Oh My! Dick Enberg returns to San Diego as voice of Padres - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Oh My! Dick Enberg returns to San Diego as voice of Padres

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Padres play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg and Darren Feeney Padres play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg and Darren Feeney

By Darren Feeney / KFMB Interactive

Forty-five years since starting his broadcasting career as the radio and television voice of the California Angels, baseball is an itch that Dick Enberg has never stopped scratching. The latest chapter of his legendary broadcasting career is being written in San Diego, as Enberg returns to southern California to serve as the Padres play-by-play announcer.

Considered one of the most versatile play-by play announcers in sports broadcasting history, Enberg, 75, has assembled an all-world resume, with highlights including NFL football for 43 seasons, 10 Super Bowls, nine Rose Bowls, the Olympic Games (1972, 1988, 1992, 1996) and 26 Wimbledon Championships. Enberg has garnered many awards and honors along the way, including 13 Emmy Awards, nine National Sportscaster of the Year awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In the world of sports broadcasting it doesn't get much bigger than the crisp and insightful Enberg. Not only does he bring his gift for narrative to the Padres and the city of San Diego, he brings character, humility and a bottomless wealth of knowledge.

 

Darren Feeney: In one of the first broadcasts of the season this year, you mentioned receiving an autographed game ball, signed by all of the Padres after a Spring Training game. What kind of a welcoming experience was that like?

Dick Enberg: It's kind of bittersweet now. It was Chris Young who threw six innings in the first win in Arizona and gave me the ball signed by all the players—it was very touching. Let's hope it is not the last one Chris Young has. It was nice that night, but now I'm concerned about his career as everyone else is.

DF: You began a full-time broadcasting career in the late 1960's, calling games for the California Angels, Los Angeles Rams, and UCLA Bruins basketball team, as part of what has become one of the most decorated and impressive resumes in broadcasting history. What has been the biggest challenge returning to the game of baseball after 25 years away from the game?

Enberg: The biggest challenge is that baseball is such a personal, daily game. You build your broadcast library on what has transpired—not only last week but last month, last year and the last five years. Some things happen during games where I don't have that library because I was away those 25 years, so I have to rebuild and put books back in to fill that void. It is a real challenge. Now, baseball is baseball and you can go back to 2000 or 1900—the game is the same—so whatever might have happened there you can relate to tonight. But when you get to the personnel and the names of the players involved, at times I don't have that, so that would be a frustration but I think we can overcome that.

DF: What are the main differences in preparing for and broadcasting a baseball game in comparison to other sports?

Enberg: I've been getting to PETCO Park four to five hours before game time to prepare. Baseball is by far the best announcer sport because you have so much time. Football is an analyst game, into the nuts and bolts, and maybe now and then you can put a personal story into the telecast. The only time you have a chance to say anything in basketball is when somebody fouls and usually they have an advertisement or a promo

DF: Accepting the Padres and Channel 4 gig, you will continue to call your beloved Australian Open, but will forgo certain events, such as National Football and NCAA basketball games. Was the opportunity to return to baseball, a sport made for announcing, the decisive factor?

Enberg: The pace of the game of baseball allows the announcer to be a storyteller and to bring in facets of not only baseball, but the San Diego culture, and I think that was one of the major appeals for me. As the Padres television announcer, I have a chance to relish in all the good things our city represents. In essence, we're all ambassadors not only for the ball club, but for our city, and I like that. Now, some people call the time in-between pitches as "dead time" but I call it "live time," because it allows me to be creative and allows for discussion. The last couple nights with Tony Gwynn, we talked about hitting, stealing, Ted Williams, and relating all elements of the game. So we can do that and still get back to when something happens, call the play, and not interfere. In football and basketball you can't do that—there's not a chance to do that. That is what makes baseball much more satisfying as there are more opportunities to be creative.

DF: Speaking of creativity, your two key catch phrases, "Oh my!" and "Touch ‘em all." Were you sitting on those two phrases for a while as a youngster, or were they something you acquired?

Enberg: I began using those phrases at the very beginning of my sportscasting career, but first thought of them as a college student. I've continued to use them my whole career and "Oh my!" has kind of been my signature all this time—it's also the title of my book. I first used "Touch em all" when I was doing Angels games and I didn't have a home run call. "Holy cow," "how about that?," "Holy Toledo" and "She's way back, she's gone," those were all taken. When I was coaching, when we wanted one of our kids to get us back in the game with a home run we'd say, "Hey, touch em all!" So I tried that and it was accepted by the Angels audience. After not announcing baseball for so many years, ESPN borrowed "Touch ‘em all" for one of their segments featuring home runs. But for the record, it is still mine.

DF: How impressed are you with the Padres and their early success this year?

Enberg: Well, I'm surprised. Obviously I don't think any of us expected at this point they'd be in first place in the National League West, but they've earned that spot. It's a team game, as much as it focuses on individuals, maybe even more than other sports. But ultimately, it's a team game, and this team has really done a great job of finding a way to win each night or each day. Pitching helps that, and man for man this may be the best pitching staff in baseball, from the starting rotation to the bullpen. As long as the pitching holds up, I think the Padres are going to be in every game.

DF: Your grandfather attended approximately 30 consecutive home openers of the Detroit Tigers. Given that you were born and raised in Michigan and since your grandfather was such a fan, did you have any choice but to be a Tigers' fan growing up?

Enberg: Oh no! In Michigan you almost have to be a Tigers fan. With that being said, I was a Ted Williams fan. When the Red Sox came to town you went to root for the Tigers, but you went to the stadium to see Ted Williams just take batting practice because that was like watching a classical pianist. He was magnificent and so talented—to me the best hitter ever—and just to see how well he conducted himself and how cleanly he hit the ball every time. Even when he swung and missed, which was rare, he didn't swing badly and took a perfect cut at it. And he is San Diego's own, so that's nice too.

DF: Who is the best pitcher you have ever seen throw?

Enberg: When I did the games in Anaheim Nolan Ryan was an Angel. He could be so electric and so lights out, such an awesome pitching power. One year, 1973, he pitched two no-hitters and had 26 complete games. The whole National League West may not have 26 complete games this season! He set the strikeout record (383), which still holds today, and didn't win the Cy Young award that year—which I'm still upset about.

DF: Growing up was there an announcer you molded your style after?

Enberg: No, not really. Just like teachers you borrow. When I was a college professor, I borrowed from all of the teachers that I admired most and liked what they did best. I then incorporated that with my personality and my own preparation. Same with broadcasting—you borrow a little bit here and there. One announcer may be more dramatic and try to lower his voice and make the moment more exciting. Another might be more articulate. Another might be better informed in terms of research. It's about combining all of the things that you like, but you can't copy because then it's not yourself. You have to be who you are, generate your own style, and for me I guess that's somebody who is pretty emotional and excitable, and I hope I balance that with maintaining some kind of control along with good research and information. In all sports, but especially baseball, it is my responsibility to personalize the athlete to where he's more than just a number on his back. The more I can help the audience care about and relate to the athlete, the better and deeper they become involved in the telecast and the moment. Baseball gives you a chance to tell what I call, "mother stories," because my mother always used to say, "Oh that was such a good story about that fellow who lost his mother, helped raised the kids and played the cello in the ninth grade. I'm always going to root for that young guy." Those mother stories are the way I attempt to personalize the athlete.

DF: At Indiana University you earned a master's and doctorate degrees in health sciences. What career aspirations did you have in that field?

I accepted a job at Cal State Northridge as an assistant professor and assistant baseball coach. I taught and coached there for 4 years, but I had already started broadcasting at my undergraduate school at Central Michigan and also Indiana. I had a taste of it, liked it, and thought I was okay. I had done Big Ten basketball games for four years so when I came out to Los Angeles, I tried to encourage people to hear my takes and see what they thought and see if maybe I could work in the Los Angeles market. I basically was looking to supplement a poor teacher's income and work in the summers or on weekends, whatever it took. In 1964, one thing led to another and Channel 5, which was owned by Gene Autry, who also owned the Angels, hired me—probably because I was the least expensive person on the market. We laughed about it afterwards, but I accepted a job that was 10 percent below AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) minimum. In fact, the station finally felt so poorly they told me, "You really ought to get an agent because you're shortchanging yourself." But $18,000 a year was three times what I was making as a college professor, so I thought I was the richest guy in town.

DF: You also played college baseball at Central Michigan University?

Enberg: I tried. I was a junior varsity player.

DF: What position did you play?

Enberg: I pitched in high school, but ruined my arm and played first base and outfield.

DF: Tell me about your first, ‘wow, I love my job moment.'

Enberg: That's probably the first time I ever was behind a microphone because I didn't know what I was doing and I didn't know what my voice sounded like. The very first time I heard myself I was like, "Wow, is that me, is that how I sound?" I think that's a shock that everyone has. Hearing your voice when you're talking is one thing, but when it's coming out of a radio and a tape recorder it's totally different. There have been a lot of 'wow moments' over 50 years, but certainly the first time I heard my voice it was not a 'wow moment' in terms of " Boy, am I good," but instead, "Wow, is that how I sound?"

DF: With so many to choose from, how about your most memorable moment as a broadcaster?

Enberg: Well, there's way too many, but in baseball it is any no-hit, no-run game. I've said that in all of sports, if you can promise yourself the most delicious game in which to be involved and be privileged to call, it's a no-hit, no-run baseball game, because of the theater and drama as it builds and builds its' momentum. In football, there might be a drive that builds momentum and may win a game, but those are short-lived in comparison to a three hour game. A no-hitter in baseball moves along slowly and you don't think about it in the third through fifth innings, but then the sixth comes around and we start to think we might have something here. The odds of it ending in a no-hitter are so slim that it usually doesn't happen, so you have to prepare yourself to not over call it. But then when it gets into the seventh inning, each pitch, each nuance, each subtle movement in the infield and what's happening in the dugout—all that comes to bear. I've been lucky enough to call six no-hitters, and when the moment happens, it's the very best moment an announcer could ask for. 

 

No Padres pitcher has ever thrown a no-hitter. In fact, San Diego is one of only three existing franchises still waiting on the feat. The Padres are also one of only two franchises to never have a player hit for the cycle and one of eight teams still waiting on their first World Series ring. There's a first time for everything, and the Padres have just been waiting for the right announcer to call the unforgettable moments. For the youthful and quickly maturing Padres, Dick Enberg has arrived just in time.*

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