MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Enberg's love of game as strong as ever

Calling games still brings joy to Padres broadcaster in final season

Enberg's love of game as strong as ever

Maybe it's because it's his final year and he's feeling a little frisky. But the words leapt out of Dick Enberg's mouth the other night, surprising even him.

The setting: Petco Park. The crowd had broken into "the wave," the mass metachronal rhythm -- inspired by groupthink and/or boredom -- that Enberg detests.

Just as the wave was winding its way around the ballpark. Alexei Ramirez fielded a sharp Gerardo Parra ground ball up the middle with a beautiful diving stop and flipped the ball to second baseman Yangervis Solarte, who fired to first baseman Wil Myers for a 6-4-3 double play.

"The hell with the wave!" Enberg exclaimed on the Fox Sports San Diego broadcast. "How 'bout the double play?"

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To borrow Enberg's signature phrase: "Oh my!"

Reflecting on that unscripted and mildly uncensored moment a week later, Enberg was slightly sheepish about his use of the ol' H-E Double Hockey Sticks.

"I guess that's not really a swear word anymore, though it was when we were kids," Enberg said. "But if they're doing the wave, it's an insult to the game. It means we're not entertaining them enough, so they've got to entertain themselves."

Entertainment is not lacking when Enberg is in the booth. And sadly, precious few innings remain with him in that role.

This season -- his seventh with the Padres -- marks the end of Enberg's 60-year career as a full-time broadcaster, which has taken him to fields, courts and facilities all over the world.

It's a golden-voiced goodbye that hasn't gotten nearly as much national attention as Vin Scully's upcoming exit elsewhere in Southern California -- and Enberg, for the record, is totally fine with that.

"I shouldn't even be in the same sentence with him," Enberg said of Scully. "He's the poet laureate of our game, and he still has his curveball. But I think there comes a time where there are health issues not only with you but around you. I've lost a brother, a sister and a daughter in the last couple of years. And I know within his culture there's some health issues, not necessarily with him. We all think it's going to last forever, and it doesn't. So you have to be more realistic about it."

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Enberg's reality is that he is 81 years old, became a grandfather for the first time in 2014 and has come to realize that he'd like to spend the better part of whatever time he has left living life, rather than describing it. The baseball schedule being the daily presence that it is for at least six months of the year, Enberg can't count how many times he's had to miss a family event or turn down an invitation to a summer stay at some friend's cottage somewhere.

"As broadcasters, we live such a privileged life," Enberg said. "We're like athletes. Things are taken care of for us. But even as nice as it is, we give up a lot as well, as do the people who have loved and supported us. It's time to give back to them and make sure you're available to them. While there is a little bit of time left, it will be nice to say yes to some opportunities."

For all he might have missed in his later years, Enberg will never regret taking the opportunity to join the Padres in 2010. It more closely connected him to the game he loves and, yes, most loves to call.

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Enberg has voiced the Super Bowl. Wimbledon. The Masters. The Rose Bowl. The Olympics. On and on. And so he is well-qualified to pick a favorite.

"Baseball is by far the best announcer game," Enberg said. "Even on television, it requires the play-by-play man to have some knowledge of baseball and all the surrounding elements of life. Football is really an analyst game. Basketball is a hectic game. You can hardly get a personal note in unless they're shooting a free throw. Tennis, they don't like you to talk during a point. You have a little more time there. Golf, they switch from hole to hole.

"The rhythm of baseball is part of its charm for me. You have time to analyze the fielding positions, the defensive alignment, you can bring the hitter to the plate with 20 seconds to say he's 28 and went to Florida State and was a catcher and they made him a pitcher, or he played the cello in ninth grade and took care of his two brothers and sisters."

That's the personal touch, the storyteller's instinct that has made old-timers like Enberg and Scully so beloved for so long.

Enberg's first pitch

"If there's anything I'm pleased most about in my career, it's that I've tried diligently and I hope successfully to personalize the number," Enberg added. "Whether the guy grounds out or hits a home run, you want him to be successful the next time up because you care about him as a person. In baseball, because of the length of the season and the rhythm of the game, it allows you to put your arms around it. It's nice to be able to hug baseball."

This year, it's a goodbye hug.

The Padres have begun to weave former longtime Red Sox announcer Don Orsillo into their broadcasts, and he'll replace Enberg permanently next season. Part of Enberg's long goodbye was the opportunity last month to do play-by-play for a single Detroit Tigers game at Comerica Park, not far from where a young Enberg -- who was born in Mount Clemens, Mich. -- first attended a big league ballgame with his father.

Enberg on calling Tigers game

"I've had a romance with baseball since I was teethed on a miniature bat by my mother," Enberg said. "It's in my DNA."

And the gene is being passed down. Just recently, Enberg left the controls to Orsillo for a week so that he could to take a trip to London, where his 22-month-old grandson, Archibald, resides.

"I bought him one of those plastic tees with the Wiffle ball and bat, the whole works," Enberg said with a smile. "I was teaching him how to hit the ball, and it looks like he's going to be a switch-hitter. Of course, he was hitting the ball to the stems and the glasses and the table. He's a free-swinging kid! So maybe we'll have our first signee out of London for the Padres."

That would make for one heck of a story. God willing, somebody will tell it with the same gusto Enberg has brought to his broadcasts.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.