Victor Rojas, the greatest Angels broadcaster in franchise history stepped down from his post last week. He’s got big visions of running a baseball club and while that will no doubt be a fruitful endeavor for him, it leaves Angels fans in the wilderness. Besides Mike Trout, the best thing about the Angels for the past eleven seasons has been Victor Rojas calling games with a steady presence and incisive commentary.
We just enjoyed an eleven-year stretch of impeccable game-calling from an entertaining, intelligent and passionate professional. The issue now is that the history of Angels broadcasters has not been one that was always satisfying.
Understand that for most of this franchise’s history, television broadcasts were few and far between. When over-the-air subscription TV (ONTV) arrived in the late 1970s, there were 3-5 televised Angels games per month added to a broadcast television diet of 2-3 games per week on average (a peek of one or two Sunday games in Spring Training late if you were lucky, too) – and that was an improvement over the 1960s and early 1970s when television was seen as a drain on club finances as to their negative impact on ticket sales. So the radio broadcasters dominated Halo memories.
The great radio play-by-play voices of Angels baseball:
•Buddy Blattner (1962—68)
•Dick Enberg (1969—78 +1985)
•Al Conin (1983—92)
•Mario Impemba (1995—2001)
•Rory Markas (2002—2009)
•Terry Smith (2002—Present)
There were a few standout color commentators on radio in club history, Don Drysdale, Kenn Brett, Daron Sutton and Mark Langston being my personal favorites. Mark Gubicza, though, has achieved the title of the greatest color commentator in club history by virtue of the longevity of his career and the improvement in offering insight from his first year (2007) to the present. If management had tried as hard to be good as Gubicza has in the same period of time we’d have more rings than one hand could carry. Some of that has to be attributed to working alongside Victor.
The great television play-by-play men in team history is a short list: There was Bob Starr (1980—89 and 93–97) and these past eleven years with Victor Rojas, 2010-20.
Few announcers in the sixty seasons of Angels baseball stayed with the team long enough to make a mark over many years and changing broadcast partners and the few who did that are not listed above, specifically the cloying Steve Physioc, his partner, the perpetual 11-year-old Rex Hudler (or stoned 16-year-old after he was arrested for pot possession), a pointlessly yammering Joe Torre and vicious beanball advocate Ron Fairly wore out their welcome with various shticks that rendered them dull, unprofessional and ultimately unentertaining. Like a great veteran who stays a season or two too long and hurts his team, broadcasters can just as easily alienate the fans when their delivery becomes tired, predictable and disconnected from the actual game.
Among all these names, though, Victor Rojas stands as the benchmark by which all Angels broadcasters will be measured. One could hear in his voice an acknowledged appreciation of the position he had as the voice of one of only thirty major league baseball teams on earth. He knew that his responsibility to the fans was to keep the slow parts of the game well-paced and the grueling parts of the game bearable. His commentary at the most magic moments was to simply confirm that we were not dreaming and yes something fantastic had just happened. He let the moment speak for itself. So many broadcasters tell us what we know we are watching. Victor never talked down to anyone but he never dumbed-down an explanation. When it was needed, Victor called out the team, management, decisions and roster moves in a manner some might call brave when one considers the petty wrath of club president John “Buttercup” Carpino.
Mercifully his departure was not like the passing of Rory Markas, and the quick circumstances of Victor coming here after the untimely passing of the then-voice of the franchise was as seamless as that terrible transition could have been. Victor was immediately comforting to the audience with his warm demeanor and deep knowledge of the game.
Frankly, Victor kinda got the short shrift with the product on the field compared to Rory arriving in 2002 and staying through 2009. But I’m not the only one who feels this will not be the last any of us hear from Victor Rojas. Hopefully not too much time will pass before we can bask in him living his dreams. I can only admire the high standards he has set for his replacement to live up to and wish him the best. Until then Vic, please drive home safely.