With the retirement of the great Vin Scully after a 67-year career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the announcer that has worked the longest with one team works for…the Dodgers.
Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Jamie Jarrin has been the Spanish language voice of the Dodgers since the team arrived in Los Angeles in 1958. The dean of major league announcers began broadcasting games in Spanish while the team still played in the Coliseum [Dodger Stadium opened in 1962]. The Spanish-language Vin Scully has had a long career and tremendous impact on Southern California.
In 1981, a rookie left-hander named Fernando Valenzuela electrified the baseball world by winning his first eight starts – five by shutout – on his way to becoming the only player to win both the Cy Young and rookie of the year awards in the same season. An instant media icon, Valenzuela, who spoke no English, drew enormous crowds from the Latino community everywhere he pitched, and “Fernandomania” was born. Jarrin became a mini-celebrity in his own right, serving as Valenzuala’s interpreter for news conferences in every city in which the Dodgers played.
Born December 10, 1935, in Quito, Ecuador, Jaime Jarrin got his first radio job at 15, reading news and writing scripts for station HCJB – “The Voice of the Andes.” Two years later, he was the official announcer for the Ecuadorian senate. College educated and having studied English for eight years, Jarrin married at 18 and decided to emigrate to the United States. He arrived in the U.S. in June 1955 having never seen a baseball game. A few months later, he saw the Brooklyn Dodgers win their first – and only –World Series title. “I saw so many people watching TV and listening to this game. I said, ‘What’s that?’ I got interested in baseball.”
Jarrin was the news and sports director at Spanish radio station KWKW when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958. Southern California had no Spanish-language television station and, in 1959, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley decided to give broadcasting rights to KWKW . Three years after arriving on a boat from Ecuador, the 23-year-old Jarrin became the Spanish voice of the Dodgers. From 1959 to 1964, Jarrin didn’t travel for road games and would instead call games from a studio in L.A., simultaneously listening to Vin Scully’s broadcast and delivering his own call for the game.
“I would give him some things he could use on his broadcast, so I would say, ‘It’s a brilliant blue sky’ or ‘There’s breeze blowing in,” Scully explained. “I would try to give him things that being home he would not be aware of, and he was clever enough to work it in.” The two became the best of friends. “Vin didn’t have to do that, said Jarrin, “but he did. He became my teacher, my idol, my friend.” Scully added, “How he did it, to me, is truly remarkable. To be listening in one language and then speaking in another, immediately, while doing the play-by-play. He has to be truly acknowledged as the fine broadcaster that he is.”
Southern Californians have been spoiled with some of the finest broadcasters in sports history. Chick Hearn with the Lakers, Bob Miller calling the Kings, and Scully and Jarrin on Dodgers telecasts. “I’m so lucky,” said Charlie Steiner, who has called Dodgers games on radio since 2005. “I have had two of the greatest broadcasters of all time to go to work with every day.” Jarrin is the first Spanish-language journalist in Southern California to win the coveted Golden Mike Award, which he has won twice. He considers calling Valenzuela’s Opening Day start in 1981, Sandy Koufax’s four no-hitters, and the scoreless streak of Orel Herschiser among his career highlights. Jarrin’s home run call is epic. Se va, se va, se va, despidala con un bueso!! [It’s going, going, going, kiss it goodbye!]
Dodger Stadium was built on Chavez Ravine, a hill overlooking downtown Los Angeles that had once been populated by Mexican immigrants who had been driven from their homes in order to build the ballpark. When Jarrin started, Latinos numbered only about six percent of the fan base. Now, half the Dodger Stadium crowd is Latino, and a little less than half of that group speak Spanish as their first language. Latinos have become such a prominent part of the Dodgers fan base that the team regularly holds “Viva Los Dodgers” festivals before Sunday home games.
“It was a process of becoming a Dodgers fan, then becoming an Angeleno, then becoming an American,” recalled Jarrin. With a warm, calming voice, Jarrin has cultivated generations of Hispanic Dodger fans. He opened the door to the Latino market, and that market matters. Jarrin is partly responsible for the Dodgers becoming a $ 2 billion franchise. His broadcasts are a treasured cultural link for families. “People come up to me and say, ‘My father used to hear you, my grandfather, my grandmother,’ Jarrin explained. “So we started growing up together.”
Year after year, in both English and Spanish, the dulcet tones of Scully and Jarrin were a constant associated with the Dodgers. Now calling games with his son, Jorge, Mr. Jarrin is in his 59th season. Jarrin’s voice is rum and butterscotch and black coffee. “Curva muy abierto, una bola dos estraic.” [curve ball way outside, one ball and two strikes]. Speaking slowly, clearly and poetically, he is the Spanish-language Vin Scully. “He’s a dear friend of mine,” said Scully, who for 67 years was the most iconic broadcaster in baseball before retiring in 2016. “He brings everything possible into the broadcast booth. He’s well prepared, he’s informative, he’s entertaining, he’s interesting. He just does everything correct.” Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, Jaime and Jorge Jarrin consider their broadcasts a public service to the Latino community.
Jarrin called over 3,500 games in a row from 1962 to 1984, and has called close to 4,000 games in his career. For years he read radio news stories for Spanish language TV. In addition to his work calling Dodger games, Jarrin has covered riots, protests and Pope John Paul II’s visit to America. In 1963, he was the only Spanish-speaking reporter to over the JFK funeral. Jarrin has called world championship boxing matches, including the Thrilla in Manila between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. He has called 19 All-Star Games, the World Baseball Classic and 25 World Series. Jarrin remembers a five-year period where he worked from 4 am to 1 am, six days a week. With his career winding down, the 81-year-old treasure is determined to make it to an even 60 years of broadcasting in 2018.