'What a journey this man had:' How Jaime Jarrín became a LA Dodgers broadcasting legend

The Spanish voice of the Dodgers, Jaime Jarrín will retire after this season, ending a 64-year career. He is credited, along with former pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, with growing the Latino fan base.

Josh Peter

LOS ANGELES — Jaime Jarrín, sometimes referred to as the Latino Vin Scully, sat in an empty broadcast booth at Dodger Stadium last week and let his mind drift.

It took him to Candlestick Park, former home of the San Francisco Giants, about five years after the Dodgers hired him in 1959 as the team’s first Spanish-language broadcaster.

Recalled Jarrín, “I remember Vin saying on the air, ‘Well, Jaime’s way down there in the left field box. Remember, fans, the day will come when he will be next to me behind home plate.’ ’’

That day came five years later, Jarrín said, along with a measure of respect that has turned into reverence.

Primarily a radio broadcaster for the Dodgers, Jarrín has called three perfect games, 22 no-hitters and 30 World Series games; played a role in the massive growth of the Latino fan base; and delighted his listeners with a signature home run call of “Se va, se va, se va,” which translates into “It goes, it goes, it goes.’’

The chances to hear that home run call on a live broadcast are running out.

Jaime Jarrin, primarily a radio broadcaster for the Dodgers, has called three perfect games, 22 no-hitters and 30 World Series. He played a major role in the massive growth of the Latino fan base, delighting  his listeners with a signature home run call of “Se va, se va, se va,” which translates into “It goes, it goes, it goes.’’

Jarrín, 86, will retire at the end of the season, his 64th with the Dodgers. The homestretch begins Tuesday night, when the Dodgers play the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium in Game 1 of the NL Division Series – and with Jarrín having become more than the Latino Vin Scully.

“Vin didn’t like that much,” Jarrín told USA TODAY Sports of Scully, who retired in 2016 after 67 years with the Dodgers and died in August. “He said, ‘No, no, no. Jaime is his own person.’

“But to me it was a compliment. Let’s face it, he was the best of the best.’’

With his own style, Jarrín worked his way into the Baseball Hall of Fame when in 1998 he received the Ford C. Frick Award presented annually to a broadcaster for “major contributions to baseball.’’ Jarrín's son, Jorge, recalled that weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., and time spent in a hotel bar with Hall of Famers such as Sandy Koufax, Kirby Puckett, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan.

“I’m starstruck,’’ Jorge Jarrín said, “and the way they were conversing and treating my dad, as if he had been a guy that hit 700 home runs. They treated him on the same level, as a peer. I was just dumbfounded and I just couldn’t believe it.

"That was the first time I said, ‘My god, what a journey this man has had.’ “

The journey started in Ecuador – specifically, Cayambe, an agricultural city where Jarrín's family members owned the only mill in the valley. Farm workers would come to get their corn and wheat processed.

Jarrín dreamt of more.

At 14, his grandmother moved with him to Quito, the country’s capital, so he could attend high school and later Central University, where he studied journalism and broadcasting. In 1955, he moved with his wife and two-year-old son to Los Angeles to pursue a career in broadcast journalism – without ever having seen a baseball game.

That changed in 1955, when the Brooklyn Dodgers faced the New York Yankees in the World Series. Crowds of people were huddled around TVs in restaurants and bars, said Jarrín, who had landed a job as a news reporter at the Spanish-language radio station KWKW-AM (1330).

“I said, ‘That must be a great game,’ ’’ recalled Jarrín, who said he began attending minor league games in Los Angeles that served him well.

In 1958, the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, and that next year Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley hired Jarrin as Major League Baseball's first full-time Spanish-language play-by-play broadcaster.

Jarrín said he expected the gig to last five to seven years.

Sixty-four years later …

He has outlived Dodger legends such as Tommy Lasorda, Maury Wills and Don Newcombe, and he has outlasted even his 67-year-old son Jorge. Father and son were paired in the Spanish broadcast booth from 2015 to 2020 before Jorge Jarrín retired.

Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrin is taking his final bow as the 'Latin Vin Scully.' He is retiring after the postseason after a 64-year career.

In addition to calling thousands of Dodger games, Jarrin also called more than two dozen championship boxing fights -- including the 1975 showdown between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in the "Thrilla in Manila'' --  memorial services for President John F. Kennedy and Pope John Paul II's first pastoral visit to the United States.

Jarrín did not travel to Dodgers games until 1964, and until then he translated Scully’s broadcasts into Spanish. He called Scully “the architect of my career.’’

“Since day one, he was extremely nice with me,’’ Jarrín said. “He didn’t like to give too much advice.

“Two things. One, prepare yourself for the broadcast. The other one was don’t get too close with the ballplayers. Be nice to them. Be good with them. But don’t get too close with them, because that will affect your broadcast.’’

The circumstances turned challenging during Fernandomania.

In 1981, Fernando Valenzuela, then a rookie pitcher from Mexico, won his first eight starts, including five by shutout. Jarrín did more than broadcast the games as the station’s ratings soared. He also served as Valenzuela’s interpreter. And also accompanied Valenzuela to Washington D.C. in 1981 at the invitation of President Ronald Reagan for a White House state luncheon in honor of President Jose Lopez Portillo of Mexico.

“That’s the greatest experience in my professional life,’’ Jarrin said.

Now Jarrín and Valenzuela sit side-by-side at Dodgers games in the Spanish broadcast booth, with Jarrín handling the play-by-play and Valenzuela providing commentary. Before Fernandomania, Jarrín said, the crowds at Dodger Stadium were between 8 and 10 percent Latino. He said Latinos now make up about 50 percent of the team’s home game attendance.

In 1981, Fernando Valenzuela, right, was a rookie pitching sensation for the Dodgers. Jaime Jarrin also served as Valenzuela’s interpreter – and traveled with Valenzuela to the White House when then-President Ronald Reagan invited Valenzuela for lunch.

“Thanks to Fernando Valenzuela, and they say myself, both of us did a really wonderful job creating more new baseball fans,’’ Jarrín said. “Not only for the Dodgers, but major league (baseball) in general.’’

But long before Valenzuela arrived on the scene, Jarrín was building a fan base. Last week, at the final game of the regular season, Jose Valencia, 70, stood in the leftfield pavilion wearing a jersey that on the back read, “Doyer Since 64.’’

In 1964, Valencia explained, he was a young boy whose family gathered around the table and listened to Jarrin's broadcasts.

“He just brought the family together in the evenings,’’ Valencia said. “My mother, three brothers, two sisters and my father. We sat around the table listening to Jaime Jarrín and he did his home run call, se va se va se va.’’

Roger Arrieta, producer of the Bleed Los Podcast geared for Latino fans, said many Latinos watch the Dodgers TV broadcast but turn off the sound and instead listen to Jarrín’s radio broadcast.

“He’s just as big as Vin to the Latino community,’’ Arrieta, 50, told USA TODAY Sports.

But it’s hard to separate the two. Both are in the Hall of Fame. Both are in the Dodgers’ Ring of Honor – the only non-players to receive the honor – with Scully having been inducted in 2017 and the next year participating in Jarrín's induction.

Jaime Jarrín talks with Orel Hersheiser after he was honored in the press box for a 64-year career. Hersheiser said of Jarrín:  'Your warmth and your friendship and your sincerity and your integrity surpasses anything that anybody could do.'

“Very, very seldom would he go down to the field,’’ Jarrín said. “That ceremony, he came down. He wanted to be with me there. He wanted to take me, walking all the way to left field to where the microphone was.

“He was so sweet, so nice to come down and take me all the way to left field.’’

Before the Dodgers’ regular-season finale began, more than two Dodgers journalists and Dodgers employees watched Jarrín be presented a chocolate cake in the media dining room.

Orel Hershiser, the retired Dodgers pitcher who now is a color commentator for the team's TV broadcasts, put his right hand on Jarrín’s back. 

“Your warmth and your friendship and your sincerity and your integrity surpasses anything that anybody could do,'' Hershiser said. "Thank you so very, very much for who you are and what you’ve done for all of us.’’

Then the retiring broadcaster surveyed the crowded room and uttered something rarely heard during his 64-year career with the Dodgers.

“I don’t have words, enough words,’’ he said, “to thank you from the bottom of my heart.’’