This story is part of photo edition 6, “Energy”, an exploration of how sports style feels in the City of Champions. See the whole package here.
Sixty years is a long time to do the same job day in and day out, but hearing Jaime Jarrín say it does not feel six decades awful once you have found your calling. The Dodgers’ Spanish-language radio commentator, who will took off at the end of the 2022 season, has always felt a thrill of sitting in the stadium and watching Major League Baseball players start season after season. Jarrín sits close to the microphone, his eyes whizzing around the pitch and his ears adapted to the sound of the audience, and has brought that excitement to Dodgers fans for generations. His trademark voice is marked by excitement when the action reaches a fever level. His trademark “Pelota går, går, går, der despidala con un beso“Is canon now for Spanish-speaking sports fans. Jarrín conveys the game’s play-by-play, of course, but also the zeal in the game, as when the audience gives a standing ovation to Fernando Valenzuela, one of the many players Jarrín has witnessed.
How do you capture something – or even transform it – through your own lens for others to receive? I often think of this as a writer focusing on visual art. The term “Stendhal syndrome” comes to mind. It is when a work of art takes over your system so intensely that you physically react to what you see. Your body absorbs the intensity, the beauty, the complexity of a work of art. It is not easy to translate this feeling into words for others to share in the meeting. Jarrín found the formula for watching a sport he loves immensely and engaging radio listeners in the action of it all. His voice has rumbled through living rooms and backyards, generation after generation. You did not have to be in the stadium to experience the excitement.
The history of baseball in LA is not immune to filled politics (take the displacement debacle during the construction of Dodger Stadium, for example). No league or team is perfect. But there is something to be said for this one voice that spans generations. The love of the game nourishes Jarrín’s every broadcast, and his words crackle with passion at watching baseball fans burst into cheers. He cheers with them.
Eva Recinos: You’ve seen so many moments in baseball history. How does it feel to think of all the things you have witnessed over the decades?
Jaime Jarrín: Well, I feel so lucky, so blessed to have been able to follow the Dodgers as closely as I have. I’ve seen the best of the best in action, starting with Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax. At the same time working with the titans in my profession, like Vin Scully, and so many good announcers. It has been a great trip for me. Next year will be my 64th season with the Dodgers. I never thought I would last that long with them.
When I started with them [in] In 1959, I thought I was going to be with the Dodgers for five, six, seven, eight years at most, and then move on to something else. I also did boxing. TV in Spanish just arrived. I thought TV would be my next step – I worked for Telemundo for almost eight years – but I have always been a radio man. I love doing radio. I’ve been in front of a microphone for 70 years now, from when I was 16 in Ecuador. It has really been a great, great trip for me to be with the Dodgers, a great organization that has grown the Latino market. I think we have been blessed to be able to give them the game they love – baseball in their own language. It has been very special for me.
IS: You’ve talked before about how to translate what you see, but you’re also entertaining people because you’re adding your own spin. You add your own emotions to the words you choose. How have you cultivated that practice throughout all these decades?
NOT A WORD: When I play a baseball game, I do not just tell what is happening on the court. I think I’m doing a public service. People work so hard – from morning to night – and they come home very tired. So what a great opportunity for me to give them something they can enjoy.
I have been very lucky to have received many awards, many accolades, especially in the years since I was incorporated into [National Baseball] Hall of Fame in ’98. But what really makes me happy is when I’m on the street, when I go to the bank or the supermarket or the restaurant – a lot of people turn to me [and] they say: “Mr. Jarrín, thank you for giving us baseball. Thanks to you I could spend time with my grandfather. He used to take me to the back of the house to listen to the baseball games. Then my father used to take me “When we went to the stadium, we would listen to you.” Now, “my mother fell in love with your voice calling the games.” I’m most pleased, knowing that I’ve done something to give them some form of entertainment, to get the family very close. fills my heart.
IS: I think Dodger Stadium has become a place special for Latinx sports fans. How have you seen this relationship with the team grow?
NOT A WORD: In the beginning, when I started with the Dodgers, as in 1959, the Latinos who came to the ballpark were 8%, 10% at most. But we have managed to reach them and really create new baseball fans. Thanks to Fernando Valenzuela and Fernandomania, we were able to reach all corners of Mexico and here in Southern California. We taught them baseball. Many came here without knowing baseball. They were indifferent to us. They were football fans. But thanks to Fernando in particular, they became interested in baseball. I think it was my duty to try to teach them the meaning of baseball. We have seen the growth of our listeners. We have a great audience.
IS: You’ve also talked about how it is this magic of the energy of the crowd and how contagious It is. How do you try to add that energy to your own work?
NOT A WORD: The first time I went to a baseball game was in 1958. I did not know there was a stadium as big as the LA Coliseum. Hearing the roar of 75,000 people – I was shocked. I was really surprised. I said, “Oh my God! Oh dear! “I have it in my mind – the role of the people.
I appreciate that [even more] now. Due to the pandemic, we did not travel with the team. In many cases, the team played in other cities. It’s not the same at all because it’s not something for an announcement to really feel what’s going on inside the ballpark. When people are excited, your words come out more fluid, and that really inspires you. I’m very lucky to play in front of 45,000 to 50,000 people every time. In other cities there are 18,000 people, 20,000 people. But at Dodger Stadium, there is always capacity. And it really gives you a very special feeling that really inspires you to really do most things. I always pray, “God, please give me the talent to put into words what my eyes have seen, what I am feeling right now.”
IS: When you talked about your retirement, Vin Scully expressed his best wishes for you. How has it been interacting with him?
NOT A WORD: Well, Vin has really been so good to me. In the beginning, we did not travel with the team. We used to do what we do now with the pandemic. But at that time, baseball games were not broadcast on television, and [there was] only one match a week. We had to translate anything [Vin] So. It was very tough. That was hard. But we did our best.
Since day one, Vin and I became very close friends. He has been my teacher, my mentor, my friend. He has been everything to me. He has helped me a lot and given me advice. Usually he does not advise anyone. To me he said: ‘I will give you two or three [pieces of ] advice, nothing more. “But he was always in my corner. When we were traveling, we were always together – went to the same restaurants, ate together. And it was wonderful. To [the Dodgers], my broadcast is as important as the English broadcast. You will see that at other stations Spanish is second class. But for us with the Dodgers, [Spanish] has been first class, and [I] really appreciate it. That’s one of the reasons I’ve persevered for so long. My lifespan is partly because of that.
I would say [there are] three reasons for my longevity. First is my love of the game. I love baseball. I fell in love with the sport. I can play two games a day, seven days a week, with no problem. The second reason is the fact that my wife always supported me. She was behind me, even though she did not care much about the game itself. But she was always behind me. Never complained about my trips from home. She gets all the credit. And the third is the fact that the Dodgers really care about Latino society. Really, they do.
IS: In an interview, you mentioned that you want to be remembered for showing up at work every day. But what do you think is the most important part of your legacy?
NOT A WORD: We are immigrants, we are in this country. Whatever you do [do], if you are a radio, TV announcer, please do so to the best of your knowledge. First you have to choose what you really love to do. So, once you have found what you want to do, you need to put yourself on top of everything and work hard at what you do. It’s very, very important, because I see so many people [who] hate what they do. And they do not care what they do. And that’s not good. It’s not good at all.