The Dodgers celebrate the career of broadcaster Jaime Jarrin on Monday with a commemorative T-shirt and pregame ceremony. He started in 1959 and covered the home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and went to a studio in Pasadena to recreate the road games on radio. Jarrin took center stage in 1981 as the interpreter for rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela and eventually was named to the broadcaster’s wing of the Hall of Fame in 1998.
But sometimes overlooked in the Jarrin story is the near-fatal car accident during spring training in 1990 and his courageous recovery. On March 24, Jarrin drove from the team’s spring training headquarters to a mall in Vero Beach in search of a blank audio tape for a 15-second radio commercial. While making a left-hand turn on a green light, Jarrin’s car was struck by a large pickup truck and was thrown 100 feet.
Jarrin would spend the next four months at the Indian River Hospital with serious internal injuries. He lost his spleen and gallbladder. His left lung had collapsed and fluids leaking from his liver went undetected for the first three weeks and nearly killed him. He needed a second surgery and was given only an eight-percent chance of survival. His weight plunged from 165 to 120 pounds.
Jarrin’s wife Blanca stayed behind in Vero Beach after the team left for Los Angeles. She was allowed in his room for five minutes every hour during the seven weeks of intensive care, so for 55 minutes she would return to the lobby. ”She paid such a huge price,” Jarrin said of Blanca. “It was really unbelievable.”
After his accident, Jarrin didn’t know if he would again broadcast games because of his collapsed lung. He tried watching baseball games on television early in his rehabilitation and turned it off after 15 seconds because he was so tired. Jarrin was also frustrated because he couldn’t be moved to a larger facility because of his condition. In mid-June, doctors predicted three more weeks in the hospital and Jarrin called Blanca and said he was going to die in the hospital. Blanca called Dodgers team physician Dr. Frank Jobe and asked him to tell her husband it would only be 10 more days. That changed Jarrin’s mood and 10 days later he was on his way home.
As the 1990 All-Star Game approached, Jarrin remembered his commitment to CBS Radio to broadcast the Mid-Summer Classic from Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Slowly but surely, Jarrin made enough progress and reached his goal of walking into the Wrigley Field press box on July 10. The first person he saw was longtime friend Vin Scully, who was broadcasting the English version for CBS Radio.
“Someone took a photo of Vin and me in the broadcast booth at the All-Star Game,” Jarrin said. “That picture tells me I was probably reborn on that day. That picture tells me so much, and I cherish it like no other one. That’s when my life in baseball started again.”
(Photo: Jaime Jarrin poses with street sign named in his honor at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL after his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998)