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Ross Porter doesn't do it by the numbers

Dumped by the Dodgers six years ago, the former play-by-play man stays busy and remains one of the good guys.

November 13, 2010|T.J. Simers

Some folks don't think I like anyone.

Not true. After all, there's the wife, and at this stage of life it's too late to break in a new one, so it's probably good I like her most days.

There were times when the younger daughter was in high school that I didn't like her. Then she met the Bagger. I got over it, and now I like it when they get together and give me grandchildren.

I like the older daughter and know she has a lot of friends who like her as well. I just wish some guy would step out of the pack, like her a little more, and give us more grandchildren.

I also like Ross Porter. Maybe it's because he feels like family, that quirky uncle who is everyone's favorite.

He's a character, an original, and I like that. Yet it's as if he never changes. The voice certainly doesn't. He has lived in the same house for 33 years, been with the same woman for 49 years, and had the same job for 28 years.

Then Frank McCourt comes along, so many people losing their jobs, including Ross, one of the radio play-by-play voices of the Dodgers and host of Dodger Talk.

That's six years ago, everything downhill for McCourt these days while Ross is just Ross, doing one-minute feel-good vignettes, "Real Sports Heroes," on more than 70 radio stations.

It's his wife's idea to focus on what's good in sports. Talk about a tough job. Together they assemble a website, Ross interviewing sports figures who help people, both writing weekly upbeat columns — as if that really can be done.

"My wife has been my rock in so many ways," Ross says of his wife Lin, as Linda prefers to be called.

You've got to like that, a wife who figures out a way to keep her husband working. And work that he just loves after getting unceremoniously dumped out of the broadcast booth.

Ross took it hard when he learned the job he treasured was no longer his. There is still raw emotion when he talks about play-by-play — the love of his life beyond family and his faith.

" Vin Scully is the best; he picked me and he made it possible to have 28 years doing what I love," Ross says. "Working with Scully, I knew everyone was thinking, 'Let's get this guy off so we can get Scully back on.'

"Didn't bother me a bit; I was working with Picasso. I was just so honored to be a part of the Dodgers' broadcast team. I was the stats guy…"

I think of him more as a good guy, and someone telling us what The Garv's batting average was on those Wednesdays when The Garv had a roast beef sandwich.

"In retrospect I probably overdid it," Ross says, and I like him, but he's crazy for second-guessing his life's work.

"I've taken the rap for it, my love of numbers and research," he says. "That's what people remember. But I'd rather be remembered as a good, not great, but good, play-by-play announcer."

There are hundreds of those. There's only one Ross Porter, and who can forget him? That suggests a career well done. Maybe everyone didn't like him, but hard to find anyone that everyone likes. Just ask Charley Steiner, his replacement.

Ross loved the Dodgers, and that wasn't always easy. He was obliging beyond belief to postgame callers, and what could he have told us had the Internet been around in his heyday?

"I would have gone crazy," he says with a laugh.

The Dodgers tried to tell Ross in a form letter he would always be part of their family. It was signed by Frank McCourt. But McCourt never called, never told him why he wasn't right for the job after so long, has never reached out in any way.

When the Dodgers had an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1981 championship team, one of Ross' teams, he did not receive an invite. Some family.

"I watch what's going on like everyone else with the McCourts, but to say I derive any kind of pleasure would be false," he says. "That's just not me. I don't want bad things to happen to people."

I'm taking Monday off to give UCLA a break and be with Ross and his friends. He's got a bunch of those. Every year, he helps run a charity golf tournament, and while there are so many great charity tournaments, this one is grandpa helping son and grandson.

Ross and Lin have four kids. Two sets of twins. "The odds of having twins the first time is 88-1," Ross says, and that's our Ross. "And 88 times 88 a second time."

Now you know why he was always so keen on telling us how many doubles every hitter had.

His kids did well, and what they were supposed to do, producing 14 grandchildren. One of the grandchildren, John Michael, is 16 and in school. He wasn't supposed to make it.

A Down syndrome baby, he had three heart surgeries before he was 18 months old. "A blessing since the day he was born," says Ross.

The child became the inspiration for Stillpoint Family Resources, the beneficiary of Monday's tournament.

John Michael's father and grandpa's namesake, Dr. Ross Porter, is a clinical psychologist helping those in crises. Much of the time, it's families who cannot afford such help.

"I'm a proud father," Ross says, sounding as terrific and as busy as ever — just back from six days of babysitting.

Too busy, I wonder, to stop by Dodger Stadium next year?

"Tell me who owns the team," he says, Dodger Talk just not the same any more.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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