'Oh my!' Enberg reflects on legendary career

'Oh my!' Enberg reflects on legendary career

SAN DIEGO -- Retirement? Not in the eyes of Dick Enberg, the man of the hour Thursday night at Petco Park.

"I abhor the term," said the legendary broadcaster, who called his final game in San Diego on Thursday, a 9-4 loss to the Dodgers. "I don't intend to slow down."

Nonetheless, Enberg will be calling it a career Sunday afternoon in Arizona, where the Padres face the D-backs.

And what a career it's been.

In 50 years since he received his first broadcasting job at KTLA in Los Angeles, Enberg has called 42 NFL seasons, 28 Wimbledons, 15 NCAA basketball title games, 10 Super Bowls, nine Rose Bowls and the 1982 World Series. He racked up 14 Emmy awards and nine Sportscaster of the Year awards. Name a major sport -- or a major event within the sporting world -- and there's a good chance Enberg has called it.

Friends discuss Enberg's career

"He's the voice of my childhood with sports," said Mark Grant, Enberg's color commentator for the past seven seasons. "... If Dick was doing the game, it was a big game; that moment mattered. When you find yourself being able to work with him, that's pretty cool."

With Grant as emcee, the Padres feted Enberg in style Thursday night, with a pregame ceremony featuring a pair of video tributes and a speech from Enberg. The club also re-named Broadcast Booth 1 "the Dick Enberg Broadcast Booth," unveiling a plaque with his visage outside of it.

"I'm just overwhelmed that broadcasters will come to this beautiful facility and see my name going into that booth," Enberg said.

Plaque or no plaque, Enberg's legacy won't soon be forgotten.

Humble beginnings

In his early 20s, Enberg walked into a radio station in Mount Pleasant, Mich., seeking a custodial job. Instead, he was handed a job as a weekend disc jockey and host of a local sports show. (Of course, the pay was the same as if he'd have been given that custodial job -- $1 per hour.)

Speaking of his first years in the business on Thursday, Enberg paused for a second and reflected on the man who gave him his start in radio.

Padres honor Dick Enberg

"What if he had given me the job I wanted?" Enberg said with his glowing grin.

After graduating from Central Michigan, Enberg called games for the Indiana University Sports Network, while receiving his masters and his doctorate there.

As an homage to the small-town feel of the Midwest, he developed his trademark "Oh my" call. As he says, "It's been a very good friend of mine for over 50 years."

Shortly thereafter, Enberg moved to San Fernando Valley State College, where he taught and served as a baseball coach from 1962-65. It was there, as a coach, that he developed another of his signature catchphrases, "Touch 'em all."

Those staples would stick with Enberg for the next 50 years.

Highlights

When it came to the sports he covered, Enberg truly touched 'em all.

"Every major sports moment, it seems his voice is a part of it," said Padres president and CEO Mike Dee, an unabashed fan of Enberg's buoyant demeanor. "You felt like you knew him before you did, because he was so personal in the way he connected with the viewers and described the action."

Enberg was given some pause Thursday when asked which moment stood out the most.

Enberg reflects on career

"That's the old, who's my favorite child question," he said, before launching into his recollection of the 1968 "Game of the Century" between Houston and UCLA at the Alamodome.

"That was the platform from which college basketball's popularity was sent into the stratosphere," Enberg said, recalling the Houston fans rushing the court and engulfing his broadcast "foxhole."

Of course, there are countless others from which Enberg could have chosen, namely: The 1979 NCAA men's basketball title game between Indiana State and Michigan State -- or Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson; Muhammad Ali's world title fight with Richard Dunn; Joe Montana leading the 49ers to a last-minute comeback in Super Bowl XXIII; or any of his countless trips to the highest echelons of golf and tennis.

Baseball, his first love

From his early years with the California Angels to his time in San Diego, Enberg has arrived at the ballpark to countless blank scorecards. The possibilities on those scorecards thrilled him more than anything else.

"Every sheet is the same when we start a day," Enberg waxed. "And they're all different when we finish the day. How incredibly wonderful is that?"

Enberg called his first professional baseball game in 1969, alongside Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus. He would go on to call nine no-hitters, which he views as the apex of sports storytelling.

Enberg visits booth

"There is no more delicious opportunity as a sportscaster than sinking your teeth into a no-hit, no-run game," Enberg said. "There's nothing more exciting for me, than to look up and see the zeros up to the seventh inning. Now you know you've got 30 to 45 more minutes to milk every pitch, every subtle movement in the dugout. ... There's no drama like that in any other sport."

Enberg captured that drama well enough to earn the Ford C. Frick Award in 2015, and he was honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame. He called it, "The greatest weekend of my life."

Upon arriving in Cooperstown, N.Y., Enberg promptly received a bear hug from Johnny Bench. The kid from Armada, Mich., had truly reached hallowed ground in the sport he loved so dearly.

The 61st floor

Because he abhors the term "retirement," Enberg likened the conclusion of his broadcasting career to a move from the 60th floor to the 61st floor.

As he's quick to remind those who ask, he won't be slowing down.

Enberg's son joins the booth

Enberg has a third book in the works, tentatively titled "Touch 'Em All," in which he details his top calls from across all sports.

He's also somewhat entranced by the idea of picking up where he left off 50 years ago -- as a teacher.

"At 81, I want to continue to be creative, I think that keeps you young," Enberg said. "Part of that process would be to go back and teach. ... Everyday, you can count on the challenge of a raised hand."

On Sunday afternoon, Enberg will call his final game for the Padres, while Vin Scully calls his final game for the Dodgers in San Francisco. They're undoubtedly different announcers with different styles and career paths. But, as you'd expect, they've developed a sense of respect for each other that transcends baseball.

At Thursday's ceremony, Scully offered Enberg some parting words, from the big screen in left field, concluding an emotional pregame tribute video.

Enberg on 'oh my' call

Enberg followed with a speech of his own, in which he told fans, "Don't ever turn your backs on this beautiful, beautiful game."

Before finishing, the scoreboard cameras flashed to center field, with the words "OH MY!" imprinted on the grass, and Enberg finished his soliloquy with the two words most befitting of his career.

Oh my, indeed.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.