I can’t imagine not having Vin Scully. It’s like… what if there was suddenly no color red? Or (for you Millennials) no more computers?
Growing up in Los Angeles, Vin Scully calling Dodger games has been a constant. His voice has been a reassurance that no matter what craziness goes on in the world or my life, everything was going to be okay. Listening to Vin Scully was the ultimate comfort food; the quintessential Linus blanket.
This has been going on here in LA since 1958. For folks in Brooklyn, even longer. For an overwhelming part of the population, that’s longer than they’ve been alive.
And it all ends next Sunday.
Vin Scully is retiring after Sunday’s final game with the Giants. He’ll turn 89 in a few weeks. After broadcasting for 67 years he’s certainly entitled. But the void he will leave is incalculable.
Everyone in the world is writing tributes to him this month (as they should be). I won’t dwell on just how great an announcer he is. He is Mozart. No one will ever be better. Period. No announcer will ever have as much impact on a community. Never again will 50,000 people bring radios to a sports venue to hear an announcer describe the game they’re watching. There must be a hundred sites that are featuring his highlight calls. But I want to talk about the impact he had on me personally and my relationship with him.
Quite simply, no one besides my parents have had a greater influence on me. My love for baseball, broadcasting, and storytelling all stem from being enraptured by Vin Scully calling countless baseball games. His use of language, his sense of drama, his humanity, even his comic timing inspired me to chart my course. From the time I was eight years-old I wanted to be a baseball announcer. (Most kids want to be players, but I knew even then I was a klutz.)
When I was nine I organized a Vin Scully fan club. Me and several friends would meet in our garage at 7:30 on nights the Dodgers were playing. Back then home games began at 8:00. We listened to the warm-up show (brought to you by Draft Brewed Blatz Beer), stood up during the National Anthem, and listened to the first inning. After that the meeting broke up and we all had to go to bed. (Of course I listened to the rest of the game on a transistor radio under my pillow.)
|This was a post card of Vin Scully & Jerry Doggett that I sent away for in 1962|
My first year in Baltimore, we were in spring training in Florida. One day we traveled to Vero Beach to play the Dodgers. Scully happened to be there that day. I introduced myself and we sat for fifteen minutes trading information about our teams. And the thought struck me, “Holy shit! Vin Scully is treating me like a PEER.” That’s when I knew I had arrived.
Years later I became the host of Dodger Talk (the Dodgers’ pre and post game shows) and got to see Vinny in the booth every night. Every time he would cheerfully say, “Hi, Kenny!” I was like, “Ohmygod! The prettiest girl in school knows my name!” Vin was always approachable, always willing to answer questions or share a story.
I did some traveling with the Dodgers and in 2000 we opened the season in Montreal then went on to New York. I always got out to the park very early. On Sunday, April 9th I arrived at Shea Stadium and it looked like Christmas morning. It had snowed during the night and the field was white. No game that day. The only other person in the pressbox was Vinny. So he and I went to the press dining room for warm coffee, and for two magic hours it was just he and I sitting at a table talking. Any time he asked questions about me I wanted to say, “Who gives a shit about me. Let’s talk about YOU.” Having been a fan since the day the team arrived, I was able to ask him questions about those early days, how difficult it was to call games in the Coliseum, what he and longtime partner, Jerry Dogget would do on the road, etc. If ever in my life I wanted time to stand still...
He revealed something I never knew, and something he never made public until just a few years ago. After several seasons in Los Angeles he was offered the number one job with the Yankees. Vin was still a little homesick for New York at the time, and as a New Yorker recognized that lead voice of the Yankees was the pinnacle of baseball broadcasting. So he almost took it. Yikes. At the last moment something in his gut told him to stick it out in Los Angeles. But I had no idea that we came that close to losing him and how different my life might’ve been as a result.
We didn’t only discuss baseball. He loves Broadway musicals. For the last few seasons he’s had a driver, but for many years he’d drive himself to the park and sing along with showtunes. Wouldn’t you love to be in THAT car? Fans got a glimpse yesterday when he sang "Wind Beneath My Wings" after his final home game. Big surprise -- he's a terrific singer. Even at 88.
My other memory of that East Coast trip is coming home one night in Montreal. There is a subway line that goes straight from the stadium to a block from our hotel. It was a much faster and easier option than taking the team bus. So Vin and the other broadcasters took the subway. One night we’re sitting on the train and some tipsy baseball fans enter the car, see Vinny and just about plotz. I’m sure it’s the same reaction when someone sees Barbra Streisand at the 99-Cent store.
Doing Dodger Talk from 2008-2010, I would get out to the park very early. Usually around 3:00; partly because I loved how still and peaceful Dodger Stadium was at that hour. And it was so quiet that I could hear Vin chatting in the next booth. Again, just hearing that voice was a source of great comfort.
My new play that opens this Thursday is dedicated to Vin Scully.
Part Two is tomorrow. Hope you'll join us and "pull up a chair."