Jaime Jarrin arrived in Los Angeles in 1955 having never seen a baseball game, but his name is now synonymous with the sport. The Dodgers’ Spanish-language play-by-play man, now in his 50th year with the team, is the second-longest-tenured broadcaster in baseball, behind only legendary colleague Vin Scully.
“I saw people around TV sets and radio sets, watching and listening to the World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Yankees,” Jarrin recalls of his first October in the U.S. “I said to myself, that must be a great sport because there are so many people so intensely watching this game.”
A radio newsman in his native Ecuador, Jarrin spent his first few months in the U.S. working in a factory before catching on at KWKW. Soon he was its news and sports director, covering papal visits and summits between world leaders.
Then in 1958, the Dodgers came to town. Asked to call the games, Jarrin deferred for a year because he felt he wasn’t yet enough of a hardball expert. “I started reading every book about baseball and listening to every game,” he says. “By 1959, I was ready.”
With his deep, mellifluous voice and perfect diction, Jarrin was an instant hit, even though half his broadcasts were re-created in the studio because Spanish-language announcers didn’t yet travel with the team.
“We had cartridges with sound effects for a single, for a double, for a triple, for a home run,” he says. “We used to hear Vin and Jerry Doggett doing the game, and we would translate simultaneously.”
It was the ever-friendly Scully who helped Jarrin learn the ropes and who fed him key information off the air.
“I don’t have enough words to say what he has meant to me and my career,” Jarrin says. “He has been my inspiration, he has been my mentor, he has been my teacher, my friend.”
To English-speaking fans, Jarrin is best known as the conduit between Fernando Valenzuela and the outside world. When Fernandomania erupted in 1981, the Dodgers asked Jarrin to serve as interpreter for the young pitcher-cum-rock star, whose difficulty with English was exceeded only by his shyness.
Jarrin believes Valenzuela’s popularity opened up Dodger baseball to Latino fans, who now constitute nearly 40% of the team’s fanbase. It’s that achievement — not his Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame or his star on Hollywood Boulevard — that Jarrin is most proud of.
“I think we planted the seeds, and we are now seeing the results of that,” he says. “Whenever Fernando was pitching, we had an audience in the millions.”