Wistful for Enberg
My longtime friend, Fred, whom I’ve only known since seventh grade, has been busy this summer telling me how much he enjoys sitting at home in Del Mar listening to Dick Enberg on the San Diego Padres baseball telecasts.
Now I know it is silly for anyone from the Greater Los Angeles area to complain about play-by-play announcers when we have the greatest of all time still operating out of his own Vin Scully Press Box in Dodger Stadium.
But I can’t help but feel the baseball fans in Orange County have been cheated. With a little effort, and probably a few more bucks than they wanted to spend, the Angels could have signed Enberg before the Padres did.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not a slam at any of the Angels’ current announcers. I’ve always gone out of my way not to critique announcers because I think they’re a lot like sports columnists. They’re both very subjective professions. You talk to people who love this writer, and others who can’t stand him. Well, it’s the same with announcers.
But Enberg is something different. Ask Angels fans who remember him when he was working alongside the late Don Drysdale in the Angels’ radio booth in the 1970s. I’d be shocked if there were any who didn’t tell you they formed the best announcing combination in club history.
It isn’t that the Angels haven’t had any good announcers since. They have. It’s just that they haven’t gone out of their way to seek out any real name announcers, the ones that would immediately push you to listen. Part of it is team mindset. But I’m convinced, especially under Arte Moreno, the other part is trying to save money. I’d be willing to bet that the current Angels’ group of announcers, on TV and radio, are among the lowest paid in the major leagues.
What makes this all frustrating is that I know Enberg wanted to come back to the Angels. He has warm memories of his time here and, and as a friend who was breaking into the media business in L.A. the same time he was, he confided in me more than once that he wished the Angels would make him an offer.
They never did, not one he considered legitimate, anyway. So he went about his business as one of the multi-sports stars first at NBC, then at CBS, also taking time out to do those wonderful broadcasts of Wimbledon and other major tennis tournaments.
All the while, though, the urge to come back to baseball was percolating in his mind. It is the purest job in his profession, Enberg used to explain. It was the best announcer’s sport. And now, apparently, he is proving it once again in San Diego, where, by the way, he just happens to have a first place team to describe as only he can.
The thing I’ve always admired most about Enberg is his enthusiasm. He had it when he first broke in, announcing the weekly boxing matches at the old, musty Olympic Auditorium. He had it when he turned weekend replays of John Wooden’s UCLA basketball games into a wildly popular habit in L.A. And he had it when he was doing play-by-play for the Los Angeles Rams when they still played at the Coliseum.
Listen to any Enberg broadcast, and you immediately realize he brings out the best in his partner. He did it with Drysdale, he did it with Merlin Olson in his old NFL Sunday games. He did it with colorful Al Maguire when they used to do college basketball.
That’s who Enberg is. He is the Magic Johnson of announcers. He makes everyone around him better.
So yes, when I sit at home on these soft summer nights, I can’t help but imagine what it might have been like if the Angels had only realized what this man and his distinctive, entertaining broadcasts would have meant to the franchise.
Just think about it. We could have had Scully calling Dodgers games and Enberg working Angels games.
Oh my, would that have been sweet, or what?
— STEVE BISHEFF