Dick Enberg - A Proud Matador & Hall of Fame Sportscaster
Sept. 30, 2010
Photo Credit by John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News
By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Los Angeles, Calif. - It is late afternoon at Dodger Stadium and Hall of Fame sportscaster Dick Enberg is meticulously preparing for a television broadcast later that evening between the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
As he is preparing, two members of the Cal State Northridge athletic department staff, including new Matador pitching coach Tim Leary, walk into the broadcast booth to briefly introduce themselves to Enberg, considered one of the greatest sportscasters in the history of the industry.
Enberg turned towards the two CSUN staffers and noticed the red Northridge polo shirt with the Matador logo that Leary was wearing. Enberg then flashed a smile that extended from West Coast to East Coast. For an extended period of time, Enberg interrupted his game preparation to relive the great memories he enjoyed while serving as a professor of health education (1961-65) and assistant baseball coach (1962-64) at then San Fernando Valley State College (now Cal State Northridge). Near the end of his tenure at SFVS, Enberg also was a special assistant to then-President Ralph Prator.
Enberg's immense credentials over a period of more than 50 years in broadcasting includes NFL and NCAA football, NBA and NCAA basketball, four Olympic Games, Wimbledon, the World Series, the Masters and U.S. Open golf tournaments, heavyweight boxing, figure skating, horse racing, track & field, and the list goes on-and-on. Although Enberg's live telecast as the San Diego Padres announcer was less than two hours away, Enberg took time to warmly reminiscence about his days as a Matador.
"We had no scholarships, but we held our own against the big schools like UCLA and USC," remembers Enberg. "Stan Charnofsky (head coach) was a marvelous teacher who played in the New York Yankees system during Casey Stengel's days as manager. and was mentored by USC's legendary baseball coach Rod Dedeaux. Stan was nothing short of brilliant. After UCLA and USC grabbed up the great players with their ability to offer scholarships, we were then able, without scholarships, to go around the Valley and still get an immense amount of talented players. If you recruited the Valley, you could develop a powerhouse college baseball program."
As a youngster, Enberg lived in Glendale and Venice, but mostly in Canoga Park where he batted a ball around the yard and broadcast imaginary baseball games. The Enberg family later moved back to Michigan, where Enberg played quarterback and played other sports at Armada High School. There were only 33 people in his graduating class.
Enberg, who was inducted into the CSUN Hall of Fame in 1981, earned his bachelors degree in health science at Central Michigan University and went on to earn his master's degree and then a doctorate in health science at Indiana University.
"I enjoyed the health education classes in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and those that involved social and emotional health," he once told a reporter.
In order to make a little money at Central Michigan, Enberg became the public address announcer at football and basketball games, and worked at a local radio station as a weekend disc jockey. That led to his first play-by-play broadcast assignment. The salary - $1 a game.
At Indiana, Enberg served as the first-ever football and basketball play-by-play announcer for the Hoosier Sports Network. His salary zoomed from $1 to $35 a game.
Then one day, Enberg noticed on the bulletin board at Indiana University that interviews for a teaching position at San Fernando Valley State were being conducted by Dr. Delmar T. Oviatt, then dean of students at Valley State.
Enberg remembered that during World War II his family lived in the San Fernando Valley at the corner of Parthenia and De Soto, only a couple of miles from the University.
Dr. Oviatt asked Enberg if he would be interested in being the assistant coach of the fledging Matador baseball program under then head coach Stan Charnofsky in addition to his teaching duties.
Enberg accepted Dr. Oviatt's offer and headed west.
"Dick had never coached baseball, but he was a quick learner," said Charnofsky, who is currently a professor and of Educational Psychology and Counseling at Cal State Northridge. "He always encouraged the players and kept them in a positive frame of mind. He was a wonderful assistant coach who helped mold the team together. Even after all these years, we still keep in contact. He is a great friend who invites me to join him in the broadcast booth when he is in town to broadcast games."
Enberg helped coached such notables as shortstop Bob Hiegert, who later became Athletic Director at Cal State Northridge, third baseman Tony Davila, whose son (Terry) is the long time head coach of the men's soccer at CSUN, and pitcher Paul Edmondson, the first CSUN player to reach the major leagues.
"Dick Enberg's enthusiasm was contagious and his love of baseball was very evident," said Hiegert, who is now the Commissioner of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). "Dick was a pitcher in college and although limited in coaching experience, was really a good motivator and eager to help."
Enberg remembers one day when Charnofsky put up a chicken wire fence in the outfield. "Stan was piecing together this outfield wall, so the rest of us bought green venetian blinds. We wove the blinds in-and-out of the wire fence to make it look like a solid outfield fence."
Forty-nine years have passed since Enberg began his tenure as professor and coach at then San Fernando Valley State but the distance in times has not diminished the memories and camaraderie.
"I was vocal and emotional," said Enberg. "If we couldn't fight with our bats and gloves, we fought with verbal support. We always held our own against the likes of USC and UCLA. We had some very good players."
Enberg's yearly salary as both a professor and coach - $4,200 a year. "I was paid once a month, so if you were frugal enough, my wife and I would dine at the Trails Inn Restaurant where for 95 cents you get a hamburger, a small salad, and a beer or two. That was a real treat for us at the end of the month."
In order to supplement his income at San Fernando Valley State, Enberg started looking for work in the broadcast industry in the Los Angeles area. Enberg received his first break when he was hired as summer relief announcer at KGIL in 1962. That led to work at radio stations KLAC and KNX and at Channel 11.
In 1965, Enberg received a major break that helped skyrocket his career. Enberg became sports director at KTLA, Channel 5, in Los Angeles where he made $18,000 a year, far more than the $4,200 year salary as a professor and baseball coach at San Fernando Valley State.
With his broadcasting career rising at a fast pace, Enberg left the University in 1965, but not without a few emotions.
"I left like a Benedict Arnold," remembers Enberg telling a reporter. "Here I spent all these years in education and to suddenly turn my back on it was hard because I felt very strongly about education and its importance ..."
His success at Channel 5 led to announcing positions with the Los Angeles Angels, the Los Angeles Rams and UCLA basketball. His immense talent eventually led to his Hall of Fame status on the national level. Enberg has won 13 Emmy Awards, is a nine-time National Sportscaster of the Year, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Enberg is humble about his extraordinary broadcast career and his tenure in education never gets too far away.
"One of the proudest relationships I have is my association for more than 25 years to be the spokesman with the Academic All-America program (CoSIDA - College Sports Information Directors of America). To be a student-athlete who excels on-and-off the field is a person you want as a next-door neighbor. Just to rub shoulders with their style and greatness is a big thrill for me."
In 1997, CoSIDA honored Enberg with an award in recognition of his longtime support of the organization's Academic All-America program. The Dick Enberg Award is given annually to a person whose actions and commitment have furthered the meaning and reach of the Academic All-America Teams Program and/or the student-athlete while promoting the values of education academics.
Enberg's talents extend well past the broadcast booth. Enberg is a wine and travel expert, and a prolific writer who has written two best-selling books. A father of six, Enberg resides in La Jolla, Calif., with his wife, Barbara.
"I enjoyed everything about the University," said Enberg. "I have so many great memories as a professor and coach. I even enjoyed hitting fungos before the game. The challenge for any coach is to hit that pop fly to the catchers, and not hit it any where else."
Well done, Coach Enberg. The University is proud of you!!!
Matador Memo ...
You never know who you might run into in the Los Angeles Dodgers press box ... After finishing a lengthy interview with Hall of Fame announcer Dick Enberg, in the next booth was Vince Scully, the longtime Dodger radio announcer who has simply been called the "best in the business" ... Tim Leary, the new CSUN pitching coach, tells me "hey let's go see Vinnie for a second" ... Despite intensely preparing for the upcoming Dodger broadcast, Scully cheerfully welcomed both of us into the Dodger broadcast booth for several minutes of friendly conversation and it offered Scully a chance to see an old Dodger (Tim Leary) from years past ... Needless to say, Enberg and Scully, two of the best announcers in any generation in any sport, both were "class acts" in taking time out from their business schedules to say hello and chat ... Dodger fans certainly remember Tim Leary, who helped lead the Dodgers to the 1988 World Series championship over the Oakland Athletics ... While dining in the Dodger cafeteria/press box, Leary exchanged greetings with many friends including former teammate Fernando Valenzuela (a Dodger announcer), and Tommy Lasorda, who was celebrating his 83rd birthday ... Lasorda offered words of encouragement and success to Leary as he begins his tenure as pitching coach at Cal State Northridge ... Others to grace the press box included former Dodgers Rick Monday, Charlie Hough and Nomar Garciapara, and former Angels infielder and major league manager Jim Fregosi.