First published in the Oct. 7 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.
While hundreds of thousands will sorely miss the familiar voice of Jaime Jarrin when he retires next year after what will be his 64th season as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Spanish-language broadcaster, Tom Santley might actually relish the moment. It will mean that Santley will have four more months each year to chat with his next-door neighbor.
The Jarrins moved to their San Marino neighborhood in 1965. For comparison, Santley and his wife, Perta, are “short-timers,” having taken up residence in 1968.
“Jaime Jarrin is class personified,” said Santley. “He’s just such a nice, soft-spoken person. Our across-the-roses conversations have been many and I’m sure Jaime, like famous Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, bleeds Dodger Blue.”
The longest-tenured voice in Major League Baseball, Jarrin announced Sept. 28 that he will retire at the end of the 2022 season. Jarrin will limit himself to the team’s 81 home games next year before putting away the microphone.
Jarrin and his late wife, Blanca, raised their three sons, Jorge, Jimmy and Mauricio in San Marino. Jimmy died suddenly at the age of 29 after suffering a brain aneurysm.
“All of our children went to Stoneman Elementary School, Huntington Middle School and then San Marino High School,” Jarrin said. “It’s where my friends and family are. It’s where my favorite restaurants are. San Marino is my home.”
Though by nature a private person, Jarrin twice accepted Santley’s invitation to be the keynote speaker for the San Marino City Club, in January 2001 and January 2016. On the latter occasion, Jorge Jarrin, a fellow broadcaster, interviewed his father about his storied career with the Dodgers and his many highlights in the profession.
“There wasn’t nearly as much traffic back then,” Jaime Jarrin, looking back, quipped during the 2016 appearance. “But there were more children. It seemed like every home had two or three kids. Now we don’t have any on our street.”
Jarrin also discussed during that appearance what he called his most challenging assignment.
“What most people do not know is I was a newsman first,” he said before a capacity crowd in the San Marino Center. Jarrin was asked by a local station to cover the funeral of President John F. Kennedy.
“When the family came onto the [U.S. Capitol] rotunda we were 20 feet away,” Jarrin said in a hushed voice. “In the cathedral and at Arlington National Cemetery, we were just 20 feet away. That was the most difficult job and the most rewarding, as well.”
He was also asked that evening about “Fernandomania,” Southern California’s almost manic response to Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela.
“We will never see anything like that again,” said Jarrin, who served as Valenzuela’s personal interpreter during his remarkable career with the Dodgers. “I will never forget, it was opening night in 1981 and Fernando was the third starter. Jerry Reuss and Bert Hooton were both hurt. They called the bullpen and told Fernando he was going to start the game. He began the season 10-0 with five shutouts. The people fell in love with him. He was 19 years old, he couldn’t speak a word of English and he was chubby. People fell in love with him everywhere.”
Jarrin recalled a night in Chicago when Valenzuela pitched poorly and was pulled from the game, yet 25,000 fans waited outside the stadium chanting ‘Fer-nan-do!’ Jarrin was called from the broadcast booth to escort him outside to greet the people.
“The only time I saw him nervous was going to the White House,” he remembered. “It was the most beautiful experience. After lunch, there was a line of people waiting for Fernando to sign a baseball for them. Caspar Weinberger, Alexander Haig, George Bush, who was Vice President, and President Reagan. All waiting in line for this boy to sign a baseball. It was unique, unique, unique.”
In 2008, Jarrin received the Ford Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame. On Sept. 21, 2018, Jarrin became just the 12th person inducted into the Dodgers’ Ring of Honor, a significant honor accomplished by a humble local man who has starred for an iconic global brand. Throughout the rich history of the Dodgers, only 11 other individuals have been placed in the Ring of Honor. That night, Jarrin joined Pee Wee Reese, Tommy Lasorda, Duke Snider, Jim Gilliam, Don Sutton, Walter Alston, Sandy Koufax, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Don Drysdale and fellow beloved broadcaster Vin Scully in having his name permanently affixed inside Dodger Stadium.
“I was 22 years old when I started with the Dodgers,” Jarrin told fellow San Marino resident Scott Daves, who was in Dodger Stadium to chronicle the event for the Tribune. “How many people get to work in the profession that they love? It’s been 60 years…” Jarrin was astonished when reminded that since the franchise began in 1884 the Dodgers have so honored just 11 other players or personalities.
“I am overwhelmed!” Jarrin said. “In my wildest of dreams I never thought this would happen, and to be in between two of my cherished dear friends, Don Drysdale and Vin Scully, it is just too much. I love baseball. Everything about it. The game, the people and the history. It is the game of America, and I feel so privileged to have been an eyewitness to the past 60 years of it.
“I have seen and called some of the biggest games, and it never gets old. I am so lucky that Mr. O’Malley decided from the beginning to include the Spanish-speaking people of Los Angeles into the game of baseball,” the Ecuador native continued, referring to the late Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley. “You know, when I was in Quito working in my field of news and sports reporting, I had dreamed of coming to America and bringing Blanca, my wife, and my son Jorge. Look at me now! I’m getting this great honor with the one and only team I have ever loved in the sport I love and working every day with the son I love. Yes, I am very, very blessed! You could say I was a dreamer, and with hard work, love and luck, my dreams have been answered.”
One of those dreams might possibly include the extension of his life.
Jarrin almost died in 1990 after a car he was driving collided with a pickup truck near the Dodgers’ spring training camp in Vero Beach, Florida. He suffered broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, collapsed lung and severe damage to his liver that required a four-month hospital stay. Jarrin overcame great odds by merely surviving the accident.
Mark Langill, the Dodgers team historian and an occasional contributor to the Tribune, remembers the incident to this day.
“I went to the Indian River County Hospital the next morning,” Langill said earlier this week. “The staff must’ve thought I was family, because I was led to his bedside at the intensive care unit, a place he would spend the next seven weeks. Jaime was in critical condition and he was in a great deal of pain. We were alone in the room for about 10 minutes.
“I often think about those moments because most people identify Jaime as the impeccably dressed statesman. I know the courageous patient who vowed on his near deathbed to return that summer and broadcast the All-Star Game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. And his wife kept a steady vigil at the hospital, even though she could only visit his room for four to five minutes per hour.”
Langill met Jarrin in 1987 when the former was a reporter for the Pasadena Star-News. “When I started flying on the team charter in 1989, Jaime always offered to give me a ride from the airport to my home in South Pasadena after a road trip,” Langill said. He also said Jarrin “will forever be a cornerstone to the Los Angeles franchise.”
“He was the original ‘can’t miss’ prospect,” Langill explained. “He was a broadcasting prodigy who wasn’t familiar with baseball yet was tapped by his radio station in 1958 to become the Spanish voice of the Dodgers and given one year to learn the sport.”
Even so, Langill seemed more impressed with Jarrin the man than Jarrin the voice.
“Of all the honors and accolades, I think Jaime’s legacy will be the family that he and his wife, Blanca, raised together in the San Marino community,” Langill concluded. “Jaime is the epitome of class and truly the pride of the Dodgers.”
Perhaps Jorge Jarrin summed it up best.
“When I began announcing baseball games, my father told me these people have been working all day and they are looking for a little escape for 3½ hours,” said the man known locally as Captain Jorge. “You have to be their eyes and ears.”
The elder Jarrin will keep that silent agreement with his listeners for one more year, and then he hopes to travel. Though he has undoubtedly logged millions of airline miles traveling to the nation’s baseball stadiums, the next chapter of his life sounds like it will be more serene.
“Wyoming and Montana,” he rattled off at a frantic pace that belied his calm nature. “The Dakotas … Maine … the Florida Keys. I hear they are all beautiful and these are the places I want to go. I know all the museums and all the restaurants in all the big cities. When Vin [Scully] and I were traveling, we went to many fine restaurants. Then I am going to travel outside of the country.”
“Argentina and Chile … Peru … Ecuador and Colombia. I want to travel more often to my country [Ecuador]. I have a lot of relatives there whom I haven’t even met.”
He has no plans, however, to leave his beloved San Marino.
“I enjoy living here in San Marino,” he said. “It is such a beautiful city with so many flowers. We were living in Altadena when a real estate agent showed us a home in San Marino. The location is perfect. It is nine miles from my driveway to Dodger Stadium. It takes 14 minutes. “
Jarrin will have another 81 opportunities to make the trip, then he’s done.
He says he feels fine about announcing his retirement.
“I don’t know if things will change in the next few months,” he said. “I have seen how happy my son Jorge has been since he retired this past year. It is very unique to have your son retire first. But physically, I am fine, but it is time. All my life has been baseball and family. Baseball and family. Now it will be family first and then everything else. I know it will be difficult saying goodbye and I will probably cry a lot next year.”
Jarrin then offered another unsolicited homage to his beloved home.
“I love San Marino. I love San Marino. I will stay here until I die.”