WHEN THE DODGERS MOVED TO LOS ANGELES (John Wilson, 3 . 22 . 24, First Things)

I was just about to turn ten at the start of the 1958 baseball season; my brother, Rick, was seven-and-a-half. We were baseball fans, excited that the fabled Dodgers were moving from storied Brooklyn to Los Angeles, about twenty-five miles east from Pomona, where we lived with our mother and grandmother. Little did we know that our primary connection to the Dodgers would be Vin Scully, one of the best broadcasters ever.

Soon I had a “transistor radio” in the shape of a baseball—a birthday gift, one of my most treasured possessions. Rick and I had bunk beds, and we would often listen to the Dodgers there. I began to think that when I grew up, I wanted to be like Vin Scully, calling baseball games. In fact, of course, I was in most respects utterly unsuited for the job (just as, several years later, when I read Len Deighton’s novel The IPCRESS File and decided that I wanted to be a spy, I was ludicrously deluded). But my delight in and admiration for Scully never waned.

When I was older, I would sometimes jot down scraps of Vinnie’s commentary on a 3 x 5 notecard. While calling a home-game between the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres on April 26, 1980, he was reminded of his boyhood in New York, which prompted him to recall the idiom “rush the growler”: to hustle with a tin bucket to a nearby saloon for beer.

During a May 18 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he described the formidable hitter Bill Madlock making “small circles with the bat from the right side.” Noting the Pirates’ lack of a rarely varying set lineup (such as was then usual for championship teams), Vinnie quoted manager Chuck Tanner, “smiling and waving his hands,” who said “I play ’em all.” In the same game, speaking of the Pirates’ pitcher Jim Bibby: “Bibby looks in to Ed Ott, shuffling his cards behind the plate.” A game against the Cincinnati Reds, in Cincy, on August 8, 1980, was being played in “fire-escape weather,” Vinnie said; “you can wring this night out.” Every game elicited such commentary, wonderfully fresh, never pretentious or self-important, never straining for effect, always giving the listener a vivid sense of the moment.

You can listen to a number of Vin Scully game calls on Librivox.