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Among Ted Leitner’s radio partners for Padres games was Jerry Coleman, left. When Leitner, a Leucadia resident, was growing up in the Bronx, Coleman was a standout second baseman for the New York Yankees. Courtesy photo
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Sports Talk: Ted talks and readers are reluctant to say ‘Uncle’

Chatty Ted Leitner did something rare — he listened.

“When walking through the ballpark people always said, ‘You need to do a book because we love all your stories you tell,’” Leitner said.

Show and tell it became with Leitner, and accomplished San Diego writer John Freeman, producing “Ted Talks: Uncle Teddy’s Fond Memories, Crazy Stories and Heartfelt Reflections.”

Leitner was a tough get for Freeman, as the man behind the microphone wasn’t eager to sit in front of a keyboard.

“It was interesting, but a lot of work,” Leitner said. “Hours and hours of talking, going over every chapter, hundreds of changes. I told John I picked the right job with broadcasting because this print stuff is actually work.”

It’s Leitner’s voice from countless games that make him an extended family member to many. Those Ted heads were rewarded with a tome packed with tales.

“Even if we don’t sell many books at least we’ll have a lot of fun doing it,” he said.

 Courtesy photo

It’s hard to suppress chuckles when connecting with Uncle Teddy. The longtime voice of the Chargers, Padres, San Diego State University football and basketball, local radio shows and TV sports broadcasts, cleared his throat and put words on paper.

“It’s been a labor of love and it was great to tell the stories and laugh again,” said Leitner, a Leucadia resident. “Hopefully the readers will feel the same way.”

The book is like any visit with Leitner, which brings one compelling yarn after another.

It also dives into Leitner’s childhood in the Bronx with a caring mother and a father long on discipline and short on love.

“I hadn’t talked about that much,” Leitner, 74, said. “But it can maybe help form a connection with parents and kids.”

Leitner’s bond with Oceanside’s Junior Seau was undeniable. It started when the late, great Seau was in tense negotiations with Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard after being their 1990 first-round pick. The Chargers were playing hardball with Seau and he wasn’t sure where to turn.

So he rang Uncle Teddy.

“I didn’t know Junior,” Leitner said. “But he called me at Channel 8 and it was the first time I talked to him. He said, ‘I’ve been watching you since I was a kid and you always tell the truth. You make people crazy with what you say and people either hate you or love you.’”

Leitner was flattered, but not sure how to assist.

“If you’re asking me about money, well, I don’t know squat about that,” Leitner said.

Instead Seau was hoping to avoid being labeled as greedy in getting his fair value from the Chargers. It was the beginning of a relationship that Leitner cherishes, and one senses his pain and regret over Seau’s suicide in 2012.

“He was the ultimate Samoan warrior and none of us could help him,” Leitner said.

Leitner flips the switch and here come the tsunami of tales.

“I remember talking to (Hall of Fame pitcher) Gaylord Perry about the 1978 Padres team,” Leitner said. “He said, ‘We’ve got a really good bench, but the problem is it starts every game.”’

This is Leitner’s first year not being a Padres broadcaster since 1980. He transitioned into an ambassador’s role with the club and it’s gone down like cough syrup.

“It’s brutal, very tough,” Leitner said. “Not only did I love doing the play-by-play, but it was the anticipation of doing games with (Manny) Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr.”

Leitner returns to the booth on Saturday when SDSU christens its football season against New Mexico State. It’s Leitner’s first live Aztecs game since he called SDSU-UCLA basketball in March 2019.

“I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to a game more than this one,” Leitner said. “I’d rather be working.”

What’s not a chore is flipping the pages of Leitner’s book. His passion, pride and love of being the soundtrack of all things San Diego sports arrives with grace and good vibes.

“Say, did you hear the one about …”

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him @jparis_sports.

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