Until he was lost to Covid-19 in 2020, Alberto Rodriguez Sr. of El Monte was a certified NUT Dodgers. “When we celebrated his 80th birthday, my sisters and my brothers, they had everything-all-the Dodgers: the cake, everything,” laughs his son, Alberto Rodriguez Jr., who is 64. “We also had the hot dogs.”
Alberto Sr. was born in Mexico in 1934, in San Marcos, Jalisco. “My grandfather brought him here in 1951, from Tijuana,” says Alberto Jr.. “They used to cross 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 he finally found a game-changing job.
“The thing is, the rancher needed a driver…He drank a lot when he went to the ball games.” says Alberto Jr. His father drove the rancher – a flashy Chinese guy – to the Padres games where they sat together in the stands.
It was around this time that Alberto Sr. started paying attention to the Brooklyn Dodgers. During this time he married in Mexico and the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1957. He followed them to nearby El Monte around this time, where his stepfather got him a job at the Greggs Foundry from the city.
He went to Dodgers games at the Los Angeles Coliseum in his spare time. “But he didn’t understand English at all, my father,” says Alberto Jr. “So he actually told me he had learned to speak [in English] to hear [Vin Scully] on the radio.”
Alberto Sr, like many others, took a pocket transistor radio with him to the ballpark. He told his son that once so many people in the stadium were listening to Scully that the referee heard Scully wishing him a happy birthday.
Why didn’t he listen to Jaime Jarrín instead? “He preferred it in English because, the thing is, when the batter came, [Scully] used to give their history, their experience in the game, put a little flavor on the origin of the hitter. Other advertisers haven’t,” says Alberto Jr.
Maybe he had another motive for listening in English, though. He needed to learn how to communicate better with his foreman and his colleagues in the foundry. Alberto Sr. eventually became a foreman himself.
“In 1963, he rose through the ranks. The company gave him a letter so he could bring the whole family. In 1965, we all came.
Alberto Sr. had ten children, although two did not survive infancy (six remain today). He took his love of baseball, everything Scully and the Dodgers had shown him, and passed it on immediately. “He learned the game very well. So good that he became his sons’ Little League coach at Pioneer Park.
And he also took them to games at the Dodgers’ relatively new stadium in Chavez Ravine. “They used to give bats back then…gloves…balls, you know,” Alberto Jr recalled, “and he used to get all the cousins together and go to the Dodger Games to get them.”
More than that, he remembers being quiet in the car while his dad religiously listened to the games and Scully, the broadcaster his dad knew so well he said he could predict what Scully would say next (according to a Alberto Rodriguez Sr. oral history recorded with South El Monte Arts Posse).
Alberto Jr. says that, at best, his father learned conversational English broadcasts. In the 60s and 70s, he spoke Spanish with his children. Later, he communicated with them in English. “It was never ‘bon-bon’, but we could understand what he was saying,” jokes Alberto Jr. “It didn’t get worse!”
After approximately 26 years with Greggs Foundry, Alberto Sr. retired at the age of 54. Alberto Jr. says he couldn’t do it anymore because the metal was getting into his lungs, and his doctor told him “he had to quit his job, or it was going to lead to his death.
He lived for several more decades and saw Vin Scully live until he retired in 2016. Afterwards, Alberto Jr. says his dad simply remarked, “I hope they find someone who talks like him. ” Given that there are people who literally learned English from Scully, it’s entirely possible that this will happen one day.
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