Surely everyone knows the voice of the Dodgers. It belongs to that dapper, mellow-voiced guy who's been broadcasting baseball for what seems like centuries. His following in Los Angeles is legion. For that matter, he's renowned nationally. Got the name? Right. Jaime Jarrin. Oh sure, Vince Scully has his listeners, but Jarrin (pronounced HAR-een) is the voice that carries the farthest these days. On a recent Saturday, with Fernando Valenzuela pitching for the Dodgers, Jarrin's account of the game, originating from the Los Angeles Spanish-language station KTNQ, was heard throughout California, the Southwest and Mexico. The total audience was estimated at 40 million.
While Dodger games are carried on 25 English-language radio stations, the team's Spanish-language radio network has 34 outlets. Jarrin receives about 100 letters a day, somewhat more than the amount of Scully's correspondence. Fernandomania, as Valenzuela worship is now characterized, is the reason for what Jarrin joshingly calls this "monstrous" surge of baseball interest among Hispanics. But he's not knocking it, because it has made him a star as well.
Jarrin, 46, has been broadcasting Dodger games in Spanish for 23 years and has long been considered something of a celebrity in L.A. Latin quarters. That's nothing to scoff at, because the Hispanic population of Los Angeles County is more than two million. Jarrin also has done dozens of championship fights on U.S. closed-circuit TV, which has given him a national Spanish-speaking audience. But Valenzuela has provided him with a far broader following.
Because Valenzuela speaks scarcely a word of English, the Dodgers quickly realized that he would require an interpreter to deal with the hordes of reporters. Jarrin, whose energy is evidently boundless, agreed to take on the job gratis. He has broadcast an inning of one of Valenzuela's games on NBC's Game or the Week, first describing the action in Spanish and then discussing what had taken place in English. He also has appeared on half a dozen talk shows across the country. Scully, who frequently has Jarrin as a guest on his own broadcasts, is both elated and amused by his colleague's sudden good fortune. "When Jaime started doing the games," he says, "the Spanish booth was way down the third-base line. We were, of course, behind home plate. Now their booth is behind home, too. The way things are going, we'll probably end up near the bullpen, and only they'll be behind the plate."
Jarrin and Scully have enjoyed a long association. From 1960 to 1975, Jarrin and his fellow Spanish announcers in L.A. re-created Scully's broadcasts of Dodger road games by listening to him with earphones and translating him, pitch for pitch, anecdote for anecdote, on the spot. For the past six years, however, Jarrin and his color man, Rudy Hoyos, a well-known Mexican actor, have done every home and away game live. They are the only Spanish-speaking broadcasters who regularly travel with a major league team.
Jarrin has been in radio since he was a high school student in his native Quito, Ecuador. By the end of his second year at Central University there, he was one of 50 announcers employed by HCJB, which stands for Hoy Cristo Jesus Bendiga (Today Christ Jesus Blesses). Owned and run by Protestant fundamentalist missionaries and known as La voz de los Andes, HCJB is a massive station with six transmitters sending signals in 12 languages all over the world, including China and the Soviet Union. In June of 1955 Jarrin decided to try his luck in the U.S., arriving in Los Angeles with $10 in his pocket and only a spotty understanding of English.
Jarrin was working for KWKW in Pasadena in 1958 when the station's general manager, William Beaton, asked him if he would do some baseball. The late Walter O'Malley, who had just moved his team west from Brooklyn, recognized that, with the Latin market being as large as it is in L.A., Spanish broadcasts were essential. Trouble was Jarrin had never watched a baseball game. "I hadn't even seen a bat or a ball, except in pictures," he recalls. But Beaton persisted, and Jarrin spent the next year observing games and reading everything he could about baseball. He was ready to do color commentary three months into the 1959 season. Jarrin has been the No. 1 play-by-play man since 1973, when XEGM took over the Spanish broadcasts of L.A. games. KTNQ has been the flagship station of the Dodgers' Latin radio network since 1979. Jarrin is now at least as acute an observer as any of his broadcasting colleagues, describing with particular relish the vagaries of Valenzuela's tirabuzón (screwball), which is just what one would expect from the newly renowned voice of the Dodgers.