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Padres host celebration of Enberg's life

Dignitaries from sports world pay tribute to legendary broadcaster
Special to MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- Dick Enberg was a man of many sports. But baseball was dearest to his heart, and that was clear on an overcast Saturday at Petco Park.

Enberg, who was 82 when he died on Dec. 21, was saluted during "A Celebration of the Life of Dick Enberg.'' The smooth-talking Enberg, who held audiences spellbound with his compelling style of story-telling, was the Padres' TV announcer from 2010-16.

SAN DIEGO -- Dick Enberg was a man of many sports. But baseball was dearest to his heart, and that was clear on an overcast Saturday at Petco Park.

Enberg, who was 82 when he died on Dec. 21, was saluted during "A Celebration of the Life of Dick Enberg.'' The smooth-talking Enberg, who held audiences spellbound with his compelling style of story-telling, was the Padres' TV announcer from 2010-16.

Dignitaries from throughout the sports world paid tribute to the iconic broadcaster, who called every contest with the same energy and enthusiasm as the seventh game of a World Series -- or the Super Bowl, or the Wimbledon final or a gold-medal Olympics competition or a Breeders' Cup stretch run. Enberg did all those events and so many more.

Tweet from @Padres: The celebration of the life of Dick Enberg is underway at @PetcoPark. Watch live on @FOXSportsSD and the FOX Sports Go mobile app. pic.twitter.com/wm0h0FTIfZ

But baseball shined above other athletic endeavors. Once you've worn the uniform, as Enberg did as a high school player and as a Cal State University Northridge coach, baseball becomes a constant companion. It was because of Enberg's three-year run in the early 1960s as the Matadors' assistant that opened the door to a broadcasting career which few can match.

Enberg's big break came in 1965, when California Angels owner Gene Autry, who also owned KMPC radio and KTLA TV in Los Angeles, made a pitch. Enberg was offered a 13-week tryout as a sports anchor, which he aced.

Enberg's starting salary of $18,000 was three times what he had earned at the college which was then known as San Fernando Valley State. He would go on to call UCLA basketball, Los Angeles Rams football, and, of course, Angels baseball for KMPC and KTLA.

His affection for baseball started when he was growing up in Michigan, where Enberg's idol was Ted Williams. Like countless others kids mimicking their sports hero, Enberg duplicated Williams' mannerisms at the plate, and he how he carried himself in the outfield.

While in high school, Enberg and pals would hitchhike 80 miles round trip from Armada, Mich., to Detroit to see Williams and the Red Sox face the Tigers.

Enberg, who has a book coming out on Williams later this year, always said his biggest compliment came from the "Splendid Splinter." Williams once told the still star-struck Enberg: "Damn it, Enberg, you're the best there is.''

Tweet from @Padres: Dick Enberg was ���truly a man for all seasons.��� - Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler pic.twitter.com/1mE7IuBk8C

Enberg's best nickname, "The Professor," came from another baseball Hall of Famer, Don Drysdale, As Enberg's color man during part of his stint as the Angels' radio voice, Drysdale loved ribbing Enberg with that name.

Again, it stemmed from when Enberg was a baseball coach and teacher at Cal State Northridge. And it stuck with him throughout the rest of career.

Dan Fouts, the former Chargers great and Enberg's final NFL broadcasting partner, called him "The Professor.'' But when Enberg said Fouts reminded him of his favorite sidekick, Drysdale, it was almost too much. He relayed that thought when telling Fouts he was leaving the NFL booth for the Padres.

Video: Dick Enberg professes his love of baseball

"I remember the day that he told me he was leaving me for [the Padres],'' said Fouts, who was among the day's speakers. "His love of baseball was legendary -- him being a player, a coach and he had called umpteen baseball games. And of course his relationship with Drysdale.

"Look, I was born and raised in San Francisco, so I hated Don Drysdale and I thought that 58-inning [scoreless] streak was [baloney] in my eyes.

"But that was the highest compliment he could give me, saying 'Dan, you are like Drysdale.' I said. 'OK, maybe -- but he is still a Dodger.''

All of those who shared broadcast booths, a friendship or conversations with Enberg cherished their time with him. As a member of the baseball, pro football and basketball Halls, those mourning him emphasized that Enberg was a hall-of-fame person.

"This celebration could go on for days,'' Fouts said. "Because there were so many people he touched.''

Oh my!

Jay Paris is a contributor to MLB.com.

San Diego Padres