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Enberg's bond with baseball set him apart

MLB.com @RichardJustice

At his core, Dick Enberg was a baseball man, and he was one of the gold standards for all of broadcast sports. There was an intimacy in his work. To hear that soothing voice felt like you were catching up with an old friend.

This is the thing the great ones have. Jack Buck and Vin Scully certainly had it. Ernie Harwell did too, perhaps better than anyone. Baseball lends itself to conversation, to reflection -- and Enberg was a master storyteller.

At his core, Dick Enberg was a baseball man, and he was one of the gold standards for all of broadcast sports. There was an intimacy in his work. To hear that soothing voice felt like you were catching up with an old friend.

This is the thing the great ones have. Jack Buck and Vin Scully certainly had it. Ernie Harwell did too, perhaps better than anyone. Baseball lends itself to conversation, to reflection -- and Enberg was a master storyteller.

He could weave anecdotes, statistics and random thoughts seamlessly into every game. This was his genius. He could have done anything in broadcasting. He just blessed us by doing sports. When you heard his voice, you knew instantly that this was a big game.

And baseball was what he loved best.

"It has been in my DNA since I was in diapers," he once said.

As a farm kid growing up in Michigan, he rooted for his Tigers, and in 2015, when he received the Ford C. Frick Award -- the highest honor a baseball broadcaster can receive -- he seemed equally thrilled to be sharing a stage with Hall of Famer Al Kaline.

Video: Remembering Dick Enberg as the Padres honor a legend

That's why, in the twilight of his amazing career, Enberg, who died Thursday at 82, returned to the thing he loved most. Between 2010-16, he served as the Padres' primary television play-by-play voice.

"Dick Enberg was first and foremost a true gentleman, one who just happened to be among the most distinguished sports broadcasters in history," said Commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement. "He was well-known for bringing many different sports into the homes of fans, but he had a special bond with the national pastime."

Having done Angels games for nearly a decade in the '60s and '70s, Enberg loved the ballpark. In the end, it's that simple. He loved the sights and sounds of the place, the beauty, the rhythms.

Occasionally on spring mornings, Enberg would be seen wandering alone on the backfields as Padres Minor Leaguers practiced. Some of this was doing his homework, matching names and faces.

Some of it, though, was because there was no place he would have rather been. He saw baseball as something akin to poetry and appreciated a well-turned double play for its artistry and beauty.

Video: Hot Stove mourns the loss of broadcaster Dick Enberg

No sport lends itself to broadcasting the way baseball does. Enberg loved the games themselves, but he loved the players and managers, the laughter, all of it.

"I love the distinct sounds a ball makes against bat and glove," he said in 2015. "The call of umpires and concessionaires. Announcer punctuation calls, like, 'Oh, doctor,' 'Well, how about that?' and the Holys: 'Holy cow,' 'Holy Mackerel,' 'Holy Toledo.'"

He treated a meaningless game in September as if it were Wimbledon. To Enberg, every game had a story to tell, and that's one of the reasons so many fans loved and respected him.

Enberg's signature phrase was "Oh my." That was the name of his autobiography and the opening to his Cooperstown speech.

When the Hall of Fame announced Enberg as the Frick winner in December 2014, Scully messaged, "There's no crying in Cooperstown."

"They'd better find me a pill then," Enberg shot back.

Here's part of what Enberg said in Cooperstown: That he'd never felt more "personal joy than at this very moment. How privileged I am to be in such noble baseball company. I guess it all worked out."

To baseball fans, another of his signature phrases was his home run call: "Touch 'em all!" When the Angels won, he would sign off the broadcast with: "And the halo shines tonight."

Video: Costas remembers Enberg, his love for baseball

Enberg and late Hall of Famer Don Drysdale were a great marriage on broadcasts with Drysdale's sense of humor and insight wrapped in and around Enberg's narrative.

Enberg's longtime partnership with Al McGuire on college basketball broadcasts was the stuff of legend and inspired Enberg to pen a one-act play about the former coach.

"He was the most unforgettable character I've ever met, and no one's in second place," Enberg told the Los Angeles Times in 2015.

When Cardinals leadoff man Vince Coleman suffered a broken leg when run over by an automated tarp cover before Game 4 of the 1985 National League Championship Series, Enberg broke the news and interviewed a Dodger batboy who had witnessed the incident.

Enberg retired from the Padres after the 2016 season, and tributes poured in. One of those was from Padres manager Andy Green: "His voice has been a soundtrack for my sports life my whole life."

And there's this: "My first full-time job in baseball [in 2010], and here I am in the hotel bar watching March Madness with Dick Enberg sitting there telling stories about this kid or that one, about the [1968] UCLA-Houston game," said Joshua Ishoo, former Padres public relations man. "It was a surreal moment."

Enberg's retirement was retirement in name only. He wrote a book on Ted Williams that is coming out next spring and recorded several episodes of a podcast he calls "Sound of Success" in which he caught up with important people in his life.

Tributes poured in again on Friday, but perhaps Keith Olbermann put it best: "Kindest, most proactive possible treatment of newcomers in this business, for the length of his career. What a terrible loss."

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

San Diego Padres