I met Rory Markas at KNX Radio in Los Angeles in 1989 and by the next year was fortunate enough to have him working for me as my weekend sports anchor and reporter at KCBS-TV downstairs in the same building.
Today, as an old colleague of mine from that time and I wept to each other over the phone about a man we knew well and long but not truly intimately, we tried to figure out exactly why his passing struck us so deeply. It was not just his youth, not just his having finally achieved after years of struggle his dream job.
There was something more. Separately, sports, and broadcasting, are industries full of prima donnas and the thin-skinned and I’ll confess to having been each, often at the same time, often for months on end. And Rory was never thus. Whether he was being sent out by one of us on some dippy sports feature in LA twenty years ago, or he was doing play-by-play in some less-than-heavenly minor league town, Rory just never was that way. His loudest complaint was a knowing smile and an accepting shake of the head.
People like him have not only a great gift, but are themselves a gift to the rest of us.
Rory had been the Angels’ play-by-play man since 2002, and it was always an honor to sit in with him for an inning whenever the team was here in New York or I was in Anaheim. Those who knew his work need not be told about its quality. Those who were not privileged enough to know him personally need to be told about his quality.
One quick update: I am remiss in not emphasizing Rory’s remarkable quick wit. I would often sit with him and Terry Smith for long stretches of games, and usually he’d put me on for a half inning or so, even letting me dabble in play-by-play. I just recounted for a friend something from 2006 or 2007, on the occasion of my first trip to the Angels Stadium booth:
Me: Ball two to Damon, low, outside.
RM: And Molina’s going to the mound.
Me: I notice, my friend, that your booth here is the size of a small Olympic village.
RM: Roomy, yes.
Me: Looks like the Yale Bowl, with microphones.
RM: We call it home.
Me: In fact, this second deck of the press box, this radio-tv gallery of yours – it’s bigger than the entire press box at Yankee Stadium.
RM: The umpires are going out to break up the conference.
Me: You know you could easily convert half this area to private seating and you’d never miss an inch of it.
RM: Thank you, Keith Olbermann, always a pleasure and thank you for never, ever, making any reference to such a thing ever again. Lackey’s ready, Molina crouches and we’re ready for action…
Below is the Angels’ press release: