Joe Davidson

Hometown Report: Len Frizzi, voice of area high school sports, remembered by family, friends

Len Frizzi

Len Frizzi loved life.

He appreciated simple things: a good ballgame, a newspaper, a microphone, funny material to roast all comers. And he especially savored family, friends and a festive feast.

A regional treasure for more than 50 years as a public address announcer, scorekeeper and local prep sports historian, , Frizzi died Monday morning after a long illness. He was 87.

Frizzi, who championed all prep sports, primarily announced baseball and football games, not for the small stipend but for the joy of being a part of the competition – and, as he often joked, just to hear his own voice. Frizzi was in his element in the press box and behind a microphone, holding court, surrounded by admiring fans waiting for the next punch line or story.

Frizzi chronicled the efforts of dozens of schools, his favorite being Mira Loma. He taught social studies and headed the campus newspaper from 1960 until his retirement in 1988. The baseball field at Mira Loma bears his name. His booming, baritone voice lives on, say those who knew Frizzi best.

“He was ready to go, and he had his run, a great run, and we know he’s in a better place,” said Frizzi’s youngest son, Mark. “What a character Dad was. He loved people, and he loved a good party, and he loved being the life of the party.”

Frizzi was an expert storyteller, always lacing his tales with humor. He told me during a 2010 prep baseball playoff rainout that this was no deluge to chronicle.

“Last time it was this wet at this time of year,” Frizzi said then, as I braced for a punch line, “was May 30, 1948. I was a student at San Jose State, just met Nellis (his wife), and we came here to watch the Sacramento Solons on Riverside and Broadway. Rained out. But still had a heck of a date.”

Peering down from a scaffold years later, hanging on for dear life amid gusty winds, Frizzi said the first game he called on a PA system was a football matchup between San Juan and Nevada City in 1950. Even in his late 70s, Frizzi handed out programs at Sac-Joaquin Section football playoff games, rain cascading off a faded old Mira Loma cap. His dedication resonated through the decades, so much so that the first person Pete Saco wanted inducted into the Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 2010 was Frizzi.

Saco, now retired as the section commissioner, called from Europe while on vacation to talk about the man best known as “Frizz.”

“Len was the godfather of the section,” Saco said. “He’s the most loved individual I’ve ever known. There was no one better. Amazing memory. He reminded me once that I umpired a 1981 baseball game and how I missed calls. Only Len! A sad, sad loss. He’s the one guy we can never replace or forget.”

Frizzi’s personality and wit were showcased at the countless sports banquets he emceed. He once introduced Grant football coach Mike Alberghini at a luncheon by saying: “I had Mike in history (at Mira Loma). He couldn’t remember who won World War II, but he could tell you who won the Heisman Trophy in 1942.”

Said Alberghini on Monday upon hearing of Frizzi’s death: “What a good man. We had a long history together, a lot of fun. Len took every little job he had and made it his own personal project because he cared that much. He loved this community and high school sports. It’s a tremendous loss.”

Andy Beal, the founder and president of the website MaxPreps based in Cameron Park, met Frizzi as he was trying to get his Internet business off the ground in the early 2000s. MaxPreps is now the nation’s leading authority on prep statistics, standings, rosters and photos.

“He had a profound impact on my life and on my business,” Beal said. “Without the (high school) connections Len provided to me, I have doubts that MaxPreps would be what it is today. I am sad for his family’s loss and grateful for his life.”

The official scorekeeper for the section Division I baseball playoffs for 45 years, Frizzi announced the efforts of eventual major leaguers, including Bob Forsch of Johnson, Steve Sax of James Marshall, Chris Bosio of Cordova, J.P. Howell of Jesuit, Butch Edge and Derrek Lee of El Camino and Tony Torcato and Dustin Pedroia of Woodland.

Frizzi also announced games of the great Cordova baseball teams of the 1970s and ’80s coached by Guy Anderson, whom he became close to and traveled with.

“Lenny was one of the great ones,” Anderson said while vacationing in Napa. “He’s an icon, the best. He really lived life. And that man knew every good eating spot in Northern California. We stopped at all of them.”

Frizzi’s greatest joy behind a microphone was calling out the names of his five sons for Mira Loma baseball playoff games: Mike in 1968, Tom in ’72, Brian in ’75, Chris in ’77 and Mark in ’91. Daughter Gail, Frizzi once reminded, “is the best-looking and the best athlete of all of them.”

The love of Frizzi’s life was Nellis. They were married 65 years. She died after an illness in 2012. Frizzi told me last summer: “I miss her every single day. She laughed at all of my jokes, even the bad ones.”

Funeral services are pending.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee