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SPORTS MEDIA

Angels face a tough call after Markas' death

Amid sadness and recollections, the team will have to figure out what to do for broadcasts. They could rehire Steve Physioc, recently let go as Markas was promoted.

January 06, 2010|By Diane Pucin

In sports, in broadcasting, in politics, there is no getting around it.

When someone leaves a team or a booth or an office, we must speculate. Who comes next? Who will be the next center fielder? The next anchor? The next senator?

The next voice of the Angels?

Rory Markas, a man of subtle humor, pleasing tone and acknowledged professionalism, died suddenly and unexpectedly Monday night.

He had suffered a brain aneurysm in November 2008, recovered, broadcast an entire Angels season in 2009, was well into this USC basketball season and was getting ready to be the full-time, regular television play-by-play man for the Angels in 2010.

In November, the Angels and FS West ended their relationships with Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler. What had been a hodgepodge on TV and radio of Angels voices -- Markas, Terry Smith, Mark Gubicza, Jose Mota, Physioc and Hudler -- was more clarified.

Markas and Gubicza would be the television team; Smith and Mota the radio team; Physioc and Hudler needed new teams.

And so there's that question. It's horribly sad to ask so soon and yet it's being asked. Who succeeds Markas?

Can it be Physioc? It can't be Hudler, even as much as Angels fans would like that. Hudler doesn't do play-by-play.

Hudler was emotional in speaking about Markas on Tuesday afternoon. His tears clogged his voice and he had no sense of what the future will bring for Angels television. "My friend is gone, a good life has ended," he said. "But for me, I've moved on from the Angels. I think I've had to."

Pam Zirbel of Corona, who met her husband, Jeff, because both had season tickets in the same Angels section, said she wished Hudler could come back, knew he couldn't and would be satisfied to hear Physioc's voice on the broadcast again.

"I'd love to have Rory back," Zirbel said. "I'd be happy if Steve came back. A familiar voice in this situation would be good."

An Angels broadcaster has to accept some things. You're the No. 2 team in the big market. Vin Scully is a legend. You are not. You might be good, your fans may love you but you aren't Vin Scully. Can't be.

Dick Enberg understands.

He used to be an Angels broadcaster. He went against Scully, he and Don Drysdale. "We tried to double-team him," Enberg said. "We both had a button to make ourselves live. We thought two heads were better than one against Vin."

Enberg didn't know Markas well but he understands the Angels market. "You have very loyal fans and your voice is important," Enberg said. "Don't underestimate the familiarity of the voice to your fans. Baseball fans are so loyal."

Enberg loves his baseball. He recently announced a return to the game, as an announcer for the San Diego Padres. "The Angels didn't call," Enberg said when asked if he might have returned to his baseball roots.

But would the Angels and FS West want to grab the familiar and bring back Physioc? Or is it too weird to rehire a man so recently deemed expendable?

"I'll do what anybody wants me to do," Physioc said Tuesday. "I'm just kind of numb right now. Rory was a dear, dear friend, that's No. 1."

Certainly, Physioc didn't burn any bridges. When his termination was announced last fall, Physioc thanked the Angels and owner Arte Moreno. He spoke of his love for baseball, of the fact he would move anywhere, go any place to do more baseball. And thanked the Angels again.

Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler, who worked for three years with Markas and who said that Markas' wit and versatility were "very much underappreciated outside of Southern California," said it seemed as if Markas was just coming into his own as he was about to begin of a full-time television presence. He also said that it would be very unusual for a team or network to bring back a man so recently kicked to the curb.

If Physioc wasn't worth keeping on board in November, what would be the point of calling him back now? If he was considered fifth-best last fall, would that work now?

Probably not. It could but that's not how things work in sports or television or politics. It's about trying to find the next new thing. Not rediscovering what you already had.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

Angels announcer Markas dies

Recently promoted play-by-play man who also was voice for USC men's basketball was 54. A18

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