By Michele Willer-Allred, Special to The Ventura County Star
Standing behind home plate Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, Moorpark resident Ralph Mauriello did one last sound check ahead of singing the national anthem before the team took on the Colorado Rockies.
Moments before, the likes of Sandy Koufax, Ron Newcombe, Tommy Lasorda and other Dodgers old-timers completed an exhibition game in front of fans.
“They couldn’t find anyone older than me. At least who can sing,” quipped Mauriello, 81, who was once a Dodgers pitcher.
Mauriello, who often is hired to sing at weddings and parties, was invited to sing at Saturday’s game.
At the conclusion of the national anthem, the tenor received cheers and high-fives from the crowd.
“No one sings it better,” said one fan shaking Mauriello’s hand.
Mauriello’s wife, June, was at the game.
“He never gets nervous,” she said.
Also there were daughter Tami Stoffel, son-in-law Dan Stoffel and granddaughter Rachael Stoffel.
“I’m so proud of him. He just loves to come back and share his voice here,” Tami Stoffel said as she watched her father go through one last rehearsal with organist Dieter Ruehle.
Mauriello was 18 years old when he signed as a pitcher with the Brooklyn Dodgers in August 1952.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander was with the Dodgers organization for eight years, six of which were in Double A and Triple A minor league baseball. He pitched in three games after the team moved to Los Angeles.
Lasorda and Sparky Anderson were his teammates.
During the off season, Mauriello attended both USC and UCLA, receiving a master’s degree in electrical engineering.
“I love baseball, but I left to become an engineer,” he said.
After that, he didn’t have much to do with the Dodgers until Lasorda became manager of the team in the mid-’70s.
Mauriello called Lasorda to congratulate him, and Lasorda regularly sent him tickets to the games.
Baseball may have taken a back seat in Mauriello’s life, but singing never did. Mauriello has been a member of the San Fernando Valley Male Chorus since 1964, and he still performs with the group.
He was with his daughter at a Lakers game when she told her dad he could sing the national anthem better than the singer at the game. He auditioned, and not only was he asked to sing at Lakers games, but also was asked to sing national anthem during the Los Angeles Kings’ first Stanley Cup playoff game in 1973.
He also sang the anthem during Lasorda’s 2014 visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley.
In 2008, the Dodgers decided to have a celebration and a reunion with the 1958 team. At that game, former Dodgers teammate Carl Erskine gave him the idea of singing at Dodger Stadium, and the rest is history.
Mauriello has sung the national anthem at least 12 times at Dodger Stadium. He also regularly sang “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch, but the song was cut out to shorten the game.
He said he never gets nervous before he sings, crediting his pitching experience on a major team with getting him prepared to be in front of a lot of people.
“It’s kind of fun singing at Dodger Stadium if you like an audience,” Mauriello said with a laugh.
He said he often receives compliments after his performance.
“The comments I get from the people after I’m finished singing and walking back to my seat makes me believe that people are really happy that I sang it the way it’s supposed to be sung,” he said.
Mauriello said he’s honored to sing at Dodger Stadium and the Old-Timers Game, where he sees a lot of friends. He likes to see who remembers whom from back in the day.
His home office is filled with articles and memorabilia from former teammates and people related to the Dodgers, including Don Drysdale and sportscaster Vin Scully.
Mauriello, who is writing a book about his experiences with people in baseball, said he has always liked to visit Scully when he’s at Dodger Stadium.
“He’s the best,” Mauriello said. “Vinny interviewed me the day I won my only baseball game with the Dodgers, and I sure wish I had the sound check on that one. That’d be neat.”
I think he thinks he got it just right!