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Rory Markas dies at 54; Angels announcer called World Series win

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Rory Markas, the popular and personable broadcaster known best for his memorable call of the final out of the Angels' 2002 World Series victory over the San Francisco Giants, died Monday night at his home in Palmdale. As of Tuesday afternoon, the cause of death had not been determined. He was 54.

Markas, who spent eight years with the Angels and was recently promoted to the team's lead television play-by-play job, also served as the play-by-play voice for the USC men's basketball team and as a news reporter for KTTV Channel 11 in Los Angeles, covering fires and other natural disasters.

Markas, who survived a near-fatal blood clot in his brain in November 2008, was also the lead radio announcer for the NBA's Clippers from 1994 to '97, and previously served as a sports reporter for KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KNX-AM (1070) in Los Angeles. He called Saturday's USC basketball game against Arizona State.

News of Markas' death sent another shock wave through an Angels organization that in 2009 suffered the tragic losses of 22-year-old pitcher Nick Adenhart, who was killed in an April car crash, and 86-year-old scout Preston Gomez, who died last January after being struck by a truck in March 2008.

"It's almost like, this can't be happening again," said Tim Mead, the Angels' vice president of communications, who had spoken with Markas by phone Monday afternoon.

"You remember talking to Nick the night before he died. I just talked to Rory. He was fine. There were no signs anything was wrong. . . . Whatever hit him, hit him quick and hard. . . . The reaction is shock, disbelief."

Markas punctuated every Angels win with his signature, high-pitched, "Just another Halo victory!" He was completing his first year in the team's radio booth in October 2002 when Darin Erstad camped under a fly ball in center field and made the catch that clinched the Angels' only World Series title.

"Erstad says he's got it!" Markas boomed. "Erstad makes the catch! The Anaheim Angels are the champions of baseball."

Terry Smith, the team's radio voice since 2002, was at Markas' side for that call, just as he was for hundreds of games in the last eight years.

"I'm going to miss him immensely," Smith said. "It probably will sink in even more once spring training and the regular season start. We were together over 200 days a year, and to not have that person beside you, who you can pull aside to talk to, have dinner with, share a story with, that's going to leave a void, it really is."

Smith nearly lost his broadcast partner 14 months ago when Markas, between two stand-up news segments he was doing in Lancaster for a Fox TV broadcast, came down with a blinding headache, followed by uncontrollable nausea.

Two days later, a blood clot was surgically removed from his brain. Markas was hospitalized for 10 days, mostly in intensive care, and missed seven weeks of work but was back in the Angels' broadcast booth -- at full strength -- for the start of the 2009 season.

"I've been told your brain is your computer," Markas told The Times during his recovery. "My computer crashed, and I have to give it a little time to reboot."

Markas, born Dec. 20, 1955, in the San Fernando Valley, said he and his father used to sit on folding chairs on their driveway at night listening to Angels games -- and broadcaster Dick Enberg -- on the radio and keeping score.

Markas graduated from Chatsworth High School, Los Angeles Valley College and Cal State Northridge.

His experience as a baseball broadcaster included stints as a play-by-play man for the Milwaukee Brewers television network from 1992 to '94 and six seasons (1981-87) calling triple-A games in the Pacific Coast League.

He was honored with several broadcasting awards, including four Golden Mike Awards for radio reporting, two Associated Press Sportscasting awards, and the 2008 radio play-by-play award from the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Assn.

Markas was also very active in community efforts, and often asked for promotional items and Angels gear he could give to kids when making appearances at elementary schools, Mead said.

"As genuine as he was behind the mike," Mead said, "that's the type of person he was when he was away from this place."

Markas was not married and did not have any children. He is survived by his mother, Billie, and brothers Gary and Troy.

Services are pending.

mike.digiovanna

@latimes.com

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