John McGinley plays Red Barber in '42'
So when the actor heard about the upcoming Jackie Robinson movie, "42," he campaigned for the role of Dodgers announcer Red Barber, seeking out writer/director Brian Helgeland, his neighbor in Southern California.
"I believe you can do it, but I have to see it," Helgeland said he told him. McGinley studied and soon was trying out at his home down the street. "Ten seconds into it I said, 'You're Red Barber,' " Helgeland recalled.
McGinley, 53, is too young to remember Barber in his heyday.
"For me he was a guy I heard on NPR a lot," the actor said. But he worked to nail a distinctive voice that he said "sounds very 1940s."
He knew old Dodgers fans would not accept a pale imitation.
"People who are Brooklyn Dodger fanatics hold Red Barber as close to their hearts as they do some of their children," McGinley said.
White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who grew up a Dodgers fan, recently praised McGinley for having Barber "down cold."
"I was buoyed by that," he said. "I wanted to elevate to that level. I wanted Red Barber's sound to wash over the Jerry Reinsdorfs of the world."