Berroa a pioneer for Spanish broadcasts
Current Mets announcer finally being recognized for his efforts
NEW YORK -- Nobody appreciates what Billy Berroa has accomplished in his career more than Billy Berroa.
Sons usually admire their fathers, especially when they share the same name. The bond is extraordinarily strong when the father and son work in the same industry -- in this case Spanish broadcasting.
"My father is the most humble man I know, and sometimes that works against him," said Billy Berroa Jr., 42, the current host of a New York baseball radio show in Spanish. "He's been broadcasting games for so long, but he is not recognized the way I think he should be. He doesn't do it for the money because he didn't start making money until lately. He does it because he loves to broadcasts games.
Billy Berroa Sr., 77, is in his third stint broadcasting Mets games in Spanish, and he currently teams with longtime Mets broadcaster Juan Alicea. Together, they form one of the most recognized tandems in the Spanish radio sports broadcasting industry.
"About 10 or 12 years ago, I saw the contributions Latin players were making in baseball and how all of the Dominicans in New York were such a strong part of our fan base," Alicea said. "One of the things we wanted to do was bring the Dominican communities together, and I knew Billy Sr. was the most recognized broadcaster in the Dominican Republic; so, we hired him. He was a guy who followed Juan Marichal all those years."
But Marichal was just one of many Latin ballplayers Berroa Sr. followed.
Berroa Sr.'s first job in radio was reading news on the air in his hometown of San Pedro De Macoris in the Dominican Republic. In the late 1940s, he moved to the capital of Santo Domingo, and by 1951, he was working in sports for a local radio station. He flourished as the No. 1 radio broadcaster for the Winter Leagues in the Dominican Republic, an honor he still holds today, and later as part of the broadcast team that covered the Caribbean World Series.
Working with Radio Universal in 1962, he began recreating Major League games in the Dominican Republic by reading transcripts sent to him from the United States. It was the Dominican Republic's first taste of a Major League Baseball game broadcast in Spanish.
"It was like reading from a newspaper and reproducing," he said. "It was like a fax machine in a way. I got the information and read it like it was a game."
In 1963, Berroa broadcast the first live game in Spanish to the Dominican Republic from Shea Stadium. The first game featured Marichal, the only player from Dominican Republic currently in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and it was a monumental success. Berroa would later join Marichal and the Giants in San Francisco, transmitting live games that would reach the Dominican Republic in the wee hours after midnight.
"Things were different back then," Berroa Sr. said. "We had close relationships with players, and there was a mutual respect. When we visited San Francisco, Marichal would show us the city and take us around. The Alou brothers did the same thing. Those relationships don't exist anymore."
Some things have changed. Others have not. The Mets have been broadcasting games in Spanish in some form since the 1960s. In those days, the club sold their rights or partnered with a third party to send games to Latin America and over the airwaves locally. The club currently maintains the broadcasting rights and has control of some inventory on the air.
"I felt that the Spanish broadcast was the way to communicate to the masses," Alicea said. "It is a bridge to the Hispanic community in general. I checked how the Dodgers did it in New York and in Los Angeles. They did a lot of community outreach, and through the broadcast, were able to expand for the masses."
Alicea's ties to the community run deep. He was born in Puerto Rico but raised in the neighborhoods of New York City. He was originally hired as a scout in 1969 and later worked as a member of the community relations and broadcasting departments. He has worked games in Spanish for the Mets since 1982 and also coordinates the Secondary Audio Programming (SAP) broadcasts. The Mets broadcast games in Spanish regularly, and although the duo makes an occasional trip, they do not travel for the most part.
"Here in New York City, Florida and LA are the major Hispanic markets, and to reach the Hispanic community is something we all strive for," Alicea said. "The time for us as Hispanics is right now. We are now getting paid back for all of the years of hard work. We have major sponsorships."
The rewards are also personal. In 1999, the elder Berroa was elected to the Dominican Republic's Sports Hall of Fame. In 2000, the father and son team shared the Spanish radio booth at Shea Stadium and called a game between the Mets and the Phillies.
"It was a dream come true," Berroa Jr. said. "My mother cried that day. She made me send a letter to both teams thanking them. I thanked Dad."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.