Billy Berroa Sr., 77, is in his third stint broadcasting Mets games in
Spanish, and he currently teams with longtime Mets broadcaster Juan Alicea.
Together, they form one of the most recognized tandems in the Spanish radio
sports broadcasting industry.
"About 10 or 12 years ago, I saw the contributions Latin players were making
in baseball and how all of the Dominicans in New York were such a strong
part of our fan base," Alicea said. "One of the things we wanted to do was
bring the Dominican communities together, and I knew Billy Sr. was the most
recognized broadcaster in the Dominican Republic; so, we hired him. He was a guy
who followed Juan Marichal all those years."
But Marichal was just one of many Latin ballplayers Berroa Sr. followed.
Berroa Sr.'s first job in radio was reading news on the air in his hometown
of San Pedro De Macoris in the Dominican Republic. In the late 1940s, he
moved to the capital of Santo Domingo, and by 1951, he was working in sports for a local
radio station. He flourished as the No. 1 radio broadcaster for the Winter
Leagues in the Dominican Republic, an honor he still holds today, and later
as part of the broadcast team that covered the Caribbean World Series.
Working with Radio Universal in 1962, he began recreating Major League games
in the Dominican Republic by reading transcripts sent to him from the United
States. It was the Dominican Republic's first taste of a Major League
Baseball game broadcast in Spanish.
"It was like reading from a newspaper and reproducing," he said. "It was
like a fax machine in a way. I got the information and read it like it was a
In 1963, Berroa broadcast the first live game in Spanish to the Dominican
Republic from Shea Stadium. The first game featured Marichal, the only
player from Dominican Republic currently in the National Baseball Hall of
Fame, and it was a monumental success. Berroa would later
join Marichal and the Giants in San Francisco, transmitting live games
that would reach the Dominican Republic in the wee hours after midnight.
"Things were different back then," Berroa Sr. said. "We had close
relationships with players, and there was a mutual respect. When we visited
San Francisco, Marichal would show us the city and take us around. The Alou
brothers did the same thing. Those relationships don't exist anymore."
Some things have changed. Others have not. The Mets have been broadcasting
games in Spanish in some form since the 1960s. In those days, the club sold
their rights or partnered with a third party to send games to Latin America
and over the airwaves locally. The club currently maintains the broadcasting
rights and has control of some inventory on the air.
"I felt that the Spanish broadcast was the way to communicate to the
masses," Alicea said. "It is a bridge to the Hispanic community in general.
I checked how the Dodgers did it in New York and in Los Angeles. They did a
lot of community outreach, and through the broadcast, were able to expand for
Alicea's ties to the community run deep. He was born in Puerto Rico but
raised in the neighborhoods of New York City. He was originally hired as a
scout in 1969 and later worked as a member of the community relations and
broadcasting departments. He has worked games in Spanish for the Mets
since 1982 and also coordinates the Secondary Audio Programming (SAP)
broadcasts. The Mets broadcast games in Spanish regularly, and although the duo
makes an occasional trip, they do not travel for the most part.
"Here in New York City, Florida and LA are the major Hispanic markets, and
to reach the Hispanic community is something we all strive for," Alicea
said. "The time for us as Hispanics is right now. We are now getting paid
back for all of the years of hard work. We have major sponsorships."
The rewards are also personal. In 1999, the elder Berroa was elected to the
Dominican Republic's Sports Hall of Fame. In 2000, the father and son team
shared the Spanish radio booth at Shea Stadium and called a game between the
Mets and the Phillies.
"It was a dream come true," Berroa Jr. said. "My mother cried that day. She
made me send a letter to both teams thanking them. I thanked Dad."