Bill Plaschke: Give Dodgers an error on this bobble

Mar 11 2012 - 3:29pm

LOS ANGELES -- Even when it comes to bobbleheads, the Los Angeles Dodgers can be knuckleheads.

In what probably will be Frank McCourt's final farewell to Dodgers fans, his team is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium this summer by handing out 10 bobblehead dolls featuring celebrated Dodgers heroes.

Vin Scully will be one. Sandy Koufax will be another. Tom Lasorda and Walter Alston will be bobbling together. Mike Scioscia and Kirk Gibson will be all dolled up. Don Drysdale and Maury Wills will share a tiny sculpture. Orel Hershiser, Eric Karros, Fernando Valenzuela and the legendary infield of the 1970s will also be honored.

The list is officially called the "2012 Dodger Stadium Greats Bobblehead Series" and it's pretty cool, except for one pequeno problema.

A Hall of Fame broadcaster who has spent 53 years connecting with Dodgers fans in Spanish is not included.

His name is Jaime Jarrin, he has been with the organization longer than all but Scully and Lasorda, and although you may have never heard him, there are large segments of this city who listen to only him, forming the foundation of today's loyal Latino Dodgers fan base.

He's not Scully, but there are many people who believe in him just as religiously. He's not even as famous as his broadcasting partner Valenzuela, but his contributions to baseball have been just as compelling, as he is considered baseball's greatest Spanish-language broadcaster ever .

Yet when McCourt's top staff drew up a list of 10 Dodger Stadium legends to be immortalized in what has become a bobbling badge of honor, Jarrin didn't make the cut?

"It's a huge oversight, a total misreading of their fan base," said Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at Cal State L.A. "It's a tremendous slight for the man who many in the Latino community consider the Latino Vin Scully."

It's almost as if the folks who made this decision about "Dodger Stadium Greats" never looked in the Dodger Stadium stands, which are filled with those who were led there by Jarrin. You don't need to listen to Jarrin to hear his influence, in the language that flows through the concourses as his lyrical words flow through their radios.

"For the large Latino community that follows the team and is their customers, this is a slap in the face," said Henry Gonzalez, South Gate city councilman.

The Dodgers issued a statement Saturday in which they defended the decision by saying there just weren't enough bobblehead dates for all the Dodgers greats. Yet, in the history of Dodgers bobbleheads, there have been 39 giveaway dates before this season, and Jarrin has not been on a list that includes, among other luminaries, Cesar Izturis and Joe Beimel.

"The bobblehead promotional dates salute only a small representation of the great moments in Dodger Stadium's rich 50-year history," read the statement. "Unfortunately we are unable to have bobbleheads for all of our great moments and stars. Jaime Jarrin has certainly played a great part in this history and the entire Dodger organization and our fans recognize his place in Dodger history."

Where exactly is that place? He's on a plaque in Cooperstown, he's in a star on a Hollywood sidewalk, yet he can't get a lousy commemorative doll in Chavez Ravine?

When I told Jarrin I was writing this column, he was fairly aghast. He doesn't consider himself bigger than the team he loves or the fans he serves. He and Scully are very much alike in that that they are impeccably dressed and elegantly spoken, yet consider themselves just one of the guys.

"I have no complaints, I am totally fine with everything the Dodgers are doing," Jarrin said. "I feel very loved and appreciated by all the people who have listened to me over the years, and that is enough for me."

Those listeners span generations that span countries, from longtime Mexican immigrants to lifelong Angelenos, a widespread and intensely loyal demographic.

"People come in and say, 'Oh my goodness, my grandfather and my father listened to you; that is why I love the Dodgers,'" said Jarrin. "That is very touching. That is all I need."

Jarrin, 76, immigrated to the United States from Ecuador in 1955, on the same June day that Sandy Koufax pitched his first game in the major leagues. He worked at a metal fence factory before finding work at KWKW, the radio station that won the Dodgers' Spanish-language rights when the team arrived in 1958.

He began work as one of their broadcasters a year later, but the station didn't accompany the Dodgers on the road, so for eight years he would sit in a studio and re-create road games while listening to the calls of Scully and Jerry Doggett. Even though Jarrin held little stature at the time, Scully always treated him as an equal, even helping in his game creations by setting the scene for him.

"I'll never forget Vin for that," Jarrin said. "He has helped me out so many times, in so many ways, I will always feel so very close to him."

From 1962 to 1984, whether home or road or in that studio, Jarrin called nearly 4,000 consecutive games. During that time he became nationally known as Valenzuela's interpreter during Fernandomania. Since then, he has endured the sudden death of 29-year-old son Jimmy from a brain aneurysm and a near-fatal auto accident to remain a consistently classy Dodger Stadium presence.

And, by the way, he does have a bobblehead doll. It was made for him by the Los Defensores law firm for which he does publicity. It's perfect, right down to his graying hair and kindly smile. The doll doesn't speak, but it doesn't have to speak.

Jaime Jarrin's primary language has always been Dodger. It's a shame that, in this case, the Dodgers seem to be the only ones who don't understand.

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