Here's Part Two of my two-part personal tribute to Vin Scully, who is retiring after Sunday's game in San Francisco. Part One was yesterday. To give you a better profile of the man I'm sharing some stories dealing with my interactions with him.
All announcer score games. By that, I mean we keep track of what each player does throughout the game, inning by inning. We have little symbols to denote outcomes. A “K” for a strikeout. “W” for a walk, etc.
SIDEBAR: Phil Rizzuto for many years was one of the Yankees announcers. One day his broadcast partner Bill White came back into the booth after being away for an inning. He looked at Phil’s scorecard to catch himself up. He noted that for one player Phil had written “WW.” White had never seen that desingnation. He asked what “WW” meant? Rizzuto said, “Wasn’t watching.”
Every announcer has a somewhat different method of scoring. And usually over time you modify it to suit your needs. No one has to know what you mean except you. I’ve always been fascinated by how people score. And usually I can quickly figure out the gist of their system.
He has lines going in different directions and dots. His scorecard looks like a player piano roll. I have no idea what anything means. He also does his scorecard in ink, which is braver than doing the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in ink.
Here’s something that will make you groan. I asked if he kept all of his scorebooks down through the years and he said no. At the end of each season he just chucked them. To me that’s like throwing away the Ten Commandments. (Happily, other longtime announcers have kept their scorebooks. Ernie Harwell had every one, God bless him.)
In 2009 the Dodgers got into the National League Championship Series. I got to travel with the club. The games were televised nationally but Scully would do the local radio. My broadcast partner, Josh Suchon and I would do our pre-game show from the visiting radio booth in Philadelphia. So that meant I had to sit in Scully’s seat. We were doing the show and Vin was in the second row continuing his preparation. I said something funny on the air and could hear Vinny laugh. And my reaction was: “OHMYGOD! I MADE VIN SCULLY LAUGH!" I'm sure jokes of mine in MASH and CHEERS have made 30,000,000 people laugh, but this was VIN SCULLY!
One of the (many) amazing things Vin could do is recall plays and moments from games he saw 60 years ago. He then recounts them naming the specific players and game situations. He’s a walking baseball Google. And of course, no one else has that link with the past. No one else can tell Jackie Robinson anecdotes. I once asked him how he remembered all that stuff. He said he couldn’t just recall it at random, but something will occur in a game that triggers a memory. I said, “It’s very impressive. But how do we know you’re right?” He laughed and said, “You don’t.” I told him it didn’t matter. Just hearing those forgotten names of ballplayers from the past was a real treat.
There was some guy on the internet selling full game broadcasts from the ‘50s-‘60s. He had some Dodger games so I bought them. I’m driving to the stadium one night listening to Vin call a game at Wrigley Field from 1966. I get so caught up in the drama of his description that when Ron Fairly hit a long fly ball down the rightfield line that just missed being a home run by inches I slammed my hand down on the dashboard in disgust. Then I thought, “This is insane. This game has been over for decades.” I told the story to Scully later that day and he said with mock urgency: “Oh, I hope we won.”
Another time he mentioned he was having computer troubles and spent an hour on the phone with some IT guy (probably in India). The techie didn’t know who he was talking to. Imagine getting to spend an hour on the phone with Vin Scully.
I could make this a five-parter because I just keep thinking of other Scully tales. But at the risk of wearing out my welcome I’ll start wrapping it up.
Two last stories. Both about spring training in Arizona. A few years ago Scully and I both flew home together from Phoenix one Sunday night. He had called the game that day and by the time we arrived at LAX he was pretty tired. We entered the terminal area where people wait for passengers, and of course the crowd spotted Vinny and their eyes lit up. They mobbed him for autographs and pictures. Like I said, he was exhausted. But he stayed and honored everyone’s request. No one would have blamed him had he said he was tired, he was sorry but he had to get home. Still, he took the time to accommodate the fans.
And finally, people ask me my greatest thrill in broadcasting. I’ve been very fortunate. I broadcast baseball around the world on the CBS radio network. I’ve been a disc jockey on major market stations like WLS. But all of that pales in comparison to one spring training game in 2009. I filled in and did the radio play-by-play. It was a TV game and Vin Scully did the first three innings simulcasting on both radio and TV and then did the remaining six on television while I did those six innings on the radio. So think of it – as an eight-year-old kid who wanted to be a baseball announcer, for one shining day Dodger baseball on the Los Angeles Dodgers Radio Network was broadcast by Vin Scully and me. I even saved the tape of him introducing me. I get Goosebumps every time I hear it. I've it included it below.
At the end of every season I would go into his booth and thank him for another year. I now thank him for a lifetime. And hope he has a long and enjoyable retirement. Maybe 67 years worth.