Rafael “Felo” Ramirez, a Hall of Fame baseball radio broadcaster who was the signature voice for millions of Spanish-speaking fans over three decades, died Aug. 21 in Miami. He was 94.
The Miami Marlins announced his death. in a statement on Tuesday morning. The organization says he died Monday night. Mr. Ramirez fell and struck his head while getting off the Marlins team bus April 26, during a series in Philadelphia. He spent two months in a Delaware hospital before he was brought to Miami.
Mr. Ramirez began his broadcasting career in Cuba in 1945 before calling 31 major league All Star games and World Series in Spanish. He had been the Florida Marlins’ Spanish-language announcer since 1993 and received the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters in 2001.
“Calling baseball games was my passion since I was a child,” Ramirez said in 2001 when he accepted the prestigious Ford C. Frick Award and became the second Spanish-language broadcaster inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Cookie Rojas, a former player and manager in Cuba and the major leagues, once said Mr. Ramirez was admired by sports fans who listened to Spanish-language broadcasts.
“When you hear Felo Ramirez announce a game, you instantly know its Felo Ramirez,” said Rojas, a former Spanish-language television announcer for the Marlins. “His voice is one of the most acceptable and distinguishable around. Felo’s influence on Latin Americans in the United States is undoubtable.”
Mr. Ramirez was known for an expressive, yet low-key style and his signature strike call of “Essstrike.”
Several Spanish-language broadcasters, including Amury Pi-Gonzalez of the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants, have admitted to emulating his style.
Mr. Ramirez’s big break came when he landed a job in 1950 with the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, which introduced him to major league baseball. The Cavalcade broadcast a baseball game of the week and boxing matches in English and Spanish. While Americans were listening to Mel Allen and Red Barber, more than 200 Latin American radio stations carried Mr. Ramirez and his partner, future Hall of Famer Buck Canel.
Mr. Ramirez left Cuba in the early 1960s, after Fidel Castro’s revolution.
When the Yankees’ Don Larsen pitched his perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Mr. Ramirez called the emotional last four innings, describing in Spanish how catcher Yogi Berra jumped into his pitcher’s arms.
Mr. Ramirez was also there the day Roberto Clemente got his 3,000th and final hit.
When Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run in 1974, Ramirez and Canel were broadcasting from the roof of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. That call is enshrined in Cooperstown.
Mr. Ramirez was born in Bayamo, Cuba on June 22, 1923. He played second base on a local team during his teens and, one day during a game, spontaneously began calling plays using a friend’s amplifier and microphone.
He began his radio broadcasting career in Havana in 1945 before moving on to call games for teams in Puerto Rico and Venezuela. He also announced many boxing matches.
When the Florida Marlins began play in 1993, Mr. Ramirez quickly landed the job. Four years later, Mr. Ramirez called the Marlins’ first World Series win.
Tony Perez, a Cuban-born Hall of Fame infielder who is now a special assistant with the Marlins, said he remembers listening with his father as Mr. Ramirez called games in Cuba.
“He never wanted to quit,” Perez said. “He wanted to keep doing games and traveling.”
— Associated Press
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