Dodgers broadcaster Jaime Jarrín driven by his sense of duty

Jaime Jarrín was always there.

Long before I knew him personally, or even before I knew his day job, I would see him at halftime in the football games I watched on TV.

I heard his voice when my great-grandmother’s favorite Mexican soap opera was commercialized.

“Seis, traina y seis, traina y seis, traina y seis.”

Six, thirty-six, thirty-six, thirty-six – the most famous phone number in Los Angeles.

Lawyer network Los Defensores commercials have been a ubiquitous presence on Spanish-language television in Southern California for the past four decades, and that’s how many of us were introduced to Jarrín, who will be retiring as the Dodgers’ Spanish voice at the end of this season.

The television spots often began with an actor talking about being injured in a car or work accident, after which Jarrín informed viewers that Spanish-speaking lawyers were available to help.

His baritone voice was strong but inviting. He spoke well and was impeccably dressed. He stood tall and proud. He had an unmistakable dignity.

When I met him years later, I realized that Jarrín acted exactly like he did in those commercials. And from what the late Vin Scully told me, Jarrín had been acting like this since he first started calling Dodgers games in 1959.

His story is the story of a rags-to-riches immigrant when he arrived from Ecuador with $40 in his pocket and worked in a factory on Alameda Street before landing a job at a local radio station.

But there’s another part of Jarrín’s immigration experience that’s less recognized, and that’s the burden he places on himself as one of just a handful of minorities in his workplace.

During the eight seasons that I was the Dodgers’ beatwriter, Jarrín and I would regularly meet up for lunch or dinner on the road. He often spoke about the responsibilities we had to our community. He pointed out that we’re the only Latinos many of our press colleagues have ever spoken to, so the way we present ourselves would shape how they see others with our cultural background.

Shortly after I was hired by The Times, the late ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez told me, “Don’t screw this up for us.” Jarrín made the point, only in more romantic language.

Jarrín shared these thoughts again in a conversation with Times reporter Jorge Castillo last week.

“We are in this country, we are immigrants, so we have to do things well so that the immigrants’ name is not tarnished and they value us,” Jarrín said in Spanish.

I always felt overwhelmed by such speeches. Honestly, I only worked to get paid every other Friday. Also, I had a Japanese mother. Was it really me?

Of course, the luxury of asking myself that question was bestowed on me by Jarrín and others, who existed in largely white spaces in times when minorities were restricted in career choices.

Dodgers broadcaster Jaime Jarrín prepares for a game at Dodger Stadium in July.

Dodgers broadcaster Jaime Jarrín prepares for a game at Dodger Stadium in July.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Baseball press boxes were places where “minority employment” was whispered about 15 years ago. I have no way of proving this, but I can imagine how Jarrín and others like him acted to make certain workplaces more welcoming to those of us who followed.

How could that not be the case? To everyone around Jarrín, the noblest person they knew was a Latino.

Jarrín maintained that grace through the years when many stadiums only had two radio booths – one for the home team’s English-language broadcast, the other for the away team – forcing him to announce games while seated next to stadium loudspeakers or with restricted views.

He remained dignified as he endured personal turmoil and tragedy, from his four-month hospitalization after surviving a near-fatal car accident to the deaths of his wife and middle son.

That was his nature, but he also saw it as his duty.

The press box at Dodger Stadium looks very different today than it did when Jarrín started. In the last decade in particular, the media has made intensive efforts to hire reporters who speak the language of the players they are reporting on. I don’t think any of these reporters found the work environment any more intimidating than their white counterparts.

Jarrín had already established that the place was theirs as much as anyone else’s. Dodgers broadcaster Jaime Jarrín driven by his sense of duty

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