Many South Pasadenans, especially Dodger fans, have read Mark Langill’s insightful articles on all things Dodgers. He is, after all, the Team Historian for the Dodgers, a role Langill didn’t know could exist as a 6 year old super fan back in the day. But many don’t realize Langill is one of our own, not only born and raised here- SPHS ’83 grad- but still living here, blocks from where he grew up.
Langill was born in South Pasadena on Opening Day of Dodger baseball in 1965, a game against the Mets which Dodgers lost 3-2. This is indeed a fact and one that Langill, who has an exceptional memory for all things baseball, will recall whenever asked when he was born. “For a while I thought I was a National Anthem baby because I was born at 6:59 p.m. at Huntington, which is about when the anthem is played,” says Langill, “but turns out the game started at about 8 o’clock back then so I was just a batting practice baby.” On his rather idyllic 1960’s-‘70’s childhood in South Pasadena he reminisces, “it was just a very blessed childhood in terms of finding something that was of great interest to me and I went to my very first game when I was seven. I remember the enormity of the stadium and just thinking it was the greatest place in the world and it turned out I was right, but not for the reasons I thought. I thought ‘oh if I worked there I could get autographs and all this free food’, but what I realized as an adult was what a great place it is as a meeting place; people can go to a ballgame at different stages of their lives and still enjoy it just as much.”
Langill says he was actually a dreadful player and knew by age seven that he wasn’t going to be a player but explains that he felt like he had parallel lives; one where he enjoyed just being a kid going to our great South Pas schools, having the support of teachers, playing Little League, and this other, big world of major league baseball when he went to the Dodger games. When people ask him how he became the team historian he responds, “don’t hit the ball in Little League and you’re well on your way!” He says he knew everything about the game from reading Sports Illustrated, sports news and baseball books (the first of which he purchased for a dollar at our very own public library bookstore) never realizing that maybe that wasn’t something that most kids did at such a young age. He credits our library reading club for igniting his passion for reading and remembers being fascinated by “this team from Brooklyn”. Of course he never dreamed he would one day work with these famous people and interact with them.
The writing started on our own Tiger Newspaper where Langill was invited to write about sports when his English teacher, Mr. Dalton, noticed him not only bringing the sports page to class every day but even sneaking a transistor radio in his sweatshirt to listen to a playoff game! During his time with Tiger, he also freelanced with local newspapers including Pasadena Star News reporting the scores roundup of all the local high schools, often working until midnight. At Cal State Northridge, Langill landed an internship with the LA Times reporting sports for the San Fernando Valley while still reporting on the weekends at Star News. After graduating, he was hired full time at Star News where he was put on the Dodger beat in one year. Langill says “I was just lucky to have gotten such an early start by a series of fortunate events, none of which was planned.”
He came to his job with the Dodgers in 1994 after being passed up a couple of years before. When Tommy Hawkins, the former Lakers player who was VP of communications, told Mark “we had a guy who left after two seasons, how do I know that wouldn’t happen with you?” Mark coolly replied, “well if you’d hired me in the first place, you wouldn’t have this problem.” Hawkins laughed but appreciated the chutzpah and, 25 years later, the two men still laugh about it. Langill became publications editor for the team which eventually evolved into incorporating the designated title of team historian, which no other major league team has.
Langill explains that baseball is something you can talk about with people, “you could talk about it at school and wonder what was going to happen and even today, the team is doing so well but we don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s the beauty of sports.” He goes on to marvel at this incredible summer the Dodgers are having, “I mean, here we are merrily rolling along and the team is in first place with an 83-34 record, 17 ½ games ahead of Arizona and Colorado in the National League West. The Dodgers currently have the best home record in the Majors, 49-14. It’s exciting, and still, no one knows what’s going to happen.”
Believe it or not, Langill was the only Dodger fan in his family and where it came from nobody knows. But, Langill says, he is grateful to his family for always supporting his passion. His father wasn’t even a sports fan but simply decided to take the young Langill to a ballgame as something to do one day, never knowing what he started on that fateful day, “July 15, 1972, box seats aisle 44 row M seat 1, I still have the ticket and I think my eyes were as big as saucers.”
As an adult, Langill says he still has those feelings about Dodger Stadium which is the third oldest in the Majors and says because they renovated it instead of knocking it down, memories are everywhere. He can walk by the spot where, during the 1980 All-Star workout, he got former manager Walter Alston’s autograph. “You can stare at a patch of seats and remember when you were holding your breath when a pitcher named Doug Rau was four outs away from a no-hitter against the Expos in May of ’79,” Langill could go on all day; there’s a reason he is in charge of everything written about the Dodgers!
“We have history every day. That’s the fun part; I’ve never had a day where I didn’t look forward to going there,” he marvels. From a kid collecting every baseball card he could get his hands on to this dream career where he has met so many of his childhood idols is something Langill never takes for granted. He has the most incredible stories and I wish I could recount them all here but I think we would need a weekly series to cover them all! But you can meet Mark, this Thursday when he moderates at the special event at the library featuring Dodger photographer Jon SooHoo. I’m sure South Pasadenans would agree that an evening of Mark Langill stories would be another terrific evening of baseball history.
Baseball Night with Jon SooHoo at South Pas Library is Thursday August 17 at 7pm. Doors open at 6:30. Arrive early. This is expected to be a very popular event.