June 28, 2015


This is Vin Scully's 66th season broadcasting Dodgers games. Really. (Chuck Culpepper, June 26, 2015, Washington Post)

There have been 87 Novembers since his birth in the Bronx barely made the November (29th) of 1927, and 66 summers since he started at WTOP radio in Washington as a "summer replacement announcer" fresh out of Fordham in 1949, and 65 November 12s since a fateful one at Fenway Park in 1949. On any list of adjectives about Vin Scully, No. 1 is "grateful," his gratefulness sustained even through the deaths of his first wife at 35 from an accidental medical overdose in 1972 and his first son at 33 in a helicopter crash in 1994. His birthdays include 16 grandchildren and zero self-congratulation: "I don't want to say, 'Hey, hooray, I've made 80,'" he said. "I don't want to do that. I just will take it, thank you very much. I accept it." Hours before a first pitch in late May, he says, "I've always felt, it's a gift of God, whatever I have, whatever has made me do what I do for as long as I do it. But I know I can lose that in one second. A stroke. Whatever. One second. Blow the whole thing. So, when you do think about that, you realize how fortunate and how blessed you've been, and that's really how I feel."

He's seasoned enough that he fields one question before it's asked: "If anybody asks me about longevity, I would say I have my mother's genes, and she lived to be 97. So that's the only idea. I mean, I don't have any secrets like, 'Well, I've lived this long because I eat tapioca every day.' No." He's seasoned enough that he once played center field in a Fordham-Yale game during which George Herbert Walker Bush, who turned 91 last week, played the opposing first base. "Mr. President," Scully once said to Bush during a golf round, "as long as you're in the White House, remember, you can say anything you want about your baseball career, but remember the day that we played each other, we both went 0-for-3."

Bush roared. [...]

Sixty-five-plus years on, in the agreeable air of Los Angeles, one of the most treasured figures in the entire American culture still accepts the barrage of compliments that gush toward him. He still says his near-blushing thanks. On June 6, Dodgers versus Cardinals, he mixed his play-by-play with D-Day stories, including one about the soldier and eventual author J.D. Salinger. Even so, his appeal to so many has to stem from the way he spends much of his broadcasts, from the nuts-and-bolts of the game, from the sound of that voice after the care of his pre-game study, from such subtleties as his use of a "mercifully" as in, May 24, Dodgers versus big-inning Padres, ". . . flips over to first, mercifully, the double play to end the inning . . ."

All along, he has sustained an appreciation for the skill on the field. That began in earnest his first year, 1950, in Brooklyn Dodgers days, when manager Burt Shotton had heard of Scully's Fordham center-field days -- good field, good throw, jammed too often as a hitter -- and asked him to don a Gil Hodges uniform one day before an exhibition in Battle Creek, Mich.

"Gil Hodges was a marble statue," Scully said. "And here I am, 'Dodgers' is down by the belt. My number is halfway down the back of my pants. But I got the uniform on, and I have a glove and all that. And I go out, and I remember, I played pepper with Carl Furillo, he was our right fielder, terrific guy. And it was just like college, playing pepper and everything. And then, I went out in the outfield, and Shotton said, 'I want to see you shag some balls.' And I said, 'Okay.'

"I went out to center field, and there was a left-hand pitcher named Joe Hatten. And Joe and I were standing out there, maybe 300 feet from home plate during batting practice. And Roy Campanella got into the batting cage. And he swung, and he hit what I would call a high line drive. It just stayed straight. And I said, 'Joe, I've got it.' And he said, 'Okay.' And I caught it, but you know, the impact was like no impact I ever felt before. It was like maybe I was playing third base. And as soon as I caught it, I remember I turned to Joe and said, 'Joe, I don't belong out here.' And you have no idea how fast that game is that they play."

And: "And I watch them day after day and I think, 'How good they are. Ho-oh-ly mackerel.' And that's what I love about it."

Posted by at June 28, 2015 8:16 AM

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