The Silent Farewell Tour of Dick Enberg

With the San Diego Padres needing a miracle of biblical proportions to make the postseason, Dick Enberg will end his broadcasting career on a bittersweet note. Enberg has accomplished so much in his long and productive career, but is playing second fiddle to another legendary announcer’s farewell tour this season. With no disrespect directed towards Vin Scully, Enberg is receiving little publicity in his final year behind the microphone compared to the Dodgers’ legendary commentator. Both are icons in their field. Both have been involved with historic moments in sports, including outside of baseball. Both deserve their place as a part of baseball’s history and culture. Dick Enberg has left a lasting impact on broadcasting and baseball.

The 81-year-old Enberg grew up in Mount Clemens, Michigan. Like many kids from Detroit, he dreamed of being a baseball player. He always reflects on his dream of being the Tigers star right fielder. While he never patrolled the outfield at Tiger Stadium, he still became an important part of the game.

Enberg made his way to college, first at Central Michigan University for his undergraduate studies, then Indiana University for his master’s and doctorate degree. While at Indiana, he was the voice of Hoosier football and basketball. He even announced the first “Little 500” bike race, made famous in the coming-of-age film, Breaking Away. His excellent work afforded him the opportunity to call the 1961 NCAA men’s basketball title game between Cincinnati and Ohio State.

By 1961, Enberg headed out west, working as an assistant professor and baseball coach at San Fernando Valley State College, now known as Cal State Northridge. He eventually left the academic and coaching life to return to broadcasting, anchoring sports reports and announcing UCLA Bruins basketball, Los Angeles Rams football, and California Angels baseball. It was during his time with the Angels that he coined the phrase, “and the halo shines tonight,” which he would say after every home win. The phrase referenced the large, illuminating halo on the Angels scoreboard that would light up the sky following a win.

By this time, Enberg was winning many awards for his work and getting more opportunities thrown his way. It helped being successful in a large market like Los Angeles. The kid from Detroit was bringing his articulate thoughts mixed with Midwest phrases to radios and televisions along the west coast and, in some cases, to a national audience. While he’s noted for his home run call of “touch ’em all,” he will be always remembered for his “Oh my!” calls.

As Enberg emerged on broadcasting’s larger stages, he was there for some of sports greatest moments. From college basketball, NFL football, NBA basketball, the Olympics, horse racing, tennis, and golf, he showed great versatility be it as a play-by-play announcer, studio host, or reporter.

As game shows gained more popularity in the 1970s, it seemed only natural that Enberg became a host. While Three for the Money and Baffle never caught on, his work on Sports Challenge pioneered sports trivia shows. It would set the standard for shows like 2 Minute DrillStump the Schwab, and Sports Jeopardy!.

Like many sports broadcasters of Enberg’s stature, he appeared in many films and TV shows. Most will remember his role in The Naked Gun. His IMDB profile features lots of cameo appearances. He even lent his voice for Mattel’s Talking Football tabletop game. Enberg even took on the stage, writing a one-man show about his longtime colleague and friend Al McGuire, further proving his versatility.

Despite all his other endeavors, the heart of Dick Enberg’s career has been calling baseball. It was his first love, and he was a true pro in the booth. When Enberg earned the Ford Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was a well deserved nod to a legendary career. Even in his speech, he felt honored in his humble Midwest way, to be on the same level as Red Barber or Mel Allen.

While many aspiring broadcasters — including my younger self — wanted to be like Vin Scully, some idolized Dick Enberg. Growing up, many of my Sundays in the fall were filled with hearing Enberg’s call on NFL broadcasts. I admired his tone and his poetic openings during playoff time. His presence in a broadcast was always known, for the right reasons.

Beside a chance to call a Tigers game this spring, there has not been as much fanfare for Enberg’s final campaign. His professionalism will be remembered, as well as the many great moments he has had the privileged of calling. Hopefully, as that final broadcasts nears, more fans will notice and acknowledge his great career.

It will be a shame to not hear Dick Enberg on Padres broadcasts after this season. While his replacement, Don Orsillo, is a great announcer in his own right, Enberg will be missed. Baseball will no longer have the luxury of two iconic voices in Enberg and Scully providing a soundtrack to summer. Baseball fans on the west coast and beyond need to cherish this last month of broadcasts from these two greats. Oh my.

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