Voices of Angels

Smith and Markas describe the action as the Anaheim Angels head toward baseball heaven

"There's a great book I read that really helped me," Smith offers. "It was a great history of the Angels written by . . . uhh . . . Ross . . . ummm—"

"Newhan," Markas chips in helpfully, referring to the Los Angeles Times' Hall of Fame baseball writer, Ross Newhan.

"Newhem," Smith says gratefully, although mispronouncing the name anyway.

"New-han!" Markas emphasizes as delicately as he can.

"Yeah, like, this book is a great history of the Angels," Smith proceeds, oblivious. "It was one of the first things I did—I read that book. Just kind of took some notes there. Just so that I would feel comfortable telling people about a team that maybe some people knew more about the team than I did. But I can guarantee you when the season's over, I'll know more about the team than anybody—than any fan."

Intimate knowledge of the team is only part of the equation, however, and may not even be most significant. There's also the matter of chemistry—between Markas and Smith, sure, but also among them and their listeners. Announcers are like audio hitchhikers baseball fans carry around all summer—in the car, in the house, at picnics, during yard work. Their personalities become part of the story they are narrating. The words they choose and the inflections they use will color forever the memories of the events they describe. Their success is difficult to quantify because although the relationship is two-sided, the communication during the games is one-way.

How do they do it? Invent personalities? Rely on their own? Is there a formula for achieving the right balance between playing the expert and being the Everyman?

"For me, none of this is playing announcer," says Markas. "It's all me. Otherwise, people wise up to that real quick."

Nonetheless, Markas sounds a little like Dick Enberg (1969-1978, and again in 1985), the greatest Angels broadcaster of them all. That means Markas also sounds like Enberg sound-alike Al Conin (1985-1991), who last we heard was coaching kids-league baseball in South County. Markas maintains a persistent good nature as he describes the action in vivid detail, and his enthusiasm can ignite into excitement appropriately, without exploding into hyperbole.

"I grew up listening to Dick Enberg and Don Drysdale," explains Markas, who was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. "I grew up listening to them describe players like Nolan Ryan, Jim Spencer and Dave Chalk. Those were all my guys. I have that background, that feeling in my head."

Meanwhile, Smith sounds a lot like . . . well . . . like a guy who has been broadcasting minor-league baseball games in central Ohio for 20 years. They called him "The Voice" back in Columbus—where he also did Ohio State football—and anybody with relatives from the Midwest won't doubt it. Smith proceeds through his low-gear analysis of baseball strategy the same painstaking way those folk consider what casserole they'll bring to the church potluck. He still wears his Columbus Clippers championship ring while announcing Angels games—rotates among six of those rings, actually—and he is proud to have been a cog in the Yankees machine. "I was a part of the Yankees tradition of success," he says, "and I thought I might just stay in Columbus forever."

But Smith was suddenly summoned to The Show, and he doesn't try to hide his enthusiasm—it just kind of disguises itself naturally in his voice, which is alternately throaty and nasal, about as musical as a digeridoo and as hard to pinpoint as a cricket.

"I like being at the ballpark. I like coming out early. I like hanging around players," he acknowledges, and his monotone is soaked with sincerity. "You know, I don't think I'm a jock-sniffer. I just feel comfortable in that atmosphere."

There's no doubt about Smith's knowledge of baseball. More important, he's able to translate it through clear diction and coherent sentences—which is more than mumblemouth Ross Porter and basso-buffoondo Rick Monday accomplish during Dodgers broadcasts.

Unfortunately, Smith doesn't mind using the "we" word when announcing the big-league Angels any more than he did when covering the bush-league Clippers. "Whether I'm a player or not, I don't have a big problem with that because I'm an employee of the Anaheim Angels," says Smith. "I don't mind telling you I feel bad when we lose and I feel great when we win."

In other words, Smith fits with the Angels, too—at least, as well as any other guy whose late-career moves might land him in Orange County, who might later send for his wife and kids, buy a house in Mission Viejo, move in right next door, then kind of drive you nuts with a no-frills neighborliness you'd hate yourself for resenting.

Markas, on the other hand, has done most of his personal and professional growing up in Southern California.

"Moving into this job, I probably had it a little easier than Terry," says Markas, "because I have people coming up to me saying, 'Hey! I saw you at City Hall on Good Day LA' or, 'I used to listen to you on KNX all the time'—or going back even further, 'I remember when you delivered pizzas in Canoga Park!' And now they listen to me on Angels games."

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