Friday, January 8, 2010

Interview conducted by David Saltzer - Senior Columnist

In the early hours of January 5, 2010, the Angels family suffered another loss with the passing of veteran announcer Rory Markas. Known to Angels fans for closing out every Angels’ win with “Just another Halos victory” and forever associated with the team for his call at the end of Game 7 of the 2002 World Series “Here’s the pitch to Lofton. Fly ball centerfield. Erstad says he’s got it . . . Erstad makes the catch! The Anaheim Angels are the champions of baseball!” Rory was a beloved announcer for the team. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Steve Physioc, one of Rory’s good friends and colleagues to find out more about Rory Markas, the man. On behalf of everyone at, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today. We know that it is a tough thing for you to do, but very much appreciate your comments. How are you today? Are you still numb from the loss?

Steve Physioc: I was absolutely shocked because I had just seen Rory just a couple of weeks earlier and I don’t think he ever looked better. He was thinner. The color in his face was terrific. He had such great spirit. He said that he was “feeling great”. I can’t understand it. Obviously Southern California lost a great voice, and a great, great person. He was a joy to be around. He never had a bad word to say about anybody. He was a real earnest friend. Last night you covered the USC game for Rory. What was it like filling in for your friend?

Steve Physioc: Well, one of the beautiful things about doing the USC game last night was we dedicated the broadcast to Rory for the rest of the season. I only did that one game because USC asked me to do that game and I’m doing so many PAC-10 games this year that it makes it almost impossible because usually when USC plays I’m doing a game somewhere else. But, I was very glad to do that and also very glad to work with one of Rory’s best friends Jim Hefner. They worked together for 13 years doing USC Basketball. Just to be able to share stories of our adventures with Rory through the years. My years with him with the Angels—whether it was sharing dinner or lunch, or sitting in the airplane and talking history or politics or baseball or basketball, it really didn’t matter. He just was a good guy. And that was the same thing that Jim Hefner was talking about last night during the USC-Stanford game. Rory was just one of those loyal friends that as I said earlier didn’t have a bad thing to say about anybody. You wanted a Rory Markas as your friend. That was one of the joys of working with him. What was it like working with Rory for 8 years?

Steve Physioc: Our working relationship was pretty consistent because whether he was doing radio or I was doing radio we always had each other on for pre-game shows because we had a segment with the broadcasters. Whether it was Mark Gubicza, Rex Hudler, Terry Smith, Jose Mota, or myself, we would come into each other’s booth and share information. Or, if Rory were having a pre-game show, he would invite myself and Rex Hudler and have a segment to talk baseball. We’d talk whether the Yankees were in town. We’d talk about who was the best hitter in baseball. Who has the best curveball? And so we’d talk those stories on the air. When I was doing radio, I’d do the same thing. I’d ask Rory to join me, and he might come in with Jose Mota and we would have a little round table discussion about the game of baseball. It’s those moments that I really enjoyed.

To be quite honest with you, it was the time away from the game. I think I’ve shared with several people his love of history. And he had a great affection for former President Jimmy Carter. When we were in Atlanta for inter-league play a few years ago, Rory was invited because the individual who was putting together the leadership conference knew that Rory was going to be in town and knew of his love of Jimmy Carter. So, he got this phone call saying “Hey, Rory, we would love to have you join us for this council/luncheon that former President Carter was having.” And oh my gosh, Rory was just delighted! That evening, when we ate together in the media lunch room, his face was all lit up. And he goes “Phys, I have got to show you these pictures.” And it was pictures of him with former President Carter together and shaking hands. And he told me what some of the questions were because obviously Jimmy Carter is a big baseball fan and had questions about the Angels. He was just so tickled to share that experience and I was glad to be part of it because I am a big fan of former President Carter myself. It was just wonderful to be able to share it with Rory. Did you know Rory prior to him coming to the Angels?

Steve Physioc: Just a little bit. You know, when I would do an ESPN game and he was doing the Milwaukee Brewers, or different events along the way. But not nearly as much as I had when we shared our time with the Angels because we were travelling together. When you are on the airplane or having a dinner or a glass of wine after a ballgame, those are the times that you really have an opportunity to share. Are there any good stories that you can share?

Steve Physioc: He had the quickest wit, and it was a very dry wit. We might all be in conversation being silly on the airplane, and then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Rory would have the absolute perfect comment about the situation, and we would all break up. It was just perfect. He had a very educated, dry sense of humor. What advice did you give him when he started with the Angels?

Steve Physioc: Oh, I didn’t give him any advice. He was already a tremendous broadcaster at that time with experience with the Brewers, the Clippers, the PCL teams. There was no advice given by me. We’re both the same age and he was already a veteran, so I was ready to help him get going.

I think it was more sharing our baseball experience and growing up. I grew up in the state of Kansas and he grew up in Southern California. But we both shared the same kinds of experiences being out on a fall afternoon listening to a college football game or a summer afternoon and he would be listening to Vin Scully to the Dodgers games and I would be listening to Fred White to the Kansas City Royals games. It was our love of the game and of story-telling. Those that made us the fans that we obviously became. And who were the voices that we listened to growing up. For me, it was the voices from the mid-west. For Rory, it was the voices of Southern California, Mr. Scully, Mr. Hearn, and Mr. Miller—three Hall of Famers. Can you tell us more about Rory’s public appearances on behalf of the Angels?

Steve Physioc: Well, I think all of us are. And thankfully, whatever the Angels ask us to do we’re there because the Angels have a wonderful baseball foundation. And then of course, Mike Scioscia has his youth baseball program up in that Thousand Oaks area. Rory lived far away—he lived in Palmdale, he would come down and he would be a part of that program every single year. Rory took great delight and wanted to be there every single year. I think Mike always appreciated that greatly. Rory may probably be most remembered by Angels fan for his call at the end of Game 7. What is your greatest memory of Rory in the broadcast booth?

Steve Physioc: Here is my greatest memory, and it is not that call because I was there at the ballgame. And I don’t say that out of disrespect, I say that out of respect because I’ll tell you, the story is Game 6. While he was doing Game 6, Game 6 was the only game I missed and that’s because I was doing the UCLA game against Colorado State for Fox Sports Net. On the drive back, the Angels were trailing 5 to 0. And I said to myself, “You know what? I don’t want to watch the Giants celebrate on our field. So, I’m going to get into the car, and just in case we come back, I’m going to drive the stadium right now and hopefully we’ll come back.”

Well, there was a horrible traffic jam on Interstate-5, and I have no idea if there was an accident or what it was. So, I had plenty of time to get to the stadium, but I never made it. I was at Valley View or almost to the 91 when the game ended. All I can tell you was that during that jam, I was listening to Rory and his description of the Angels’ comeback was so compelling that I had tingles going up and down my spine. Every time someone hit a homerun, lights started flashing and horns started blaring because people were on the interstate listening to Rory Markas describe the action. And then Erstad hits the homerun to make it 5-4. Glaus hits the double to give the Angels the incredible come from behind victory.

The next day, on Game 7, I did have a chance to go, and I went right to that radio booth and I said “Rory, I want you to know that I rarely get to listen to you (because we’re usually working at the same time), but you were fantastic last night! It was such a joy to listen to you in the car.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the game to watch that incredible comeback, but I said “I pictured it in my mind listening to you.” And that is my greatest memory of listening to Rory Markas broadcast Angels baseball. This past year has been a year with a lot of loss for the Angels’ family. It started off last year at this time with the passing of Preston Gomez, then Nick Adenhart, and now Rory Markas. The Angels brought in some counselors to help with the loss of Adenhart. Did they give you some advice that you could share that might help with the loss of Rory?

Steve Physioc: You know, I am very strong in my faith and what I do is every single morning I go and have my prayer time. And that’s the way I get my compass needle the way I look at it back to North, back to G-d. And so, in these times of crisis, whether it was Nick Adenhart or Rory Markas, I start my day in prayer. That’s the only way that I can get through these times—through that understanding that knowing that we have a blessing of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in these kinds of situations. It has worked incredibly well in my life at a time of suffering when we lose a loved one, a friend, a family member. I’ve lost my dad. The only way I was able to get through those with any kind of understanding was because of my faith. And that is what I am using at this time to get to the understanding of a Nick Adenhart or a Rory Markas passing. I’ve been praying not only for Rory, but also for his mom, his brothers that he left and his girlfriend because they are the ones who are really doing the grieving. I feel so badly for them. Is there anything you can think of that Angels fans can do to help them at this time?

Steve Physioc: You know, I don’t know. I have not heard of a service yet. But, there might be a way to go to the Angels Baseball Foundation and donate in that. Or maybe Rory has a foundation that he has donated to in the past. But, I’m not aware of that information right now. I do know that all of us support the Angels Baseball Foundation because that is a tremendous cause and it has helped so many young people out. Once again, on behalf of, thank you for taking the time to speak with us under these tragic circumstances.

Steve Physioc: You bet. Thank you for calling.

phyzrory.jpg picture by chuckster70

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