Rex Hudler: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Angels
With child-like enthusiasm, he greets his listeners.
“Halo, Angels fans!”
His infectious excitement bubbling over, color commentator Rex Hudler weaves together a pleasant salutation with the nickname for his beloved Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
But he is not one to fancy himself a clever linguist.
In fact, his penchant for self-deprecation, along with an endless supply of cringe-worthy lines like “from his nose to his toes, that's how Vlad goes,” only serve to make Hudler the most lovable sports figure in Southern California.
Rex “The Wonder Dog” Hudler began his professional baseball career in 1978 as a highly touted, and well-paid, 18-year-old second baseman signed right out of high school by the New York Yankees.
It's probably best he went into the game so young because, as Hudler likes to say, he'd never have made it in college.
Unfortunately, he didn't make it with the Yankees either. Hudler spent 21 years in professional baseball bouncing back and forth between the Majors and Minors, and had stints with 18 different clubs, including the Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, and California Angels.
In 1993, Hudler even found time to win a Japan Series Championship with the Yakult Swallows.
But despite never sticking with one organization for more than three years, when his career ended in the summer of '98 with Philadelphia, Hudler returned to the Angels as the enthusiastic new member of the broadcast team.
Now in his 11th season behind the mic, the Wonder Dog hasn't calmed down a bit. And the fans love him for it.
Whether it's his hilarious stories about “riding the pine for nine” in the big leagues (Hudler's term for being a bench-warmer during his career), or his overflowing excitement for the game right in front of him, Hudler connects with his fans.
We feel like he is one of us, and he clearly feels the same way. In between innings, and occasionally during, you can usually find him waving to fans and signing autographs for kids.
During an Angels home game earlier this season, Hudler joined a little girl in the stands who had brought a sign asking him to sit with her. There was no sense of ego or entitlement involved, it's just who he is.
He is also a butcher of the English language, which would seem to be a detriment for a broadcaster. Yet somehow, it only makes him all the more endearing.
Around my house, our favorite in-season game to play is “What did Rex say this time?” During a pre-game radio interview last year, Hudler was hyping the Angels' chances of winning a World Series by dismissing certain baseball experts, saying “they can go ahead and make all their...prognacations.”
I believe I won that round.
He's a little like Yogi Berra in that you know what he's trying to say, it just doesn't always come out so smooth. And when he gets on a topic like the Angels in the postseason, watch out.
Hudler's liable to kill someone with how fast he talks when he's excited.
But it isn't so much that he is a blatant homer as he is a passionate fan of the game.
Guys like Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson and Steve Stone, the voices of the Chicago White Sox television crew, are an embarrassment with their rehearsed home run calls and cheer-leading from the booth. They actually make the game uncomfortable to watch.
Hudler, on the other hand, is like a little boy at his very first game. He jumps out of his chair when he sees a deep fly ball, his headphones ripping right off his head, and often steps on the play-by-play man's calls because he just can't contain himself.
He, essentially, is us. Hudler is a fan, an under-medicated ADD kid who actually has to grip a baseball throughout the broadcast to keep himself focused.
Always the first to mock his career, his broadcast style, and his hair transplants, Hudler is simultaneously the Angels' weakest talent and greatest asset in terms of bringing the game to the fans.
Just as the Cubs did with Harry Caray and the Tigers with Ernie Harwell, when his run in the booth is over, Huddler will undoubtedly be immortalized with a statue at The Big A, a mic in one hand, a baseball in the other, and a boyish grin across his face.
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