Our American Dream: LA Dodgers Announcer Jaime Jarrín is Señor Baseball

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For 53 years many Los Angeles Dodgers faithful have listened to thousands of baseball games, lived childhood memories, while clinging to every word of his voice. 

And it's not Vin Scully.

His name is Jaime Jarrín.

Since the first day he set foot into the KWKW booth to broadcast his first Dodgers game in 1959 the "Spanish Voice of the Dodgers," Jarrín, has been the gatekeeper for radio listeners hoping to get a taste of Dodger baseball.

He's broadcasted more than 10,000 games, 25 World Series, 21 All-Star Games, 3 perfect games, and 16 no-hit games for the Dodgers network as well as CBS Radio, Cadena Latina, Caracol Radio, and ESPN Radio.

From 1962 to 1984, he never missed a game. A record he believes will never be beaten: "I was able to broadcast close to 4,000 consecutive games, spanning 22 seasons," he said. "The streak was broken only when I took charge of all Spanish-language radio coverage and production of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles."

Jarrín was born in the Ecuadorian highlands a region with no baseball tradition. At school, kids would play soccer, basketball, volleyball, just about anything instead of picking up a bat and a glove. Forget about little or major leagues. 

As a kid he didn't even know what the sport was all about until he migrated to California in 1955.  

This would be the most important decision of his life on his way to becoming a star Hispanic announcer for the Dodgers, and being the first Latin American living broadcaster to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

While it may be surprising, it most certainly is no fluke.

Things didn't just happen for Jarrín; he had to prepare, study and work very hard to get to where he is today, especially because he spoke very little English when he arrived in the United States.

"I thought I knew English because I had taken it at school for several years, but I was lost. I couldn’t speak or understand the language," said Jarrín, who chose to live in Los Angeles when given the opportunity to migrate to the US precisely because of its large Spanish-speaking population.

"I immediately decided to learn the language and started attending Cambria Street School in LA," he said. "The English language is the most difficult barrier that an immigrant has to conquer in order to be someone in this country."

Being someone was indeed what he had in mind ever since he started working in the early 50s as the official announcer of radio station HJBC "La Voz de los Andes," in Quito. Jaime always wanted to be a broadcaster and follow in the steps of his cousin, famous radio announcer Alfredo Jarrín, who started taking him to the booth when he was 13 years old.

At HJBC, Jarrín met the American General Consul in Ecuador, became his close friend, and some time later told him about his plan to move to the United States. "In less than 24 hours I had my visa as an immigrant and not only for me, but for my wife, Blanca, and my 3 month-old son, Jorge," he said.

His first radio job in the U.S. was for KWKW Spanish station in Pasadena, in 1955. Six months later he was named News and Sports Director, and in 1957 was appointed to broadcast boxing matches.

"In short time I became very well known as a boxing blow-by-blow announcer and eventually was hired to do championship fights from all over the world for the Lotus Radio network, Westwood One Radio network in Hollywood and the sports channel Canal 11, from Argentina," said Jarrín.

An expert in boxing, he was puzzled when William Beaton, owner and general manager of KWKW, asked him to be the Spanish broadcaster for the Dodgers games the very first year the team moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles (1958). At the time, Jaime didn't know much about the sport. It felt strange to him, even though ever since he arrived to the U.S., out of sheer curiosity, he’d been a regular at Gilmore Field and Wrigley Field to watch the Hollywood Stars and the Angels play.

He asked Beaton to give him a year to prepare himself and do the best job possible. "Because baseball is a game of numbers and stats, you have to study the game. That is what I did: countless hours and days to be ready and polish my style," said Jarrín.

He takes pride in his "longevity" with the Dodgers, as well as in the many honors he has received, such as his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the Hall of Fame of the Southern California Sportscasters Association in Los Angeles, the Latino Hall of Fame in the Dominican Republic, or the Hall of Fame of the Hispanic Heritage Museum in San Francisco.

He has been selected twice as one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the United States by the publication HispanicBusiness. In 2005, he was named baseball’s all-time best Spanish language broadcaster, ranked 28th overall among over 200 broadcasters in historian Curt Smith’s book, "Voices of Summer."

The first Spanish-speaking radio announcer to win the Golden Mike Award in 1970, Jarrín was honored just this year by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) Foundation with the AFTRA Media Entertainment Excellence Award.

In 1998, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an achievement that is very special to him because he is the only Ecuadorian to have one. His homeland has also showered him with awards, like the Orden Nacional al Mérito en el Grado de Comendador, the highest medal granted to civilians in the country, in 1972; and the Gold Medal of the Quito City Hall, in 1998.

"I feel very humbled by the recognition that I have received in my beloved Ecuador," said Jarrín, who still feels very connected to his native country. In fact, he founded the baseball academy El Recreo, for children in Durán, a city next to Guayaquil, in the coastal region of Ecuador where the sport is more popular than in the highlands.

Jarrín raised around $70,000 for the facilities among the Dodger and baseball community.

"It would be great to have an Ecuadorian player in the Major League. If Ecuador has produced several soccer superstars, who are doing so great in Mexico and Europe, why not baseball players? The talent is there. They only need the opportunity to learn and practice the game," he said.

Through the years, Jarrín has befriended baseball legends like Mexican pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, who is now his fellow broadcaster at the Dodgers network and whom Jarrín helped as his personal translator in 1981, the year of Fernandomania. The sportscaster has also had the chance to meet prominent politics, like Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, and stars like Frank Sinatra or Mexican icon Mario Moreno ("Cantinflas").

"I remember one night in 1981 when Cantinflas came to my booth in Dodger Stadium and accepted my invitation to call a play when Fernando Valenzuela was hitting. He did it in his unique style before giving me back the microphone," recalled Jarrín. "Another night it was Frank Sinatra who visited me and didn’t hesitate to pose for a picture, which I treasure very much."

This is the last year of his contract with the Dodgers, but he wants to negotiate a new one for at least two or three more years. "As long as I feel physically well and with the love that I profess for the game, I will keep doing it," he said.

Two years ago, Jarrín stopped broadcasting post-season games, though, because he wanted to spend more time with his family: wife Blanca, sons Mauricio and Jorge, and his grandchildren.

One of Jarrín's grandchildren, Stefan, was drafted last June by the Dodgers and is now playing as a second baseman with the Arizona Dodgers of the Rookie League, waiting for his big break in the Major Leagues.

"After knowing he had been selected by the Dodgers, the first telephone call he placed was to me. I was so excited," said Jarrín. "Since he was 3 years old, Stefan has had a bat and ball in his hands. He is a young man who has completely dedicated himself to baseball."

Not much unlike his famous grandfather.

Elisa Sicouret Lynch is a freelance writer based in Ecuador.

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