Broadcaster Enberg appreciates timelessness of game
Hall of Fame commentator has no regrets about switching primarily to baseball
SAN DIEGO -- When Dick Enberg began calling baseball games in Southern California, there was no designated hitter, there were only 10 teams in each league and the thought of gas costing more than a dollar per gallon seemed ludicrous.
So, surely, the former 1960s and '70s California Angels radio play-by-play man has seen plenty change in the way America's pastime has been played over the years.
"All this time, I've learned the fact that the beauty of baseball hasn't really changed," said Enberg, stationed in the Petco Park press box a few hours before a late-June Padres game against Seattle. Enberg is currently in his third season calling Padres games on television.
"My great-grandfather could come see the game tonight, and I wouldn't have to explain much at all," the 77-year-old Enberg continued. "There's a beauty ... in that we can relate [to] what happens tonight all the way back for more than 100 years, and not be too far off."
Enberg is quick to point out that if he attended an American League game with his great-grandfather, he'd have to explain why a player on each team gets to hit without playing defense. Otherwise, as he puts it, "The game hasn't changed -- It's still 6-4-3."
As an announcer, baseball has always been Enberg's game of choice, though he says he's best at calling football. An assistant baseball coach at Cal State Northridge before he began his broadcasting career, Enberg is convinced that in no other sport is the play-by-play man as entrenched in the heart of the game as in baseball.
"The power of the baseball voice through all the generations is not to be argued," Enberg said. "It's a friend. People invite you into their garage, into their cars, into their backyard at a picnic."
If anyone has grounds for comparison with the other sports, it's Enberg, who has called seemingly every sport imaginable -- 14 NCAA basketball Final Fours, 10 Super Bowls, 28 Wimbledon tournaments, three Olympics and nine Rose Bowls.
Enberg has won the National Sportscaster of the Year Award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association nine times. He became renowned for his signature call of "Oh, my!" for a spectacular play. He has won 13 Emmys, and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Enberg put the other sports aside when he signed a deal to call Padres games in 2009. One of the biggest differences Enberg noticed upon his return to calling baseball on a daily basis was the personalities of the athletes.
"You never saw anyone doing a crossword puzzle in the clubhouse 30-40 years ago," Enberg said. "They travel more, they're more worldly. Part of that may be that we're in a generation that has so much accessible to us with cell phones and computers."
Enberg noted San Diego's two Princeton grads, Ross Ohlendorf and Will Venable, as proof of the game's changing worldly culture.
And being worldly is exactly what Enberg tries to incorporate into his broadcasts. He likens his job to being "an ambassador of sorts for his city."
"I live in a great city, San Diego, so if I can tie in material about our great zoo, Balboa Park, or the shore ... you work that in," Enberg said. "I like the fact that in essence, I'm a voice not only of San Diego baseball, but a voice for our city."
For years, Enberg was also a voice for Wimbledon. Now, it's the first week of July, Wimbledon is in full swing and Enberg is in San Diego, calling the Padres' series against the Reds, with Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn by his side as the color commentator.
He admits he misses Wimbledon, as he inevitably misses all the sporting events he once routinely called. Does he have regrets, though? Not a chance.
"I took a long time in making that decision," Enberg said. "I enjoyed the tennis at Wimbledon and all four majors. I enjoy college basketball, which was my entree into the network."
"But I made the decision on my terms. I said, 'I'm going to baseball. It's relentless, it's every day, I know I'm going to have to give up the other sports, because I'm not 25 years old anymore.' I took plenty of time ruminating over if I'm going to miss this. I finally made that decision and it's been easy since."
Part of why it's been easy is the spectacle he watches unfold on a daily basis. Even during what he called his most difficult season of baseball announcing to date -- the Padres currently sit 14 games below .500 and are fighting to stay out of last place in the NL West -- he equates the game to a "Shakespearian" event.
"I've always contended, even when I was away from the game for all those years, that it's Shakespearian," Enberg said. "It's this encounter between two men, a pitcher and a batter, and one is trying to outduel the other. The other members are complementary players in this drama. They're important, but they're complementary. Once you get that part of the theatre, then you really open the curtains to the whole stage."
AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.