I’ve had nearly the entire calendar year to internalize the impact of Vin Scully’s retirement.
It’s different than when an athlete opts to end his playing career. Kobe Bryant & Derek Jeter received the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar treatment with tours, gifts, roasts, etc.; others, such as Barry Bonds or Allen Iverson, are forced to abandon their ride into the sunset. Magic Johnson, Barry Sanders & Bo Jackson are examples of retirements that were shocking in their suddenness. Each fantastic playing career carries specific moments over a generation – or if the athlete was particularly transcendent, generations plural – and defines a city, an era, a specific way of playing the game; something that entrenched the athlete in the milieu to the extent that their retirement itself was notable.
But for many Dodger fans and Los Angeles natives – and for me, specifically – the career of Vin Scully is inextricably intertwined with Life in L.A.
There was Vin when I was doing my homework in Mrs. Saunders class in first grade. There was She Is Gone. . .In a Year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened. There were the sombreros being thrown to the sky when old friend Pedro Guerrero made the last out (a GIDP) of Fernando’s no-hitter. There was Vin in Spring for Henry Rodriguez’ four-homerun game. Vin was there when I came home from my first JV game as a 14-year old sophomore. It was Vin, as my Dad would kick back on the floor with his Golden Retriever, Doc, the two of them laying with the screen door ajar, letting the dulcet tones of Vinny complement the perfect San Fernando Valley summer breeze.
Vinny introduced me to Mike Piazza. Hideo Nomo. Ramon and Pedro Martinez. Omar Daal. Ismael Valdes. Vinny was serenading me as Eric Gagné, the mediocre starting pitcher morphed into Eric “Game Over” Gagné, still the most dominating pitcher I’ve seen, asterisk or not. Vin was in love with the O-Dog. Vinny ushered in Mannywood. Yasiel Puig became The Wild Horse.
In recent years, Vin was not there for the playoffs; first because of organizational ineptitude in the 90’s and subsequent Fox era, but mostly because of the Business of Baseball, which precluded ‘local’ broadcasters from doing much of the TV postseason work. Also, Vin’s age (the voice is truly timeless; humans, even a Saint, are not) demanded that the rigors of a baseball travel schedule were simply too much and the road games were increasingly narrated by Rick Monday, Ross Porter, Steve Lyons. Or Charley Steiner. Eric Collins. Recently, L.A. legends Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra have seen more TV work as Vin only works home games and the occasional trip to San Francisco. And Joe Davis, The Man Who Has to Follow in Scully’s Shoes, does a great job – but he’ll forever live with the moniker he’s no Vin Scully. So there’s less Vin now than ever.
And that’s okay. I’ve become busier. We all have. My son, Felix, is nearly 3 years old. And besides, “baseball is too slow.” But maybe that’s a good thing? When I do get to hear Vin, which I did about 30 times this season, I’ve flashed back to those serene summer nights in Sepulveda. I’d get off of a three-way call on my parent’s landline, run out to do a cannonball in the pool, careen back in the house, grab some Cap’n Crunch and Get Back to This One. You could always Pull Up a Chair, but if you couldn’t, that was okay. Vinny was going to see you again tomorrow night.
I really began to appreciate Vin and think about the dreadful and imminent end of Scully’s magical run a few years ago. I wondered if I’d enjoy Dodger games, or the Dodgers, or honestly, baseball, as much when he was gone. I didn’t want to find out, but knew it would happen. And when Felix was born, I wanted him to be able to hear and recognize Vin’s warm voice and that musical cadence. We sit and listen to games – a few innings, in Felix’s case, and I’m always sure to emphasize Vin Scully. He’s not likely to remember these nascent memories, especially of some old broadcaster, but I’m glad that I did have these years to share, and pass down the tradition.
Vin Scully is the narrator of this City I Love. Vin Scully is not just the voice of Los Angeles, he is Los Angeles. He came west as the city was just finding it’s sea-legs, a post-Baby Boom bastion of suburbs and planned communities that required you to have a car. No, really – that was a novel concept in 1958, and it’s exactly why Vinny became Los Angeles. You were, and still are, in a car all the time, and Vinny was painting games nine months out of the year. Until he’s not. And then what? Life goes on. L.A. will be here, Vinny and my Dad will hopefully live well into retirement, and the Dodgers will continue drawing 3 million fans per year. Baseball will certainly move forward. So will I, so will Felix.
But it will be different, an impact unknown. There may be a void, there will definitely be a ripple in the fabric of my fanmanship. But I do know that Vin Scully’s retirement will be more poignant and powerful than any I’ve experienced in sports.
I sent a letter to Vin during the first Dodgers season after Felix was born. I didn’t expect nor receive a response, and was told that he actually receives more mail than anybody in the organization. Maybe he read it, likely he did not, but the copy is below and the sentiment still holds.
Because Vin Scully really enhanced my life. And proud Los Angeles native or not, I’ve never said that about any type of celebrity before. And I certainly haven’t said it about an athlete. I do have a sombrero, but I’m not going to throw it to the sky, Vin. I’m just hoping that I can enjoy and cherish your five remaining telecasts and maybe, just maybe, the Baseball Gods will reward you and the fans whom you’ve impacted with one more improbable October.
July 15, 2014
Mr. Scully –
I just want to reach out and thank you for your presence within the Dodgers organization and the City of Los Angeles. I am a second generation Los Angeles native, and recently had a son (Felix) that will be the third Lovett male to be serenaded by your voice from April to October of each year.
You are truly the voice that defines summer and provides the soundtrack to our great city. I am proud to be able to pass on the tradition of ‘listening to Vin’ to my son.
In short, your legacy and influence is immeasurable and I cherish each of your broadcasts, and I appreciate your commitment to pulling up a chair and ‘getting back to this one’ in beautiful Chavez Ravine.
Enclosed is a picture of the three of us – my father, Stu; my son, Felix & me.
With admiration and appreciation,
Let me start by saying I don’t think any team wins 95 games in all of MLB. Very competitive and not so much parity as a lack of dominance. The game doesn’t lend itself to one team – or a handful of teams – asserting themselves, so you’re going to have the upper tier, and everybody else is going to battle. A good brand of baseball, if you will.
Lastly, the Dodgers aren’t done. I don’t know if that means David Price, Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, James Shields or all of the above (just kidding, I think?). I do think that Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw are untouchable, and Adrian Gonzalez, Kenley Jansen & AJ Ellis aren’t going anywhere.
Anything else is up for discussion.
photo via fansided/lasportshub
Special shout to @nightowlcards (http://nightowlcards.blogspot.com/) for indirectly inspiring this post.
Ranking the Baseball Card Sets of the 1980’s
Based 99% on aesthetics and 1% on arbitrary & subjective judgement, I present my descending order of ‘nicest’ baseball card sets of the 1980’s.
#32 – 1981 Donruss. an absolute bush league attempt at a baseball card. Everything from the proto-dot matrix font to the generic stock border looks amateur. Extra points for stamping the year on the front of the card; as a kid I didn’t notice that and in retrospect it’s very cool.
#23 – 1989 Donruss. Donruss goes fully off the rails again. I love the color purple, but not on my cards. This was tough to differentiate from the Classic board game sets that came out a few years early, but at least these could legally utilize team logos. Really, just an ‘updated’ version of what they were doing when their cards were generic computer printouts in the early decade.
#20 – 1988 Topps. probably the most baseball card-y of all baseball cards. They nailed everything from the moment it came out of the wax pack. Colorful yet unpredictably colored team names; a horizontally diagonal stripe; the strong, thick-lined border; a scripted font for the position. Through all that, managed to set the standard for the Truly Generic. It’s not a bad-looking set, it’s just that it comes off like a Ford – it’ll get you to where you need to go but there’s nothing special about it. At all.
#4 – 1980 Topps. Pretty gorgeous, from the ribbon position/team design to the late 70’s cinematic color wash. The pictures were fairly low quality at times, but they did well capturing greatness – and one of the last true awesome rookie cards.
#1 – 1989 Upper Deck. You knew it was coming. So did I. The Griffey rookie took the baton from Donnie Donruss and armed with outstanding photography (Walter Iooss), post-modernism (Gary Pettis), a legendary error card (Dale Murphy RevNeg) and a sweet crop of players, this set blew everybody out of the water. And foil wrappers. And a baseline running down the side of the card. And $1/pack charge. These were the first cards that made the hobby a real business of Now. Unfortunately, it also was the impetus for making it a real business of yesterday as well. ’89 Upper Deck, you were fine, you were fun, and you made the hobby and subsequently ruined the hobby. Thanks for the memories.
Below you will find the link to the2014 Hall of Fame ballot names from Baseball-Reference.com, along with a full range of statistical measures for all players on the ballot. ‘Years on Ballot,’ % of Ballots named in 2013, Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor (HOFm – the system is flawed, 100 is ‘likely’ in this metric) and Bill James Hall of Fame Standard (HOFs, in which 50 is the ‘average’ Hall of Famer, a score that exceeds that is considered superior than Hall of Fame average). This is definitely one of the more ‘crowded’ ballots I can remember, so I’ll make my piece snappy.
My opinions have not changed dramatically from last year’s lackluster HoF class. This new crop is pretty incredible, though. Here’s my “ballot” for 2014:
with apologies to Jack Morris on his final attempt, the crop of:
are first year shoo-ins for me. I’m sure Glavine will have the most pushback, but 300+ wins and reinventing himself as a late-career pitcher help greatly.
My next wave of entrants are holdovers that were slighted for one reason or another:
Raines has been a lightning rod for a few years and I imagine he won’t get in for a while. That said, he’s one of the prototype leadoff hitters in the modern era and was completely overlooked in Montreal. The 80’s were a tough era for elites, and his measurables stack up well.
I think Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina eventually get in, but not this year. People hate Kent, but his numbers are top five ever as a second baseman. He’s in. Mussina is frustrating because he was never an Ace or even a Cy pitcher, but he racked up wins and had longevity in an era defined by arm injuries.
Curt Schilling is a total cusp guy for me, probably more than most, because of his postseason success as well as the few big years. I ultimately vote ‘no’ – because he’s an asshole? – because the stats just aren’t quite Hall-worthy.
Hideo Nomo will probably be enshrined eventually as a special contributor type, as he really ushered in the era of Asian crossover.
This crop deserves it’s own mention, because NONE of them receive my ‘vote’ in 2014 and they were all really good first basemen:
I could see myself likely ‘vote’ for McGwire in the future, but Bagwell – despite his similarities to the Big Hurt – just doesn’t have that brand recognition that I’d like. I’m probably shorting him and reserve my right to ‘vote’ him in down the road, but not now. My guess is he DOES ride with the first wave and get in this year, however. Mattingly somehow gets in on the Veterans Committee one day. His reputation as ‘everybody’s favorite player’ is just too strong, and when history shines back on him with the moustache in the pinstripes, he’ll be enshrined.
I refuse to listen to cases for:
because none of them were ever the best player at their position, much less Hall-worthy.
Regardless, good ballot and i’d love to hear your opinions.
Kudos not only to the classy Matt Cain, but the wonderful fans of Pac Bell – nee, AT&T Park – in San Francisco last night.
After Matt Cain’s truly enthusiastic, humble, charmingly bewildered reaction to his own Perfect Game, the packed house by the Bay was filled with appreciative supports, who remained well past the last pitch. With nary an empty seat in the house, the most beautiful stadium in baseball was filled with raucous Giants diehards.
It was honestly an incredible moment as Cain held is breath as third baseman Joaquin Arias backpeddled on a hard-hit ball from Astros local Jason Castro, only to deftly field and fire a bullet to first baseman Brandon Belt. Belt astutely pocketed the ball and the celebration ensued.
Even as a Dodgers fan, this was an indelible moment on the baseball landscape. Continuing the renormalization of baseball in the post-PED era, the second perfect game this season (and fourth in two years, NOT including the Galarraga/Joyce incident) showed yet again that baseball is best at its purest.
Congratulations Matt Cain, and kudos to the San Francisco Giants and their wonderful fans.
i thought that pitch before the strikeout to jeter was a strike, but the ump had been inconsistent all night. . .and it’s jeter.
i think valverde is smoke and mirrors, but that really good weed smoke and the disney funhouse mirrors.
i think verlander is quite literally amazing. first inning throwing 94mph, by the 8th he threw five 100+ in a row.
and his CURVEBALL was checking in at 89.
i think cabrera is a fatass that was born to hit. think manny, but in even worse shape.
i think cc is a workhorse, and almost akin to eli manning in that he beats the bad teams like he should but just isn’t REALLY elite.
that said, i love the guy and think he’s still a top ten pitcher.
i think jim leyland is a DAMN good manager.
i think granderson has a disgusting approach/swing but is still a fine player. literally ugly to watch, though.
i think teixiera is even more pronounced than cc in his disparity against good teams & bad teams.
.162 batting average in 25 postseason games with yankees!
i think a-rod has to be the most frustrating player for a yankee fan. he’s good, so good, and has ‘just’ enough clutch moments to completely NOT hate for being so lackluster the majority of the time.
i think girardi is a good manager for a season, not necessarily a postseason.
i think its awesome that the yankee season comes down to aj burnett.
i think that burnett wins tonight, and the yankees still win in 5.