LOS ANGELES — Depending on the timing of the swing that produced No. 700, Albert Pujols wasn’t going to be the only one making a historic exclamation as his homer leaves the ballpark.
Pujols sped toward the milestone Friday night with two home runs in his first three at-bats to reach career homer No. 700 at Dodger Stadium, where he called home last season. It’s a fitting stage for a fitting flourish to his career, and it had the chance of being narrated by one of the all-time legends who is also in his final season. Jaime Jarrin, a Hall of Famer and the longest-tenured broadcaster in Major League Baseball, announced he will retire at the end of this season after 64 years in the booth. He will be on the call all weekend, the penultimate weekend of the regular season, for the Dodgers’ Spanish-language broadcast, and he was set to call the third inning, when Pujols hit No. 699.
Pujols is the first Latin player to reach 700, and Jarrin’s voice will be part of that history.
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“I hope so. I hope so, yes,” Jarrin said Friday night before the game but after talking with Pujols during batting practice. “Another line in my record, and it would be fantastic. I have done three perfect games and I have done so many things. This would be very special because he is Albert Pujols. Because the celebration in Latin America will be fantastic. It will be great for baseball. I think 700 will mean a lot – a lot for baseball, a lot for Latin Americans, no question.”
The Dodgers welcomed Pujols back by honoring the three-time MVP and teammate Yadier Molina before the game.
Before presenting them golf bags embroidered with their team logos – Molina’s only had the Cardinals – the Cardinals played a video tribute to both players. The segment for Pujols’ included interviews with former Dodger teammates and one bold prediction. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he had a vision of Pujols hitting No. 700 off LA lefty Julio Urias.
“Don’t tell Julio,” Roberts said in the message broadcast on the scoreboard.
After receiving the golf bags from two former teammates, Pujols seized a microphone and spoke to the crowd at Dodger Stadium.
Unceremoniously released by the Angels early in the 2021 season, Pujols signed with the Dodgers, who needed a right-handed batter and hoped he’d embrace a far different role than the fulcrum of an offense. Pujols amplified a winning clubhouse, and that winning clubhouse revitalized the veteran star. In his comments to the fans, Pujols said being a Dodger “brought back the joy” he first felt as a 5-year-old playing baseball, and he thanked them for that.
“I thought about retirement (in 2021),” Pujols said earlier in the day.
But being a part of the Dodgers’ division title run changed his mind and inspired his wish to return to St. Louis.
“I do feel like there’s an openness to enjoying the moment and taking in what’s going on in his last run. That is real,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “But I think the way he was welcomed and everything that took place in that All-Star week (at LA in July) was meaningful. I feel like he was rejuvenated by it, honestly. … He came back on a tear.”
Jarrin saw and broadcast Pujols’ turn with the Dodgers, and got a chance to know him better away from describing his at-bats. Jarrin invited Pujols to visit hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children who were being sheltered in nearby Long Beach, California. Pujols eagerly accepted and Jarrin described Friday how he saw the All-Star lift those children, both physically and emotionally.
“I am very fond of him because you see he is a good person,” said Jarrin, who has been calling Dodgers games since 1959. “He came here last year and he really became a very, very, very liked ballplayer. People fell in love with again. They didn’t expect much of him, but he had a good season, a solid season, and he established himself again with the Dodgers.”
Already the all-time leader in hits, RBIs, and homers by a player born outside the United States, Pujols is also the leader in homers for Latin players and first in the 700-homer club.
His 699th and 700th homers came on the 66th anniversary of Ozzie Virgil’s major-league debut as the first player from the Dominican Republic in the majors. Virgil started for the Giants on Sept. 23, 1956.
The only local call of Pujols’ historic homers came on KMOX/1120 AM with John Rooney narrating the at-bat and Dan McLaughlin taking part. The Cardinals’ television broadcast did not have the game because of Major League Baseball’s rights deal with Apple TV, which did stream the game. The Cardinals elected not to travel their Spanish-language radio broadcast team for any of the road trip so the team will not have that audio for history.
That call belonged then to the Dodgers’ Spanish-language broadcast.
Jarrin usually calls the first three innings of games and then the final three innings of games. Before the game and the homers happened, he already knew what the soundtrack would be.
“People will go crazy if he hits 700 here,” Jarrin said. “If he hits 700 here, people will go wild. They will celebrate, even though it is against the Dodgers.”
Still room for Cabrera?
The Cardinals’ bullpen currently has two former members of its rotation – Dakota Hudson and Steven Matz – exploring new roles for the team as October approaches, and then there’s the former member of the bullpen making his bid, but from Class AAA Memphis.
Genesis Cabrera has made three consecutive scoreless appearances for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate. He’s struck out four in 3 1/3 innings, and he has not allowed a hit or a run since being blistered for three runs on five hits on Sept. 11. Marmol remains in regular contact with the lefty, articulating what he has to do to return to the majors and the prominent, late-inning lefty role he had in the first half of the season.
Even though others have that job, Cabrera could yet seize it.
“He’s definitely in the mix. No doubt about it,” Marmol said. “At the end of the day, if we feel like in a high-stakes environment he’s going to be able to hold his own better than someone else, then he’s on the club.”
Molina gets another day
Molina remained out of the lineup for a third consecutive day Friday, but he will appear in the series against the Dodgers at least once, Marmol said. (Adam Wainwright, for example, is the announced starter for Sunday afternoon’s game.) Marmol agreed with the description that the Cardinals are taking a “proactive” approach this week to avoid wear and soreness on their 40-year-old catcher. The team is especially aware of giving Molina a break that could alleviate pain and swelling in the knee – the injury that put him on the injured list earlier this season.
Arenado superlatives, etc.
Nolan Arenado entered Friday’s game one double play shy of tying the franchise record for a third baseman. Ken Boyer, whose number is retired by the club, participated in 41 double plays in 1958. Arenado’s 40 this season are four shy of his career best (2018) and five shy of the National League of 45, which has been done twice. … With another home run and two RBIs, Arenado will have his seventh season with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs. There are only three peers who have four such seasons in that same span. Pujols has the record with 10 such seasons, which he had consecutive to open his career with the Cardinals. … The Cardinals are 48-9 when hitting at least two home runs in a game. That .842 winning percentage is the best in the NL.