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Rory Markas is given a loving farewell

ANGELS

The broadcaster, who died this month at 54, is remembered at Angel Stadium for his humor, love of baseball and down-to-earth ways.

January 15, 2010|By Diane Pucin

Johnny Rivers came to Angel Stadium. He sang two songs, "Blue Suede Blues" and "I'll See You in My Dreams."

Did you know that Rory Markas was a good friend of Rivers? He was. Rivers sang for Markas on Thursday night at Angel Stadium. Rivers had met Markas many years ago, when Markas was still a Clippers broadcaster. They became such good friends that Rivers came to sing in Markas' honor.

Did you know that Markas had a girlfriend, a tiny woman with a strong voice, who had to be encouraged to date Markas? Armie Anabo didn't want to at first. You know, those television-radio guys being so full of themselves.

But Anabo accepted a date with Markas almost four years ago, and Thursday night she brought a room full of baseball media people near tears and also put smiles on their faces.

"Rory, he had an amazing memory," Anabo said. "I asked him once, how do you remember the names of all the players and stats but you don't remember what I just told you yesterday," Anabo said. "He laughed."

Markas, who had been an Angels radio and television broadcaster since 2002, died suddenly on Jan. 4 at age 54, and Thursday there was a celebration of his life at the Diamond Club.

Broadcast partners Terry Smith, Jose Mota and Mark Gubicza told stories about Markas' questionable wardrobe choice (corduroy pants in July) and his love of press-box food (except for the lasagna at his home ballpark. Markas apparently liked cheese on pizza but not on lasagna).

Markas' brother Troy spoke of Rory as a child, throwing a baseball against a garage door while doing play-by-play announcing as the ball ricocheted off the mailbox.

He also noted what had been spoken often during the evening. That Rory had a sly sense of humor. Not in the joke-telling kind of way. But in the great-aside kind of way.

"I remember going one time to a Raiders game with Rory," Troy said. "There was more activity in the stands, you know, the fighting and stuff, and Rory turned to me and deadpanned, 'I come here for the pageantry.' That's Rory."

It was a room full of lucky people who said, over and over, that they had been privileged to have known a baseball-loving, food-loving, fun-loving man who had little ego, who only wanted to work hard at a craft he loved.

Gubicza, who was going to become the full-time television partner of Markas for the 2010 season, said he had spoken for 45 minutes to Markas on the day before he died.

What always amazed Gubicza about his broadcast partner was a simple thing. "The rest of us carried around books full of information," Gubicza said. "Rory always had just one sheet of paper. I never met anybody who could just retain everything. He was a Beatles fan, I was Led Zeppelin, but it was all rock 'n' roll."

Other speakers included Markas' USC basketball radio partner, Jim Hefner; Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke; and Angels radio producer Darren Chan.

Smith choked up but his voice didn't fail him.

"Why did we like Rory? Because he was low maintenance," Smith said. "He wasn't like other people in the business. He didn't have an air about him, he wasn't cocky, he liked people, he liked having fun. He didn't drive a fancy car. Heck, half the time we didn't know what car he was going to bring to the ballpark. I asked him one time, 'Did you even own a car?' He said, 'No, I'm renting this one.' I can tell you that he lived the golden rule. What is the golden rule? Treat people the way you would like to be treated."

Mota rephrased Markas' signature phrase used when the Angels won, saying, "Up in heaven we have another angel. Just another Jesus victory."

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia couldn't attend because he was at baseball meetings in Arizona, but team owner Arte Moreno was on hand. There was a video from 1965 of 9-year-old Rory playing Little League baseball and shots of the intense little Rory on the field were a joyous moment.

At the end, Anabo said she had been puzzled after she finally began dating Markas.

"I had many questions and I didn't want to scare him off," she said. "But finally I had the nerve to ask him why this wonderful man hadn't been married and didn't have kids, why this amazing man was just alone. He told me he hadn't found the right girl. At first I thought it was a cop-out but his answer was consistent.

"As our love grew stronger and deeper, Rory came to mean everything to me and my family. He made me a better person, he brought so much joy, he enriched our lives. He fulfilled his dream of finding true love. I was so honored to be a part of that."

It was a feeling felt around the room. Being a part of Markas' life had been an honor for many.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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