I lived in Los Angeles from 1983-2002 and I was never a big fan of the town. Being from the east coast, I preferred (and still prefer) four seasons to my year. The Hollywood scene was something I could do without. The long drives and traffic just about any time of the day wore on me. Still, I realize in retrospect that there were advantages to growing up in L.A. I was there for the 1984 Olympics, and attended a diving event. I remember wandering around my neighborhood and seeing these small stickers everywhere: A cartoonish ghost with a red slash through it–an early campaign for the film Ghostbusters. And on the radio and TV when the Dodgers were playing, there was Vin Scully.
Each morning, when I wake up, one of the first things I do is check the newspapers: New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, and The Wall Street Journal. And each time, just before I look at the first headlines, there is this feeling I get that I might see something terrible: a plane crash somewhere; a tornado that destroys a small farming town; another mass shooting.
This morning, it wasn’t the newspaper, but Molly Knight’s newsletter The Long Game that caught my eye. The subject of the email was simply: Mourning the Loss of Vin Scully.
Scully, the voice of the Dodgers since before they moved to Los Angeles, died yesterday at the ripe old age of 94. In many ways, despite me being a lifelong Yankees fan, Scully’s voice was the voice of baseball to me. “Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good afternoon to you wherever you may be,” meant a Dodgers’ game was about to get underway. Those words were the broadcasting equivalent of the umpire’s terse, “Play ball!”
Vin Scully had an ability to weave a narrative through an unfolding game. Without knowing where the game was going, he could thread his way through the innings, telling stories that tied into a specific situation, making analogies that were sometimes obscure, but always relevant. What’s more, he could paint vivid pictures with his words. Listening to Scully on the radio was, for me, the same as sitting in the stands at Dodger Stadium, minus the smell of the mustard on the Dodger Dogs. In some ways, I preferred listening to Vin Scully call a game on the radio to being there myself. No traffic to fight, no parking, no lines at the concession stands. The evenings were somehow always better when Scully’s voice came over the radio waves.
In the May 4, 1964 issue of Sports Illustrated, Robert Creamer wrote a wonderful profile of Vin Scully titled, “The Transistor Kid.” It is one of my favorite pieces of baseball writing, and probably my favorite piece on Vin Scully. Keep in mind that in 1964 (8 years before I was born) Scully was already in his 15th season as a broadcaster. He had come to Los Angeles with the Dodgers when they made their move from Brooklyn. Even back then, Scully was a force. As Creamer wrote in that piece:
Give a word-association test to a baseball fan from Omaha or Memphis or Philadelphia and suddenly throw in the phrase “Los Angeles Dodgers” and almost certainly the answer will be “Sandy Koufax” or “Maury Wills” or “Don Drysdale” or even “Walter O’Malley” or “Chavez Ravine.”
Give the same test to a fan from Los Angeles and the odds are good that the answer will be “Vin Scully.”
I didn’t make it through the headlines this morning, a first for me in a very long time. Instead, I read Molly Knight’s piece. Then I read David Wharton’s piece in the L.A. Times, “Voice of the Dodgers forever.” After that I turned to Richard Goldstein’s piece in the New York Times, “Vin Scully, Voice of the Dodgers for 67 Years, Dies at 94.” Finally, I read Dave Sheinin’s piece in the Washington Post, “Vin Scully, beloved sportscaster, dies at 94.” After that I’d had enough bad news for one day. The other bad news will still be there tomorrow. It can wait until then.
Vin, all I can think of to say to you right now is to repeat what you said to me on so many occasions: “Hi, and a very pleasant good afternoon to you.” Wherever you may be.
ETA: Joe Posnanski, my favorite sports writer, has now posted on Vin Scully’s passing.
Written on August 3, 2022.
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I was not a fan of Major League Baseball, but did hear Red Barber a few times. He lived his final years in Tallahassee, FL. Occasionally I would catch him on a newscast reminiscing about about a ballgame from years past. He was quite a story teller and had funny anecdotes about things some players did on and off the field. He was one of those guys, I would say, “they don’t make them like that anymore”.