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Dick Enberg and His Place in the L.A. Broadcasting Pantheon

December 21st, 2017 · No Comments · Angels, Baseball, Dodgers, Golf, Sports Journalism, Tennis

If Vin Scully had not followed the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles …

Dick Enberg would be the best-known sports broadcaster in the history of Southern California. Rather than “the other really good guy in L.A., after Vinny.”

This came to mind today after hearing that Enberg died in La Jolla at age 82.

Enberg was good, no question.

Many first noticed him when he became the TV voice of UCLA basketball in 1966, just as the Bruins were heading into the peak years of John Wooden’s program.

It was also in 1966 that Enberg took over as radio broadcaster for the Los Angeles Rams, who had hired George Allen to be head coach; the NFL team became another huge L.A. sports story with Enberg at the microphone.

I have a clearer memory of his taking over as the play-by-play voice of the Angels baseball club in 1969. It didn’t hurt his career that the Angels were also-rans throughout his tenure in Anaheim, but it might have been annoying that they finally earned a playoffs berth in 1979 — the year after Enberg left the Angels.

He was best known for his exclamations of “Oh, my!”

He had two other taglines I can recall: “Touch ’em all!” for a home run … and “the action pitch”. The former referred to a batter touching all three bases and the plate after hitting a home run, and the latter was connected to his contention that a 2-and-1 count was particularly important, because the pitcher did not want to go to a three-ball count, and the batter knew it … so things tended to happen, making it the “action pitch”.

My recollection of Enberg is that he seemed always to be well-prepared and upbeat. I was pleased if I tuned in to a game and he was doing it.

But until today I never thought of comparing him to Scully, whose style was very personal and, often, poetic. It is not quite fair to Enberg (or Lakers legend Chick Hearn) to compare him to Vinny, since in the minds of most sports fans in Los Angeles, Scully was No. 1 — without a need for discussion.

That opinion apparently extended outside Southern California. In 1982, Enberg thought he was in line for the No. 1 baseball job at NBC … only to learn in September of that year that NBC was hiring Scully to be the network’s No. 1 guy.

Apparently, that was the sole professional head-to-head intersection of the two.

Their careers covered much of the same territory, if along separate tracks.

Each had gained national reputations before the 1970s were over. Each was a prominent network announcer of NFL games. Each did golf and tennis. It was pretty clear to everyone that both men could cover just about anything, but Enberg spent more time demonstrating it.

Each of them ended his career in 2016, at the end of the baseball season — the favorite sport for both of them. Scully, now 90, retired from the Dodgers after 67 seasons, and Enberg called it quits after seven seasons with the San Diego Padres.

Each of them was known in press boxes as a good guy — approachable and candid, dignified men from an era when personal dignity mattered.

But it was Scully who conquered Los Angeles. Maybe because he spent more time doing baseball and spoke to us so many more hours than did Enberg. Maybe because Scully covered the Dodgers.

Maybe because Enberg was highly respected … but Scully is beloved.






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