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Enberg’s Heart Is With Angels

After years of frustration, these are sweet times for longtime Angel fans. Count Dick Enberg among them.

“I’m just one of hundreds of thousands who are on an emotional high right now,” he said Thursday from his home in La Jolla.

Enberg is also one of 21 radio announcers the Angels have had in their 42-year history. But he is No. 1 in stature.

He was the Angels’ lead announcer from 1969-78 before going on to network fame.

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“In my days, it was, ‘Tanana and Ryan, then three days of cryin’,’ ” he said. “The Angels seemed to have a knack for finding last place and staying there.”

But Enberg has fond memories, particularly the six seasons--1973-78--he worked with Don Drysdale.

“Big D made it fun to come to work, even in August and September when you knew there’d be less than 15,000 people in the stands,” he said.

“It seemed Don never had a bad day.”

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Enberg will be in Tampa this weekend, calling a game between the Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns for CBS on Sunday. But he’ll have an eye on a television set today and Saturday, watching his beloved Angels as much as possible.

“I know this,” he said, “if the Angels make it to the World Series, somehow I’m going to find a way to get to a game.”

It would sure be fitting for Enberg to join radio announcers Rory Markas and Terry Smith for at least an inning or two in the booth.

“I wouldn’t want to intrude,” Enberg said.

Certainly, no one would consider it an intrusion.

“I’d love it,” Markas said.

Good Timing

What a year for Markas and Smith to break in with the Angels.

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For Markas, a native Southern Californian who has held a variety of sports broadcasting jobs in this area, becoming the Angels’ lead radio announcer is a dream come true.

And Smith hit the big time after toiling in Columbus, Ohio, where he did triple-A baseball for 19 seasons after also spending some time as the radio voice of Ohio State football and basketball. Rex Hudler, who once played in Columbus, recommended Smith for the No. 2 announcing job.

Markas grew up in Northridge, rooting for the Angels because his father did. And he dreamed about someday announcing baseball, the sport he loved and the sport he played at Chatsworth High.

“When I was a kid and would play catch by myself by throwing the ball up against the garage, I’d call an imaginary game in my head,” he recalled. “Being a major league baseball announcer is what I dreamed about.”

Now, he is in his first season as an announcer for the team he rooted for as a kid. And that team is now within reach of its first World Series.

“How does it get any better than this?” he said.

Markas, who said he plans to continue as the radio play-by-play announcer for USC basketball, has certainly rebounded since he was fired by the Clippers in 1998.

Markas said he was pretty down after that. He said a surprise call from Chick Hearn helped lift his spirits. Markas also said Hearn was instrumental in helping him land the USC job.

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More Good Timing

Getting the Angels next season looked like a good deal for KSPN (1110) when it was announced last month. Now it looks like a great deal.

It should also benefit the Angels, who are moving from KLAC (570), which features general talk, to an all-sports station that is part of the ESPN Radio family.

And KSPN at the end of the year is going to 710 on the dial, a stronger and more familiar frequency--the same one longtime Angel flagship station KMPC used to have.

Markas and Smith will continue as the Angels’ radio announcers.

There at the Start

Don Wells, a member of the Angels’ original broadcast team who died last week at 79, is remembered as a talented announcer. But his 12-year career with the Angels ended badly.

Wells was the lead announcer on a team that also included Bob Kelley and Steve Bailey in 1961, the Angels’ first year of existence. Buddy Blattner joined Wells the next season, and they made up a two-man team until 1968.

When Blattner left for Kansas City, Enberg, who had been doing the pre- and postgame shows for three years, was moved into the lead spot. Then after one season, Wells’ role was reduced further when Dave Neihaus was brought in.

After the 1972 season, his third with Enberg and Neihaus, Wells left the team and ended up working as a reporter for KFWB (980) until 1988. He became something of a recluse and later moved to Switzerland to be with his son, who had married a Swiss woman.

Ratings Game

Of the four markets with teams in the playoffs, Los Angeles placed fourth in the ratings Wednesday night. Fox’s coverage got a 34.5 rating with a 52 share in Minneapolis, a 29.3/41 in St. Louis, a 20.8/35 in San Francisco and an 18.0/31 in L.A..

Nationally, Fox, which televised both games to different parts of the country, averaged an 8.2/14 with an audience of 12.2 million viewers--midweek highs for Fox’s second-round coverage. Through the first two days of the second round, Fox’s ratings were up 37% from last year.

Despite competition from Tuesday night’s Angel game, Channel 9 got an impressive 4.7/7 for the Lakers’ exhibition game against the Clippers at Bakersfield. That’s a 47% increase over the Lakers’ first exhibition telecast last year. The Laker rating went to a 7.0 once the Angel game ended.

Short Waves

Television and sports executives discussed the future of NFL Sunday Ticket at an industry event in New York this week. The consensus was, the package will remain exclusively with DirecTV until the current television deal expires after the 2005 season.... Bob Myers, after two seasons, will not return as the radio commentator for UCLA basketball this season. Myers works for agent Arn Tellem and school officials were concerned about appearances. UCLA spokesman Marc Dellins said Myers had done nothing wrong. Don MacLean and Sean Farnham are the leading candidates to replace Myers.

Ahmad Rashad will be part of the NBA coverage on ESPN and ABC this season.... Telemundo’s NBA schedule of 15 weekend telecasts beginning Nov. 10 will involve the Lakers once and the Clippers three times. Could that mean that the Clippers are considered more popular among Spanish-speaking viewers? ... ESPN is expanding its Sunday night “SportsCenter” to 90 minutes, beginning this weekend.... ESPN begins its Professional Bowlers Assn. coverage Sunday at 10 a.m. All 20 PBA tournaments will be televised over a 22-week span.

In Closing

Marge Hearn looked elegant while being interviewed live via satellite from her home in Encino during halftime of the Lakers’ exhibition game against the Clippers at Bakersfield Tuesday night. She also came up with a great line.

“With two Samakis on the team [Samaki Walker and Soumaila Samake], I’m not sure how Chick would have handled that,” she said.

Some of Chick’s wit no doubt rubbed off on his wife, or maybe it was the other way around.


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