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This Hall of Fame Selection Has Certain Air About Him

Baseball: After announcing Dodger games in Spanish since 1959, Jarrin wins Ford C. Frick Award.

February 03, 1998|KEVIN BAXTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Jaime Jarrin was a radio pioneer still struggling to learn baseball, he remembers sharing his Dodger Stadium broadcast booth with a young phenom the team had just signed. This summer, the pioneer and the phenom will be side-by-side again when Jarrin and Don Sutton are honored with enshrinement in baseball's Hall of Fame.

Jarrin, 63, who has called Dodger games in Spanish for 39 years, was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award on Monday for "major contributions to baseball broadcasting." He will be presented with the award at Cooperstown, N.Y.--site of the Hall--on July 26 during ceremonies marking Sutton's induction.

"It still feels like a dream," Jarrin said. "It has a very special meaning for me and my family. And it's important to me, knowing that I'm going in with Don Sutton because we were both Dodgers."

The Frick Award has been presented annually since 1978. Winners have included Red Barber, Mel Allen, Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola, but only one Spanish announcer--shortwave radio broadcaster Buck Canel, who won the award posthumously in 1985--has been honored, which makes the honor more special for Jarrin.

"This has been the year of the Hispanic player," he said, "so this award is a recognition of the Spanish-speaking people, the fans who have supported the game. I take it not because of me, but because of them."

The Latin presence in major league baseball has grown dramatically since the Dodgers became the first team to broadcast regular-season games in Spanish in 1958.

When Jarrin made his debut a year later, there were fewer than two dozen Latin-born players in the big leagues. Today more than half the teams in the National League broadcast at least some of their games in Spanish and one in five major leaguers was born in Latin America, something Jarrin's longtime supporters claim is no coincidence.

While most Anglo fans remember him primarily as Fernando Valenzuela's interpreter, as many as 30 million listeners throughout Latin America have regularly welcomed Jarrin's dulcet voice into their homes for decades.

"Jaime deserves the credit for introducing Dodger baseball to millions of fans throughout Southern California and Latin America in his distinguished 40-year career with us," Dodger President Peter O'Malley said.

Added Rene Cardenas, Jarrin's broadcast partner for 20 seasons: "All the Spanish announcers in the major leagues wanted some recognition. Maybe this is the beginning."

Jarrin built his reputation as a news reporter. He was the first Spanish-speaking reporter to win a Golden Mike award, emblematic of excellence in broadcast journalism, and his voice became a familiar, reassuring one in times of crisis.

He reported live from the Capitol rotunda after the assassination of President Kennedy, from London on memorial services for Winston Churchill and from New York during Pope Paul VI's first visit.

That credibility earned Jarrin recognition as one of the 100 most influential Latinos in the United States, according to Hispanic Business magazine, and in his native Ecuador he was presented with La Gran Cruz al Merito, the closest thing that country has to knighthood.

But all that, he acknowledged Monday, pales in comparison to the Hall of Fame honor.

"It means so much, I don't have enough words to describe it," he said. "This has been a great day for me. This has been like sweeping a doubleheader from the Giants."

Notes

Past winners of the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting: 1997--Jimmy Dudley, 1996--Herb Carneal, 1995--Bob Wolff, 1994--Bob Murphy, 1993--Chuck Thompson, 1992--Milo Hamilton, 1991--Joe Garagiola, 1990--By Saam, 1989--Harry Caray, 1988--Lindsey Nelson, 1987--Jack Buck, 1986--Bob Prince, 1985--Buck Canel, 1984--Curt Gowdy, 1983--Jack Brickhouse, 1982--Vin Scully, 1981--Ernie Harwell, 1980--Russ Hodges, 1979--Bob Elson, 1978--Mel Allen, Red Barber.

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