There is one huge bonus for living in Los Angeles. Listening to Vin Scully do the play-by-play of Dodger games. As Scully winds down his otherworldly, inexplicably-great 67-year career, I’ve been able to tune in to radio and watch as many of his TV broadcasts as possible. True, I’ve been able to watch and listen to him for the past 40 years, and I have, but not being a big Dodgers fan I haven’t remotely been a steady listener.
When I got to L.A. in the mid-1970s, I was okay following the Dodgers -- hey, it was baseball, and a top-notch major league franchise, though only up to a point. I wanted to enjoy following them as a "second team" (after the beloved Cubs, of course...), but there was a hurdle. What I disliked about the team as a Cubs fan (who famously haven't won a World Series since 1908, or even been in a World Series since 1945) is because the Dodgers were in an era when they got to the post-season regularly and fans just assumed it a natural course of life. The attitude really annoyed me for its arrogance. Beyond just that, though, I remember reading a description of Dodgers fans that I’ve found spot-on, which has always part of my annoyance with them and the team. I think it was written by the great Washington Post sportswriter Thomas Boswell. It was basically, “Dodgers fans absolutely love the Dodgers. They just don’t especially like baseball.”
But…no, it’s not possible to dislike Vin Scully. He’s pretty conservative politically, and on a very rare occasion that does creep in his commentary, or an interview with him, but you let it pass because it tends to fly by, and he’s just too great. And when I say that, how great it is, it's worth deep perspective. I come from a town which had three Hall of Fame baseball announcers, so my standards for comparison are pretty high. I do have one friend who hates Vin – in part colored by his politics – but his opinion on the subject is nuts, and we nurture him like a special-needs child…
So, it’s been nice to “participate” in his send off as the season winds down. His last game in Dodger Stadium is this Sunday. But even though he stopped traveling with the team several years ago for road games, he’s making an exception this year and going to go up to San Francisco to do the final three games of the season there. And yes, to be clear, and to repeat, he’s as great as his reputation. Still.
I was thinking of writing a tribute, but didn't think I could do it justice. Especially since there are others who have followed Scully's work far more intimately. And I came across a terrific, new article in GQ magazine written by Keith Olbermann which is wonderful. Overflowing with deserved praise, but in a perspective of Vin Scully being great, but human, with occasional, though rare baseball flaws. Besides which, it's filled with some great tales.
One of those concerns a pompous radio broadcast who was "Number One" at the time. Though unnamed, it appears that it is likely Rush Limbaugh. The story is interesting for two reasons -- one, that if it is Limbaugh, it's interesting that Olbermann does name him. And that, being conservative himself, Scully cuts him down to size with grace and subtlety.
But it's the last story, that oddly refers to a rare gaffe, this is the most pure-Vin Scully story, and a gem.
My only quibble is that though Olbermann references Vin Scully almost becoming John Maddon's partner on football broadcasts, he leaves out that Scully was a football announcer on NBC for a while. And that he also broadcast golf, as well. Eventually, he decided it was all too much, and went back to just baseball. Where he was a master.
You can read it all here.
That was the main point of this, Keith Olbermann's article. But then I realized that it's not possible to write about Vin Scully and not include a clip of him broadcasting. But what to use? I decided not to have a clip of him doing play-by-play. Though Vin does it far better than all others, everyone does play-by-play, that's the point. (Though how great is he? Okay, here's a link to something I posted previously -- the tale of his legendary call of the final inning of Sandy Koufax's perfect game, and then the call itself: you can read and listen to it here.) Instead, I decide to post Vin Scully not doing play-by-play or A Classic Call, but rather what he does that no one else does nearly no remarkably. And that's telling stories and keeping his listeners informed and entertained between pitches. Here is, calling an game, and all the while filling in his listeners on the history of beards. This isn't necessarily the best of Vin Scully...not even close, but that's what makes him so special. That this is pretty typical of him.
And for 67 years.
Read the article above, check out the Koufax call, and find out about something you probably didn't know. That's Vin Scully.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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