The baseball world has lost a giant on the microphone, an international icon who spread the game across the globe for six decades. Rafael "Felo" Ramirez, the Hall of Fame Spanish-language radio voice of the Miami Marlins, died Monday night at the age of 94, and the sport mourned the loss. It also celebrated his life.
"He was a good friend of mine and I really adored him because he was so sweet, so gentle and such a great announcer," said Dodgers Spanish broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, a Hall of Famer who served as the translator during Ramirez's Hall of Fame induction in 2001. "People need to know he was a master of baseball broadcasting and a true gentleman. He was extremely well known across the world and one of the most recognizable voices in sports. He was very special and he will be missed."
Ramirez was born in Bayamo, Cuba, and he grew up listening to baseball games on the radio. In 1945, Ramirez's father was convinced his son could be the next great legal mind, but Ramirez's friends convinced him to try out for a job with Radio Salas in Havana.
Gracias por todos los a��os, Felo. Mi sentido p��same a tus familiares y personas que te amaban, que Dios te tenga en la gloria, QEPD #HOF 🇨 pic.twitter.com/1dumtryWlf
Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement: "Felo Ramirez had a decorated career in sports broadcasting and was especially known for his excellence in Baseball. He was part of many historic moments in the game and worked more than 30 All-Star Games and World Series.
"Felo was a pillar of goodwill to all of Latino baseball, covering 40 Caribbean World Series, and a great ambassador for the Marlins throughout their entire history. On behalf of Major League Baseball, we will always remember his many contributions to what is now a proudly global game."
Ramirez was later named the top broadcaster in Cuba in 1945 and reigned as the voice of the island until '61, when he left Cuba following Fidel Castro's revolution.
"He was my mentor, my idol and like a second father to me," said Angels Spanish broadcaster Amaury Pi-Gonzalez, 72, who, like Ramirez, was born in Cuba. "I used to listen to him broadcast the Cuban Winter League games, turn a broomstick upside down and imitate him. I'm heartbroken. I feel like a piece of me is missing today."
RIP Felo Ramirez. Thank you for your contributions to baseball and boxing.
Starting in 1951, Ramirez worked with Eloy "Buck" Canel on NBC's Cabalgata Deportiva Gillette, broadcasting the major sporting events in the world and transmitting them to Latin America. With Canel, he called 31 of the next 32 World Series, missing only the '61 Fall Classic because Castro did not allow him to leave the island. Ramirez soon left Cuba for good on his own.
Together, Canel and Ramirez called Don Larsen's perfect game for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series and Roberto Clemente's 3,000th hit in '72. The duo's call of Hank Aaron's 715th career in home run in '74 was sent to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Ramirez called more than 40 Caribbean Series tournaments.
"I began listening to Felo as a teenager in Ecuador," Jarrin said. "I'd listen to him on the Gillette show calling World Series and boxing matches with Buck Canel late into the night. He was a part of my life for a long time. That's why it was such an honor to be with him in Cooperstown. He deserved it to be in the Hall of Fame."
Canel was named recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award in 1985, becoming the first Spanish broadcaster to be honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Jarrin received the same honor in '98, and Ramirez was named the Ford C. Frick Award winner three years later.
"Felo and Buck's broadcasts made me feel it was possible to be a Major League broadcaster," Rangers Spanish broadcaster Eleno Ornelas said. "I was 8 years old in Juarez, Mexico, telling my father and my friends that I was going to do what Felo does. They thought I was crazy, but he was my inspiration and my idol. My heart hurts for him. It's a great loss."
Ramirez began broadcasting Marlins games during their inaugural season in 1993, and he was active covering the team at home and on the road until he was injured from a fall in Philadelphia in late April.
The Marlins honored him with a bobblehead day on May 28.
"What a terrific, blessed and giving life he had," said Angels broadcaster Jose Mota, who has called games on television and radio in Spanish and English. "To be doing what he loved to do all the way up to the year of his death is truly remarkable and a display of what baseball, the audience, his communities and Latinos meant to him. We were so lucky to have him. What a huge gift our sport had with Felo Ramirez."
Marlins English-language radio broadcaster Dave Van Horne called games a few booths away from Ramirez for 17 years, and though a language barrier prevented the two from speaking directly, they shared a special relationship.
"I will miss seeing him after the wins when he always gave the fist bump, and I will miss seeing him after the losses when he always put his fingers to his nose," Van Horne said, pinching his nose with his thumb and pointer finger.
"He's going to be greatly missed by the Latin American community, by South Florida, by broadcasters everywhere. ... This is a great day of mourning. He was probably the most popular and loved voice on the air throughout Latin America."
Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.