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Bill Plaschke

Dodgers Bid a Bad Goodbye to Porter

October 23, 2004|Bill Plaschke

The third sentence.

A headline tenure was ended Friday in the third sentence.

Twenty-eight years of service, and Ross Porter didn't even make the top of his own Dodger obituary.

The news release issued by the Dodgers on Friday afternoon began by announcing the return of Vin Scully and Rick Monday, then acknowledged the future hiring of a new play-by-play announcer and analyst.

Then, this: "The Dodgers also announced that Ross Porter will not rejoin the broadcast team next season."

Also?

What longtime Dodger fans consider the removal of a familiar voice, the Dodgers treated as the discarding of lint.

Like Porter or not -- and plenty didn't -- one must surely respect the dignity with which he conducted himself while spending his Dodger career in the shadow of the great Scully.

And one must wonder, why didn't the Dodgers?

Why not make this announcement near the end of the season, while he was still on the air? Why not give Porter a chance to officially tell the listeners goodbye? Why not give those listeners a chance to say their goodbyes?

For all the effort the Dodgers put into the tepid first-ball ceremonies during the playoffs -- none -- they could have had Porter throw out one of those pitches.

For all the effort they put into celebrating their history on the video board -- again, none -- they could have at least allowed Porter to address the fans from there.

But, no, the Dodger were too busy being one of the first teams in baseball history to use the middle innings of a playoff game to show a ... movie trailer?

Under new marketing boss Lon Rosen, the Dodgers have apparently decided every fan is a 25-year-old dude who loves sixth-inning punk rock, Charlie Sheen sightings and ridiculing old guys who like stats.

And they're wrong.

Maybe I hang with the wrong crowd, but I still know plenty of Dodger fans who like the organ, don't care about seeing movie stars in expensive seats and will not be thrilled at the way Porter was treated.

As a final insult, Porter gave the club a written statement to be used in the firing news release, but the Dodgers refused to print the last five lines.

Here's what they printed:

"It has been an honor for me to broadcast games for the Dodgers for the past 28 years. Now the organization has decided to go in another direction and it was their decision. There are no plans to retire. I love what I do."

Here's what they refused to print: "There are three men to be singled out. Fred Claire suggested me for this job. Vin Scully, the best baseball announcer ever, recommended me. Peter O'Malley hired me and was the best boss anyone could have for 21 years. To the Dodger players, thank you for a multitude of memories."

Whew. Racy stuff.

The Dodgers said they didn't print those quotes for fear unnamed members of the front office and broadcast crew might feel sighted.

Please. You couldn't allow a guy who has spoken millions of words on your behalf to finish his career with 50 more words for himself?

Nice way to keep that season-ending buzz going, huh?

For those keeping score on co-owner Frank McCourt's new hires, Rosen leads the front office in whiffs.

"It took us some time to make a decision," said Rosen. "We tried to do it in a timely fashion."

On Friday before the start of the World Series? So maybe few would notice or have time to get their letters into the Saturday newspaper?

Porter deserved to have somebody watch his back, if only because of all the times he covered the Dodgers' back.

The Dodgers won only two championships in his 28 years, but he never grew cynical, never did anything but tell us exactly what was happening on the field, an underrated accomplishment in this day of shout radio.

He wasn't Scully, but nobody in the history of baseball is Scully.

He wasn't always exciting but neither was the team he was covering.

Too many numbing numbers? One thousand percent, yes.

But his best work for the team involved few numbers, that being his 14-year stint as the team's spokesman/shield on postgame Dodger Talk.

Typical conversation:

Caller: "Hey Ross, the Dodger stink and their managers stink and Dodger dogs stink and you stink!"

Porter: "Um-um. I respect your opinion, and thank you for your call."

Porter listened to fans when few would. Porter was the late-night calming voice of an organization in chaos.

How the Dodgers chose to silence that voice speaks volumes.

Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.

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