“Vin Scully Taught My Dad English” – A Remembrance
10:57 AM PDT on August 5, 2022
Until he was lost to Covid-19 in 2020, El Monte’s Alberto Rodriguez Sr. was a certified Dodgers NUT. “When we had his 80th birthday, my sisters and my brothers, they had everything-all-Dodgers: the cake, everything,” laughs his son, Alberto Rodriguez Jr., who is 64. “We had the hot dogs too.”
Alberto Sr. was born in Mexico in 1934, in San Marcos, Jalisco. “My grandfather actually brought him here in 1951, from Tijuana,” Alberto Jr. says. “They used to come across the border to work on the farms in San Diego.”
Alberto Sr. and his father found work in the Imperial Valley. He didn’t know much about baseball yet, but eventually he happened upon a job that changed that.
“The thing is, the rancher needed a driver… He used to drink a lot when he used to go to the ballgames.” says Alberto Jr. His father drove the rancher – a flashy guy of Chinese descent – to Padres games where they sat together in the stands.
It was at this time that Alberto Sr. started paying attention to the then-Brooklyn Dodgers. Meanwhile, he got married in Mexico, and the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1957. He followed them to nearby El Monte around this time, where his father-in-law got him a job in the town’s Greggs Foundry.
He went to Dodgers games at the Los Angeles Coliseum in his spare time. “But he did not understand English at all, my dad,” says Alberto Jr. “So actually, he told me he learned how to talk [in English] from hearing [Vin Scully] on the radio.”
Alberto Sr, like many others, took a pocket-size transistor radio with him to the ballpark. He told his son that, one time, so many people in the stadium were listening to Scully that the Umpire heard Scully wish him happy birthday.
Why didn’t he listen to Jaime Jarrín instead? “He preferred it in English because, the thing is, when the batter came up, [Scully] used to give their story, their background in the game, put a little taste on where the batter came from. Other announcers didn't do that,” says Alberto Jr.
Perhaps he had another motive for listening in English, though. He needed to learn to communicate more with his foreman and coworkers at the foundry. Alberto Sr. eventually became a foreman there himself.
“In 1963, he moved up a position. The company gave him a letter so he could bring the whole family over. In 1965, we all came.”
Alberto Sr. had ten children, though two did not survive childhood (six remain today). He took his love of baseball, everything he had been shown by Scully and the Dodgers, and passed it on immediately. “He learned the game very good. So good that he became his sons’ Little League coach right there in Pioneer Park.”
And he took them to games at the fairly new Dodgers Stadium at Chavez Ravine, too. “They used to give out bats back then… gloves… balls you know,” recalls Alberto Jr, “and he used to get all the cousins together and go to the Dodger Games to get them.”
More than that though, he remembers being quiet in the car while his dad listened religiously to the games and Scully, the broadcaster that his dad knew so well that he said he could predict what Scully would say next (according to an oral history Alberto Rodriguez Sr. recorded with South El Monte Arts Posse).
Alberto Jr. says that, at best, his father learned conversational English from the broadcasts. In the 60’s and 70’s, he spoke Spanish with his kids. Later on he communicated with them in English. “It was never ‘good-good,’ but we could understand what he was saying,” jokes Alberto Jr. “It didn’t get worse!”
After about 26 years at Greggs Foundry, Alberto Sr. retired at the age of 54. Alberto Jr. says he couldn't do it anymore because metal was getting in his lungs, and his doctor told him “he had to quit his job, or it was gonna take him to his death.”
He lived for several more decades, and saw Vin Scully live to retire in 2016. Then, Alberto Jr. says his father simply remarked, “I hope they get someone who talks like him.” Given that there are people who literally learned English from Scully, it’s entirely possible that will happen one day.
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Chris is the San Gabriel Valley Reporter for Streetsblog LA and co-host for SGV Connect. He's been a La Puente native since 1991, and a radio journalist since 2014. He hosts the podcast SGV Weekly.
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