Rob Feidler, who was recently installed as the new president of the Rotary Club of San Marino, led his first meeting that featured not just one keynote speaker, but San Marino resident and Hall of Fame baseball broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, his son, Jorge, and Los Angeles Dodger historian Mark Langill.
In true baseball fashion, the meeting was sold out, with those who held “tickets” remembering the event for the rest of their lives. Langill served as the interviewer for the afternoon, asking questions of the father-son team, who have broadcast Dodger games on Spanish-language radio for several years.
In 2008, Jaime Jarrin received the Ford Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Then, in 2018, Jarrin became just the 12th person inducted into the Dodgers’ Ring of Honor, a significant acknowledgement accomplished by a local man who has starred for a global brand.
On Thursday, the audience was anything but “baseball-like,” as the attendees eschewed cheers, chants and boos and instead fell back on absolute silence, so gripping were the stories shared by the speaking triumvirate. Except on the many occasions, they were driven to laughter.
Jaime Jarrin actually came to the United States with the dream of becoming a commercial airline pilot, but his previous experience as a news reporter and sportscaster back home in Quito, Ecuador, assured he ended up on another landing strip.
He thanked the O’Malley family for believing in the Latino population so deeply that the Dodgers chose to hire Jaime Jarrin on a permanent basis.
The presentation was filled with many landmarks, the first possibly being that Jarrin arrived in Los Angeles on June 24, 1955 — the first day that Sandy Koufax pitched for the Dodgers.
“I am blessed to be here in San Marino,” Jaime Jarrin said. “We love it here so much. We have lived in the same house since we moved here. It is 9 miles from my driveway to my parking spot at Dodger Stadium and people often say, ‘Why don’t you live somewhere else?’ and I say, ‘No, no, no, no.’ I don’t know where the years have gone. I am going to end 64 years of vacation. It is really sad to see some people who hate what they do for a job. I love what I do.”
In October 2021, Jaime Jarrin announced that this year — his 64th season behind the microphone — will be his last.
“I have enjoyed my stay with the Dodgers because they have treated me very well,” he said. “I was so lucky to land with an organization that cared so much about my community. Walter [O’Malley] wanted to give them a way to listen to the games in their own language.”
Jaime Jarrin mentioned that he has “taught the game of baseball to many people,” thanks to the language he shares with so many here in Southern California.
And he said that the connection doesn’t end there. Mentioning that the Dodgers, through the organization’s Dream Foundation, have built more than 50 ball fields in Los Angeles, he also said that when he started in 1959, just 8% of the fans who came to Chavez Ravine were Latino but that number has increased to 40%.
He said the increase was due to former Dodger pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, which led directly into his next topic.
Jarrin and Valenzuela have shared and enjoyed a connection since they first met.
“We will never see anything like that again,” said Jarrin about what became known worldwide as “Fernandomania.”
Jarrin served as Valenzuela’s personal interpreter during his remarkable career with the Dodgers.
“Fernando joined the Dodgers in 1980,” Jarrin said. “I saw this kid with long hair. Many say that Fernandomania started in 1981, but, for me, it was 1980. That is when it started people fell in love with him.”
Jarrin mentioned the depth of Valenzuela’s impact on a local basis.
“Many people wanted to learn to speak Spanish and businesses wanted to hire bilingual people,” he said. “I have received many, many accolades but the ones that go to my heart [are] that so many people tell me, ‘Thanks to you I spent more time with my father and my grandfather who were listening to you announce Dodger baseball every night.’
“My greatest experience was going to the White House with Fernando Valenzuela and to see a line of people that included [President Ronald] Reagan, [Vice President George H.W.] Bush and [Secretary of State] Alexander Haig waiting to speak to Fernando and have him sign a baseball. Fernando created many, many more baseball fans and we used it as an opportunity to teach the fans how to officially keep score.”
He also told a fascinating story about a game against the Cubs in Chicago during the heyday of Valenzuela’s popularity, where the lefthander was beaten early. Afterward, several team officials entered the Dodgers’ locker room.
“Where’s Fernando?” they asked. “There are 10,000 people waiting to see him.”
“But I lost,” Valenzuela said.
It didn’t matter. Jarrin escorted the phenom out to meet the people.
“All they wanted was for Fernando to wave to the people,” Jaime Jarrin said.
Jarrin mentioned that his connection to the Spanish language has helped him serve as an ambassador of sorts.
“English should be the No. 1 language in America,” he said. “I encourage Spanish-speaking listeners to learn English and attend college. I tell them, ‘You have to study, and you have to learn English. This is the most important thing you can do as an immigrant is to learn English. Whether we like it or not, we are immigrants, we are foreigners and we have to thank this beautiful country that opened its arms to us.’”
Jorge Jarrin was asked what the most important lesson was that he ever learned from his father.
The somewhat surprising answer was “his mother.”
Blanca Jarrin passed away in 2019, but her influence remains in “Captain Jorge’s” life.
“My father was traveling a lot and my mother made it so that we never felt like we missed anything,” Jorge Jarrin said. “She and my father were truly partners. That is what I have taken into my life.”
Jorge then mentioned his wife, Maggie, who he met while working as an usher at Dodger Stadium.
He also said his father taught him to “fear nothing” in life.
“Fear can kill you,” he said. “When I started broadcasting next to my father, I was literally sick to my stomach the night before the games…but it all worked out.”
Jorge has retired and now runs the Blanca and Jaime Jarrin Foundation in memory of his mother. Jaime Jarrin said that Blanca attended one game per year — opening day — but never complained about the travel, the baseball or the attention that was thrust upon him as the team’s Spanish-language broadcaster.
But he did have a few more words left regarding the game he so dearly loves.
He suggested some rule changes and any way to make it more difficult to steal signs, a la the Houston Astros, and getting rid of “the shift,” which is designed to lessen a batter’s effectiveness.
Jaime Jarrin was able to work for the Dodgers from “All-Star Game to All-Star Game, according to Langill, pointing out that he broadcast the Major League Baseball All-Star Game during his first (1959) and last (2022) seasons.
“It was spectacular,” said Feidler earlier this week when asked about his maiden meeting. “It was so special that we have someone in the community with his stature and it was really interesting to hear about the father-son relationship.”
When asked if he has any trepidation about the remainder of the Rotary schedule after starting at such a high point, Feidler enthusiastically said “no.”
“And I learned that from Jorge Jarrin,” he said. “He told us not to have any fear and I am taking that to heart. It gives me a complete sense of peace.”