Leitner retires from SD radio after 41 years

January 15th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- Ted Leitner, for 41 years the beloved play-by-play radio voice of the Padres known as "Uncle Teddy," will transition to the role of team ambassador, moving away from the booth, the team announced Friday.

Leitner's radio partner Jesse Agler will assume the role of full-time radio play-by-play man, with Tony Gwynn Jr. joining the booth as a full-time analyst.

Leitner, who paired an affable down-to-earth style with unfettered baseball opinions and a knack for storytelling, has been a staple of Padres baseball since he began calling games in 1980.

"I will miss everything about the Padres broadcast that I have been privileged to be a part of for so many years," Leitner said in a statement. "I've had the best seat in the house in San Diego for over four decades, and I've had the honor of working alongside Hall of Fame broadcasters while watching the greatest players to ever wear a Padres uniform.

"While the broadcast booth will always be in my heart, I look forward to working more closely with the San Diego community and our loyal fans in the future."

Leitner will remain as the lead play-by-play man for San Diego State football and basketball, but his role with the Padres will shift to a community-centric one. Leitner, who was named co-sportscaster of the year in California by the National Sports Media Association in 2020, has long been a staple at charitable events hosted by the Padres in the community.

Leitner’s decision to leave the broadcast booth was due to a collection of factors, he said Friday in a video call, citing his age and his health among them. But he specifically cited pictures of his grandchildren juxtaposed with life on the road during a baseball season.

“I want to be home more, that’s my plans for right now, and that’s it,” said Leitner, who got emotional at the outpouring of support from Padres fans on Friday.

Leitner's work in San Diego began in the late 1970s as a TV anchor for CBS 8. He presided over both Padres National League pennants in 1984 and '98.

Leitner is perhaps best known for his work alongside Hall of Fame broadcaster Jerry Coleman, who passed away in 2014. Coleman, a former Marine and World Series-winning second baseman with the Yankees, is as beloved as nearly any sports figure in San Diego.

For decades, Leitner and Coleman riffed off each other. They became revered as a duo for their engaging storytelling and their colloquial manner in calling baseball games.

“How did I get so lucky?” Leitner said of working alongside Coleman. “We had so much fun, we laughed so much and we had such a great time.”

Gwynn Jr., of course, grew up listening to Coleman and Leitner during his father’s 20 seasons as a Hall of Famer with the Padres.

“I knew nothing about broadcasting other than being a kid listening to these guys,” Gwynn said. “Ted shaped that voice in my head when I was playing in the house at a young age. Working in the booth with him, for me, was like the ultimate. I got to see what his prep was like, what he did to get ready for these games.”

Gwynn has filled in on radio broadcasts in the past and spent time as an analyst for FOX Sports San Diego. He's been a staple in San Diego for years and currently co-hosts an afternoon radio show on 97.3 The Fan. Gwynn had previously served as the team’s backup radio analyst.

Now, Gwynn plans to take the lessons he learned from Leitner into the broadcast booth on a daily basis.

“Ted was always a voice that you could depend on,” Gwynn said. “When the Padres were bad and it was tough to listen, he kept you engaged. That's kind of how his style was created. He didn't have a lot of good teams to talk about.

“But if you tuned into a Padres game, you were going to get a history lesson, you were going to learn a little bit about some of the personalities on the team. He had such a unique way of articulating that, that when the team wasn't winning the division and they were bad, you still listened, and you still got something out of the games.”

In Agler and Gwynn, the Padres feel confident their tradition of revered broadcasters will continue. Agler, who has called games alongside Leitner since 2016, cited Leitner’s influence as an important reason why.

“It was like getting a PhD in -- not only baseball broadcasting -- but in San Diego sports,” Agler said. “He's one of the most important and beloved figures in San Diego sports history, not only because of his work with the Padres, but his work with the Aztecs, his work on TV, his work in talk radio.

“I really feel like I got a 360-degree understanding of not only the Padres and their history, but the community, the psyche of the fans -- everything that goes into being a good announcer and ambassador for the team. … He was a wonderful mentor and teacher and partner and, obviously, friend.”