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Brito had a special place in Dodger Stadium history

June 19, 2007|Ross Newhan | Special to The Times

Dressed impeccably in tie and sport coat, the Panama hat on his head, a cigar in his mouth and the Stalker radar gun raised in his right hand and pointed at the mound from a position directly behind the home-plate screen, Mike Brito was as much a part of the Dodger Stadium landscape as palm trees and congested concession lines.

He provided radar readings for 20 years before yielding to the redesigned luxury seats and an automatic radar system. And though Brito still scouts in Mexico and elsewhere for the Dodgers, having signed 30 future big-leaguers in 29 years, letter-writing fans continue to besiege the club to put Brito back behind the plate, gun in hand, although they should know that he was never paid extra for the extra service.

Not that Brito cared. He takes pride in his work and is highly skeptical of most radar readings he now sees.

"They want people excited, they want big numbers," he said, "but you can't fool people who know baseball.

"I don't think anyone throws harder than Nolan Ryan and James Rodney Richard did, and they were the only two guys in 20 years who I caught at more than 100. I got Ryan at 102 and 101, and I got Richard at 101. Now they claim guys are throwing 100 or more almost every day. I don't believe it."

Brito still has his gun but doesn't need it. He instinctively knows speed. He likes to tell the story of being pulled over by police while driving to the stadium a few years ago.

"The officer said I was going faster than 80," Brito said, "and I said, 'Sir, I think you should check your radar gun.'

"He was about to ask me why when he recognized the hat and cigar, knew what I was talking about and let me go."

Seeing was believing for that officer. Baseball's radar reality isn't always that clear.

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