For the last paragraph in the last chapter of his new book, “Being Ted Williams: Growing Up With A Baseball Idol,” esteemed sports broadcaster and poet Dick Enberg wrote:
“This year, the centennial of Ted Williams, will also see the 30th birthday of the first son Barbara and I welcomed into this world. His name is Ted Enberg.”
After a couple hundred pages of explaining his admiration and connection to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer, this was Dick Enberg’s big reveal: He revered Ted Williams so much that he named his sixth and final child after him.
Ted Enberg picks up the story from here:
“From what I’ve heard from my parents, there was never a question in Dad’s mind that, once they knew they were having a boy, that my name would be Ted. Mom says that it wasn’t even up for discussion. I’m certainly proud to share a first name after Ted Williams and a last name after Dick Enberg. But, there was a little pressure put on me with both names.
“I got the draft copy of ‘Being Ted Williams’ shortly after my Dad had passed away and I sat down and read the book cover to cover in a day. In regards to the last page, I was shocked to discover that I was even in the book. My Dad never mentioned anything to me about it.
“When I got to that part, I was blanketing the pages with tears. It was so powerful and so kind. I just hope to make him proud.”
This first Father’s Day without his Dad will no doubt bring more powerful moments of reflection for Ted Enberg, who turned 30 on March 14, less than three months after Dick Enberg’s passing on Dec. 21 at his home in La Jolla, Calif., which came just a couple weeks shy of his 83rd birthday.
On that December morning, Ted flew into San Diego and was going to surprise his dad with a visit. As Ted landed and was still seated in the plane, his mother, Barbara, waiting in Boston for Dick to arrive on a scheduled flight, called to tell him the news.
“It’s all surreal,” Ted recalled. “It was the worst moment of my life. He had all these plans. He just filled out his 2018 calendar.”
The relationship between Dick and Ted evolved into much more over the last few years. Ted decided to give sports broadcasting a try, making Dick his obvious mentor, biggest supporter and someone to pass on his secrets of success. Over the course of his 60-year Emmy Award-winning broadcasting career, Enberg had three children with his first wife Jeri – two boys and a girl. He had two daughters with his second wife Barbara before the arrival of Ted – the only one of the six who showed an interest in finding a career in the sports business.
Ted, who lives with his fiancé Sara in Palo Alto, Calif. – their wedding is scheduled for this September — has been doing play-by-play assignments for Stanford University. He parlayed that into picking up games at the nearby Pac 12 Network. Just this spring he landed his first assignment, softball, for ESPN.
Ted Enberg explains more about his dad’s book – a fine Father’s Day gift unto itself – and the ways he wants to remember his dad.
Q: You father didn’t like the word “retirement” and had all these things that he wanted to do once he decided his five-year run doing games for the San Diego Padres was enough – start a podcast, get back into teaching, continue showings of his play. He told us that getting this book written and published was just one of them. Why do you think it was important for him to do this book?
A: Retirement didn’t slow Dad down at all. He was looking forward to an induction in the Boxing Hall of Fame. He had going to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown this summer on his calendar and he would have been thrilled to know that Trevor Hoffman will be inducted this year. Dad also continued to look for producers and theaters for the performance of the play he had written about his friend and colleague, Coach Al McGuire.
But the book on Williams was a special passion project that he was actively working on. Dad was very much a kid at heart when he talked about Ted Williams. I think early childhood memories surfaced for him while he was writing this book. He always felt it was so important for young people to have heroes. The heroes may not be perfect, but he felt that having heroes gave kids permission to dream big. The formula worked for him as a young Midwestern farm kid; and he wanted to pass it on to others.
Q: There’s a headline of a story about you in the San Diego Union-Tribune recently that reads, “I couldn’t have asked for a better father.” What’s behind a statement like that? What validates that kind of thought?
A: Life with a dad like Dick Enberg meant growing up going to the French Open and Wimbledon during summer vacation each year. Those times were very special. Dad gave me opportunities to attend many professional sports events, including the Olympics. As a kid, it wasn’t always easy having him gone so much. But when Dad was home, he provided the best coaching advice on baseball, tennis, soccer or whatever sport I was playing at the time. He loved goofy puns and recited them often — usually to the grimaces of me and my sisters. He would do play-by-play calls around the house while we were doing something ordinary like feeding the dog or pouring a glass of milk. And sometimes he even threw in an ‘Oh, my!’ In the past few years he had spent a lot of time reviewing my early tapes and giving me career advice.
Q: There was that day in late September, 2016, when you got to join your dad in the Petco Park broadcast booth to call an inning with him. It was his final Padres’ home game. What lingering images or memories do you have of that?
A: I was nervous about it. When I found out that it was going to happen I don’t think I slept leading up to it. I felt like I was going to throw up. It was on live TV… Dodgers and Padres and here I am sitting next to my Dad calling a big league game. It was unreal. The San Diego Padres and Fox Sports were the ones who reached out to me so I’m so grateful to them that they set that up for my Dad.
Q: Among the things you’ve picked up for your dad is the production of a podcast called “Sound of Success” for PodcastOne. He was able to record six episodes before his passing, and you’ve made sure it continues by adding to that. Is the podcast one of the great platforms that you can do to channel his enthusiasm and energy?
A: Lately, I’ve been watching and listening to as many of Dad’s sports videos as I can. There is over 50 years of archival materials in his library. I can’t view some of it without taking it to an A/V studio because he doesn’t just have DVDs — over the years, the broadcasts were formatted on VCR, Beta, three-quarter inch tape, two-inch tape, audio reel to reel … It’s been a challenge getting things moved over to a hard drive. I’ve been enjoying the viewing, but it takes a lot of time. In regards to the podcast, we had previously recorded episodes with my Dad and guests that I wanted to make sure came out onto the airwaves. He has some unbelievable recordings that will be coming out every Thursday on the podcast.
Getting these episodes done wasn’t going to happen unless I really got on board and continued them. It’s a huge honor. PodcastOne believed in me and wanted to see it continue. He put so much time into it, and now I can see that. I didn’t want it to go away and be forgotten. There were some great interviews done, from athletes to billionaires to coaches – about how all of them found their success. The common thread that keeps popping up in all of them is that they’ve given back and been of service to others in some way.
Q: What has the Enberg name meant to you, pros and maybe cons, in working in the sports broadcast industry?
A: As the son of Dick Enberg, the sportscasting bar was always very high for me. From a very early age, I was constantly asked if I wanted to be a sportscaster. For many years, I wasn’t sure I wanted to take on the challenge. Eventually, I realized this was something I needed to try. But I had to prove myself before Dad would offer me any help. He wanted to wait and make sure I was totally committed to this career. Eventually, he saw that I was serious and he started encouraging me more. He mentored me over the past couple of years, before his passing. I’m so grateful to have had that very special time with him. I am new at broadcasting only three years in. I know there are heavy expectations and I am working hard every day to earn the name.
The Enberg name is very intimidating but in a good way. In sports broadcasting, when I think of Enberg, I think of my Dad and anything positive you could ever hope to achieve on a professional level. On a personal level it means never give up and work hard. The Enberg name in sports represents excellence. The con for it is that excellence is expected from me right out of the gate. That I will be perfect and not make mistakes. I realize I have to learn and grow and that is part of the journey, learn and grow from the mistakes and failures but don’t dwell on the successes because you are only as good as your last broadcast.
Q: So why did you pick this career, or did it eventually pick you?
A: I always knew I wanted to do something in the field of sports, but I wasn’t really sure what that would be. Previously, I had worked in sales for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and for DC United soccer. Various family friends had been encouraging me to follow in my Dad’s footsteps…..and finally, as an adult, I started to think about it. As I started thinking about it out loud to my girlfriend, Sara, she finally said: ‘Stop talking about it and just go offer your play-by-play services for free to the high school football team across the street.’ She promised that if I tried it once, she wouldn’t keep asking me again. We were living in DC at the time. So I went over to the school and asked them if they would try me out calling a football game. After one broadcast, I knew I was hooked.
Last month I got my first assignment for ESPN – the NCAA regional softball games in Eugene, Ore. It was seven games in about 72 hours. Very intense. Doing a doubleheader on a weekend is one thing, but …At Stanford, I’m doing women’s swimming with Katie Ledecky one day, a water polo match the next, soccer and baseball and basketball …they’ve been so good to me.
My two older brothers were more musically inclined, so dad gave up on encouraging them to go into broadcasting. My sisters work in marketing and public relations, married with young children, so that keeps them very busy. Christmas vacations are the one time we can all get together for some sports activities: Tennis, hiking, ping pong, swimming or a run on the beach. My entire extended family loves an active lifestyle and we can all get pretty competitive.
Q: The most memorable advice he gave you in a critique about how you did a game?
A: “Don’t get in the way of the game.” And you can never be over prepared for a broadcast.
Q: What are your Father’s Day plans?
A: I’m sure I will be spending Father’s Day continuing preparations for the Sound of Success podcast and keeping up with a lot of sports events. I know my Dad would be smiling down, knowing that I was working on my sports career.
Ted Enberg calling softball on ESPN: