Please, Please, Please Do Not Go, Vin Scully
Family legend says that once, while stuck in traffic heading eastbound on the 134 a couple of hours before a Dodger game, my father looked over at the car next to him ("a Buick," he tells me) and saw Vin Scully himself sitting behind the wheel. It was sometime in the latter half of 1988—I was just a few months old—the year that the Dodgers last won the World Series.
Vinny must have noticed my infant form in the back (oh, how he loves babies!), and gave a wink and a wave at my dad before driving on ahead. If this story is true, which he insists it is, then this was my version of being blessed by the Pope.
Hands down the best part of being a Dodger fan is the presence of Vin Scully, so it comes as no surprise that this season—his last, after 67 (!!) years behind the microphone—has been marked by a constant stream of tributes, honors, and even the dedication of a statewide holiday for the announcer. The attention is beyond deserved, though unwanted by the ever-so-humble Vin himself, as has been the theme in the what seems like thousands of interviews and retrospectives and love letters that have been published in the last few months.
But would you expect anything less? Here's some context for the insane span of the 88-year-old boy from New York's career, per ESPN:
When Vin Scully first walked into the Dodgers' broadcast booth, Winston Churchill hadn't started his second stint as the prime minister of Great Britain. Connie Mack, a man born while Abraham Lincoln was president, was still managing in the major leagues. The transistor radio -- a gizmo that would turn the man at the microphone into a California icon -- wouldn't be invented for another four years.
In my adult life, there have been very few constants beyond my control: I've switched careers, struggled with money, moved a lot, and been very unhappy and lost many times. And yes, this runs of the risk of sounding saccharine, but Vin Scully's voice has often been the most enduring source of comfort to me when I've most needed it.
I really can't recall specific games, and don't have the kind of encyclopedic baseball mind when it comes to things like ranking Vin's "11 most memorable calls." But this is what I do remember.
I remember Sunday afternoons in high school spent dozing on the couch with my dad, homework splayed across my lap, lulled into a warm nap by the soothing tones of Vinny. Or taking turns to listen to Vin's broadcast via Walkman while sitting in Dodger Stadium, catching a game in person. Muting ESPN telecasts and turning on the house radio to hear Vin call the game instead—screw the delay.
When I lived in Philadelphia, I found illegal streams of Dodger games not because I'm a die-hard fan of the baseball itself, but because I needed to hear Vinny's voice as I futzed around my studio apartment, lonely, bored, and 3,000 miles away from Chavez Ravine. On one cold, early spring day, I turned on ESPN to catch generic Opening Day coverage, hoping to soak in some comforting background noise as I puttered around (likely spraying roaches that had made themselves at home in my kitchen). But in the middle of half-listening to some boring game between two teams I couldn't give two shits about, the station cut to the Dodger game, and Vin's voice reverberated through the room. At that moment, it was like that awful East Coast winter had finally ended and I felt warm for the first time in months.
Early Tuesday morning, I was sitting in the parking lot of the high school where I now work, listening to an interview with Vin on NPR. The segment included audio of Vin's 1974 call of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's long-standing home run record (Scully said it was "the most important home run I've ever called"):
What a marvelous moment for baseball, what a marvelous moment for Atlanta, and the state of Georgia, what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol.
Reader, I lost it sitting there; reminded of how lucky we were to have someone so intelligent, thoughtful, and poetic as Vin there to narrate these moments in history, and how he himself is one of the few remaining links to a past that grows ever distant.
I was only able to pull myself together after a teen blasting Sublime parked next to me, and I made my way into the 11th grade U.S. history class where I'm student-teaching. I know not all of my students will love the subject as I do, but I hope that they can maybe, at least once, feel moved by the humanity of history the way Vin has moved me with his stories all these years. It's one of the reasons why I get so annoyed when I hear someone boasting about their ignorance of "sportsball." Baseball is played by humans, and humans have stories and lives and personalities and interests of their own outside the diamond; no broadcaster will ever be able to match "story time with Vin Scully," and that makes me sad.
Will anyone else be able to seamlessly insert a tale about the time he raced Jackie Robinson on ice skates into the middle of the action? Or, like recently, talk about the time the Beatles got stranded in Dodger Stadium after their concert in 1966? And that one time he lectured on the history of beards, because of course he did. This is, of course, just a tiny sample of his many stories through the years.
Like so many others, I really can't imagine what next season will be like without Vin in the booth. And though our "pleasant good evenings" will be less pleasant without him, at least we got him at all.
Vin Scully's last six games will be broadcast on KTLA. They will be September 23-25 against the Rockies in Dodger Stadium, and September 30-October 2 against (who else but) the Giants at AT&T Park.