Ross Porter will venture up to the Dodger Stadium broadcast booth Friday afternoon, perhaps sitting in the same spot where he last worked about 8 ½ years ago.
The statistical probably of this happening? It’s likely that only Porter could give you the correct numbers on that.
When his contract was ridiculously not renewed by the Dodgers and then-owner Frank McCourt after the 2004 season, thus ending a 28-year run with the team as its No. 2 TV and radio voice next to Vin Scully and another decade-plus as the “DodgerTalk” post-game host, Porter wasn’t about to just go away to his Calabasas home and become the retiring type.
The 74-year-old has stayed busy on various broadcasting projects and finds himself returning to the stadium today as an employee of Fox Sports West. Executive producer Tom Feuer hired him to call today’s CIF Southern Section Division III title game between Mira Costa and Serra (2 p.m.) as well as the Division II championship between Cypress and Temecula Valley (5 p.m.), both of which will stream on the FoxSportsWest.com Prep Zone online platform.
“I think it’s going to be a really interesting experience,” Porter said Thursday. “I’m just happy to have the opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it.
“You know, I think I still know where to park.”
It’s understandable if Porter didn’t feel Dodger Stadium welcome mat would ever be there for him again after the way the team treated him.
The Dodger management team at the time decided at the time to go in that proverbial “new direction” – that included hiring Charley Steiner to team up with a new analyst for TV road games (turned out to be Steve Lyons), and then hiring Jerry Reuss as an analyst for Rick Monday on the radio. That’s a format that lasted only a few years before the 2009 hiring of Eric Collins for TV (with Lyons) and moving Steiner to radio with Monday, leaving Scully to continue to work alone on TV going into his 64rd season.
Porter took the high road, and says the only other time he’s been compelled to come to Dodger Stadium since his official layoff was in August, 2011. Ann Meyers-Drysdale, the wife of Porter’s former Dodger broadcast mate Don Drysdale, invited him and wife Lin to join them on a night when her daughter, Drew, sang the national anthem.
Porter said he did so as discretely as possible, entering through a back door, staying in the suite given to Drysdale for the night until the sixth inning, and then quietly slipping out.
“I’m sure that was hard for him to do,” Meyers-Drysdale said Thursday.
Feuer may have only been surprised that he didn’t think of hiring Porter sooner.
“What I love about Ross is the gravitas he has brought to all of the high school championship events he has commentated on,” said Feuer. “His professionalism, attention to detail, and of course his great pipes, has elevated the production level of every show he has been a part of to say nothing of the fact that he is a pleasure to work with.”
Doing live high school games was part of Porter’s job at KNBC-Channel 4 back in the 1970s, and he says he continues to “feed off their energy. The fact the kids get on a stage and get exposure, you love to see them hustle, and the coaches are so appreciative.”
Tony Moskal, who’ll work as the analyst for Porter on the two games Friday, as well as partner with Pete Arbogast to call the CIF Division I championship at 8 p.m. between Harvard-Westlake and Marina, grew up in the San Fernando Valley listening to Porter call Dodger games with Scully and Jerry Doggett.
“It’s an honor to be with a legend like him,” said Moskal. “How often does someone like me who’s a sports junkie get to work with someone who basically taught me the game during his broadcasts? He’s a true professional and I hope to learn from him. I’m sure this will be something I’ll remember forever.”
The fact Porter says he is still “eager to work” should be a signal that the Dodgers investigate the possibility of bringing him back in some capacity once they launch this SportsNet L.A. channel next year.
“Here’s someone who has been such an important part of the L.A. community and given so much back,” said Meyers-Drysdale, the Basketball Hall of Famer who remembers how in awe she was of Porter back in the early 1970s when, as a reporter for Channel 4, he came to her home in La Habra to do a story on her brother, future UCLA star David Meyers.
If he can come through the front door in his return to Dodger Stadium this time, why wouldn’t the Dodgers embrace it moving forward?