Saturday, June 30, 2012
Vin Scully is a National Treasure
But seriously, he is the Mozart of baseball broadcasters and I can’t imagine another announcer ever being as good.
And he’s always been there. Night after night, summer after summer.
Well, Scully is now 84, and Dodger fans are keenly aware that he won’t always be there. It’s hard to even contemplate Dodger baseball without Vin Scully. So we’re all savoring these precious opportunities to still have him in our lives and living rooms.
The Dodgers were in San Francisco earlier this week and one night I decided to “pull up a chair” and watch the entire game. I’m not even sure he could find the words to describe what a pleasure it was.
For the first three innings he does a simulcast on radio and television. Radio is really where Scully is the absolute master. He described the blue sky and the “smudges” of clouds. You can picture them, can’t you?
Scully works without an analyst. No former ballplayer to jump in and tell us that the pitcher needs to rely more on his four-seamer and not his cutter. Zzzzzzzzzz. When analysis was called-for Scully was on top of it. A runner was at first base thinking of stealing and Scully talked about how he was trying to read the pitcher. He said the runner was watching the pitcher’s left shoulder and the back of his right knee for tell-tale signs of whether he was going to throw to first base or the plate. Good stuff (I will be stealing).
But best of all was how Scully effortlessly and endlessly found interesting things to talk about.
They showed a shot of the San Francisco Bay and Scully recalled how Roy Campanella used to drive his boat to the ballpark. He had a small boat that he steered up the river and hitched it at the Polo Grounds when the (Brooklyn) Dodgers were playing the (New York) Giants.
A batter hit a screaming line drive just past Dodger pitcher, Clayton Kershaw. Scully remarked that a pitcher didn’t have to actually get hit to be shaken-up. He recalled an incident in the early ‘60s when Dodger slugger, Frank Howard hit a rocket that went right through the legs of Mets’ pitcher Alvin Jackson. Jackson needed a good five minutes of walking around, conferring with teammates, buying time before he was composed enough to pitch again.
Obviously, these birds flying around can be a distraction. To get rid of them, once the fans left, the Giants began playing the sound of a hawk over the P.A. They heard the hawk, were freaked, and scattered. But after a few nights Scully said the bird figured it out. They stopped leaving. And the hawk ploy was discontinued.
If there’s anything I’ve taken from Vin Scully when I’m calling games it’s that a broadcaster has to be a storyteller. There is so much down-time in baseball. How can I fill the time in an informative but also entertaining way?
It’s been several days since I watched that game. I couldn’t tell you the score. I forget who did what. But I sure remember those seagulls and Alvin Jackson and Roy Campanella pulling up to the Polo Grounds in his boat.
And that was just one game.
Vin Scully has called over 10,000 of them. I for one, am going to listen to and treasure every remaining one I can. You should too. At one time you could only hear him if you were in Southern California. But now with the MLB Network, Sirius-XM, and MLB.COM there are ways to pull in his broadcasts wherever you are in the world. So "pull up a chair" in Altoona and Sydney. You'll be glad you did.