to be in charge of [Spanish-language] radio coverage of the Olympics. I broadcast the opening and ceremonies. I did track and field and about 60 hours of boxing. And I hired people to do basketball and other sports.
How did you manage to survive so many ownership and management regimes within the Dodger organization over 64 years?
Another example of advice that Vin gave me was, don’t get too close to the ball players or the coaches. If you get too close with them, that will affect your work. Be polite, be diplomatic but keep your distance. That was great advice I have followed. That is one of the reasons why I lasted so long. I never had any problem with the organization. I respect everybody. It has been a great marriage of the Dodgers and myself.
Do you plan to pursue new radio or TV work after you step down from the mic next month?
I could continue; I feel physically well and mentally well. But it’s time to say goodbye. Let me add that I’m going to stay with the Dodgers for two years – not broadcasting games but as an ambassador of the game, mainly to the Latino community. So they have asked me to stay with the team doing personal appearances. I will be with the Dodgers for many more years.
Anything else you’d like to say about your storied career?
I want to address the fact that I am very, very happy to have been with the Dodgers for such a long time. It’s a great organization, I get along with everybody. They have respected me and respected my community. They have been great with me. I will never stop thanking them for giving me the opportunity to do what I love to do.
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