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,
Two really positive stories emerged from Los Angeles in the past week, courtesy of the L.A. Times and ESPN.com.
The first, particularly comforting to Angelenos, touts the L.A. Homicide Rate Dropping to 1967 Levels. For natives that recall the 80’s and 90’s, serial killers and gangbang culture, and even the city’s own LAPD served to disturb the peace and incite the murder rate.
The second article, from ESPN’s Tim Keown, perhaps indirectly attributes a small factor toward the declining homicide rate. The article is for ESPN Insiders, so I’ve copied & pasted. Note the continued reference to unprecedented opportunities for youth and their familes.
Reminds me of when my father, at the time a Boxing Manager with his brother/my uncle Art as the Trainer, used to take me to the gym on 108th & Broadway in South Los Angeles to watch the fighters train, noting the dedication & hard work – coupled with passion, love & enthusiasm – that they brought to work each day. My father would note that though pugilism was seen as a barbaric endeavor to some, the fighters that maintained the discipline would be the ones that would move on to successful careers and lives post-fighting. The simple opportunity of having that gym, that outlet, diverted the lives of a handful of youths away from the drug dealing/gangbanging lifestyle.
And that is exactly what Snoop is providing to thousands of kids (article below). The homicide rate might be a bit of a stretch, but the opportunity is priceless and any correlation drawn from such magnanimous behavior is a positive note on which to close 2010 and head into the New Year.
Thanks again everybody for supporting YallKiltIt during the 14-month run. I may publish here & there moving forward, but for the most part I’m done. It’s been a fun, crazy and spirited ride, and I’ve appreciated the comments & views, and the opportunity to share my thoughts with you all.
ps – here’s the Snoop article:
Snoop Dogg changes the game
The rapper has a much bigger presence in the football world than anyone realizes
This story appears in the January 10, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
The high school coach watches with a mixture of irritation and amusement as the men in Snoop’s security detail take their positions. Gates are closed, entrances secured, driveways cleared. Al, the head of security, relays the latest to his colleagues: “One mile out.” The security troops are wearing Secret Service-style earpieces, and upon hearing Al’s news, one of the men — quite possibly the largest and least approachable human on the planet — walks slowly to a gate near the north end of the Crenshaw High football field on a cloudless, late-fall Saturday afternoon in South Central LA.
Snoop has turned the corner.
The security men roll their necks and furrow their brows in anticipation.
Snoop is within sight.
The big man stands up straight and puts a hand on the gate.
For this one moment, all worldly matters are secondary to the process of getting the man in the vintage green Cadillac — known as the Snoop DeVille — into a parking space. Despite Crenshaw’s ominous coordinates in the annals of Hood America, there are no visible threats around, just a bunch of prepubescent boys in pads and helmets trying to walk in cleats from the parking lot to the field without slipping or toppling over.
But the men with the earpieces are dealing with the kind of fame that can’t afford to take chances.
And besides, this is Semifinal Saturday in the Snoop Youth Football League. All day long, kids, parents and coaches come and go, every two hours another pair of teams shuffling into the stadium as two other teams leave. At stake for all six age groups: trips to the SYFL’s Super Bowl VI.
Snoop is arriving to coach a group of these boys, the undefeated junior midget Pomona Steelers, against the Crenshaw Colts. His son Cordell, a tall, strong-looking 13-year-old wearing black Snoop Dogg signature Skullcrushers headphones as he stretches, is a wideout/defensive lineman and one of the Steelers’ better players.
Snoop is a hero here, not just for his rap-and-Hollywood fame but for founding and funding a league that gives roughly 3,500 kids in some of the nation’s most notorious neighborhoods (Watts, Compton, South Central) a place to play football. Age groups range from the Future League (5 and 6) to Junior Midget (12 and 13). For $100 a season — waived or picked up by benefactors in cases of hardship — a kid can join a team in the six-year-old Snoop league. And this year, if he is good enough, a Junior Midget can play 13 games here, then fly to Dallas as one of the Snoop All-Stars to play the Deion Sanders All-Stars in the Snoop Bowl.
Yeah, try to beat that.
In the stands on Semifinal Saturday are families who wouldn’t be together otherwise, finding common ground where none previously existed. Broken families have been reassembled because of the league. Snoop himself is proof of this, saying, “If it wasn’t for the SYFL, I don’t think I’d have a family. This taught me how to be a family man, after being out and about.” They find something here, these mothers and fathers, watching their kids play. It’s remarkable what a game can do.
Snoop is running late today, which adds some tension within the protective bosom of fame. The high school coach, meanwhile, is standing with one of his assistants inside the secured perimeter. He is here because roughly 15 hours earlier, on this very field, his Crenshaw Cougars beat Venice 63-12. (One week later, Crenshaw would beat Carson 45-7 for its second straight LA city championship.) Today the Cougars spent the morning at school watching film, and now the coach is in the parking lot, shaking his head as he watches the security team prepare for Snoop’s entrance. The coach is dressed exactly as he was on the sideline the night before: royal blue basketball shorts that end a few inches above the knee; blue-and-gold socks with “Crenshaw” written vertically along the calf; shiny royal blue high-top basketball shoes; a baggy royal blue T-shirt; a Crenshaw baseball cap and wire-rimmed sunglasses. He is south of 5’9″ and north of 250, and most of his players approach him using the same word first: Sir. He is clearly the boss in these parts.
Well, at least he is when Snoop’s not rolling through the lot.
Snoop is approaching the first gate.
Final preparations are being made. Earth’s biggest human looks less approachable with every spin of the Snoop DeVille’s tires. The operation seems to have reached a critical stage.
The high school coach bellows, just loudly enough to be heard clear across LA County, “We’re talking about national security here. We’re dealing with national security.”
And with that, the high school coach opens his mouth and issues a bray of laughter that contains little or no humor.
. . .has there been a player with the ferocious fearlessness of Blake Griffin.
Here are the NBA.com selections of Blake Griffin’s Top Ten Dunks of the Year. . .through only 25 games. Oh my.
Thank you to the LAist for interpreting the APA study of stress affecting Angelenos.
The text of the article follows below, and I took some excerpts from the ADA report under the story.
Feeling Stressed, LA? Study Shows LA is Most Stressed in US
The American Psychological Association’s just-completed “Stress in America” study finds that Los Angeles residents are the most stressed residents in the entire country. Not New Yorkers. Not Chicagoans. Not Bostonians. Despite our temperate climate (no long dark winters here), Angelenos report that our stress about money and the economy is higher than the national average at a time when our job satisfaction and physical health is lower than the national average. These jumps and dips along the “national average” curve equal one big pot of unhappiness.
How stressed are we?
-29% of LA residents report having a great deal of stress, national average is 24%
-76% of LA residents attribute their stress to money, compared to 67% last year
-39% of LA residents are stressed out at work, compared to 29% last year
-75% of LA residents cite the economy as a source of stress, national average is 65%
-31% of LA residents say they are in good health, national average is 40%
-45% of LA residents admit to being irritable in the past month
-38% of LA residents admit to being anxious or nervous in the past month
-36% of LA residents admit to being fatigued due to stress in the past month
-No official stats on traffic stress were included, but…come on
So what’s a stressed out city to do? The APA report finds that our biggest challenges in Los Angeles are getting enough sleep and finding ways to manage stress so that we don’t slide further into stressful habits that make us prone to becoming overweight or obese. Maybe the plethora of yoga studios, gyms, Runyon Canyon runners and midnight riding riders have a point.
The most alarming/not-surprising-at-all finding of a stress study on Angelenos: “When asked to what degree pressure to look good impacts their stress level, nearly one-third (30 percent) of LA residents said that the pressure to look good impacts their stress levels moderately or ‘a lot.'” Well, when you consider we’re not so smart and rather mean, it makes sense we’d place such importance on how we look.
Oh, LA. Sounds like it’s time for a great big mellowing out. Get thee to a yoga mat, get thee on your bicycle, get thee outdoors and among nature and get thee away from mirrors and judge-y friends. The economy is going to do what the economy is going to do. We’ve got to take care of our own and get those numbers shipshape for the 2011 survey.
Los Angeles residents* report that stress levels are going up and are higher than the national average, while job satisfaction is lower. The number of LA residents who describe their health as excellent or very good is lower than the national average, and since 2009, there has been an increase in the percentage of adults who say they have been diagnosed with arthritis, asthma/respiratory disease or chronic pain.
How Stressed is Los Angeles?
LA residents report more stress than Americans overall, and they cite the most common sources of stress — money and the economy — even more so than the rest of the nation.
- Almost three in 10 (29 percent) residents report having a great deal of stress (defined as an 8, 9 or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10), compared to 24 percent of Americans overall.
- A significantly higher number of residents attribute their stress to money (76 percent vs. 67 percent) and the economy (75 percent vs. 57 percent) this year than last.
- LA residents are more likely than Americans overall to point to the economy as a source of stress (75 percent vs. 65 percent) and less likely to cite family responsibilities (47 percent vs. 58 percent).
- Though there has been a significant decline in those reporting physical symptoms of stress, many admit to being irritable (45 percent), anxious or nervous (38 percent) or fatigued (36 percent) due to stress in the past month.
For many people in Los Angeles, work is also a source of stress (69 percent). The number of people reporting being satisfied with their jobs has been steadily dropping over the past three years.
- The percentage of individuals who report feeling stressed out at work jumped significantly, from 29 percent in 2009 to 39 percent in 2010.
- LA residents also report feeling less satisfied with their jobs than in previous years (58 percent in 2010, compared with 64 percent in 2009 and 67 percent in 2008), and they are less likely than Americans overall to recommend their place of work to others (44 percent vs. 53 percent).
How Stress is Affecting Them
- Fewer LA residents than Americans overall say they are in excellent or very good health (just three in 10, nine points below the national average of 40 percent).
- Those who said they had been told by a health care provider that they were overweight or obese also rose, from 25 percent to 29 percent.
Barriers to Change
- On every item evaluated, adults rated the importance of the item considerably higher than their personal achievement on that item. The biggest gaps between importance and achievement are for getting enough sleep and managing stress. Two-thirds of adults (66 percent) say that getting enough sleep is extremely/very important but only one-third (35 percent) say they are doing an excellent/very good job of achieving it. Likewise, 62 percent feel managing stress is important, but only about half as many (34 percent) admit they do an excellent/very good job here.
- Fewer LA residents cite a lack of willpower for failing to make recommended lifestyle changes (32 percent vs. 41 percent in 2009), though it remains the most common obstacle, and fewer also say they don’t have enough time (14 percent vs. 20 percent).
- However, twice as many cite a disability or health condition as a barrier to a healthy lifestyle (14 percent, up from 7 percent in 2009).
- LA residents are far less likely than Americans overall to manage their stress by praying (21 percent vs. 37 percent), going to religious services (11 percent vs. 22 percent) or shopping (7 percent vs. 15 percent).
Do Looks Count When It Comes to Stress?
When asked to what degree pressure to look good impacts their stress level, nearly one-third (30 percent) of LA residents said that the pressure to look good impacts their stress levels moderately or “a lot.”
*This section of the report focuses only on the views of residents within the Los Angeles MSA (2008 n=256; 2009 n=205; 2010 n=211) and the general population (2008 n=1,791; 2009 n=1,568; 2010 n=1,134).
Thanks to Tom Hoffarth of the L.A. Daily News yet again for putting us on to TUESDAY’s documentary/ESPN/30 for 30 feature.
Really good article, see the link here or copy below. Can’t wait to see this – not just as a Dodger fan, but as a spouse of a Mexican who’s family immigrated from Mexico, this will have a double importance – note the emphasis on the Mexican families being evicted from Chavez Ravine to make room for the Stadium; a particularly juicy irony for those that celebrated FernandoMania.
Why we’re all still part of ‘Fernando Nation’
The working title that Cruz Angeles had for his quickly-recruited ESPN “30 for 30” project was “The Bull and the Sleeping Giant.”
Fernando Valenzuela was the former. Fernando, “El Toro.” The other was the Mexican-American population of L.A.
But that hardly conveyed what he wanted to do: Tell the story of Valenzuela, but also revisit and rejoice in “Fernandomania” one more time, in the way he brought a somewhat fragmented city under one magical umbrella.
Angeles, a Brooklyn-based movie maker who grew up in South Central L.A. continues to stress a bit even today that his documentary, “Fernando National,” which debuts Tuesday at 5 p.m. on ESPN (it repeats at 8 pm. on ESPN2 and at 9 p.m. on ESPN Classic), could have had more about how Valenzuela was taught the screwball (from teammate Bobby Castillo, after it was originally suggested by scout Mike Brito that he learn the split-finger fastball). Or why Fernando looked to the sky before delivering his pitch (“he said it was because he was in kind of a trance for a second, visualizing his target,” said Angeles).
Those can be seen as major exclusions. So is the fact that, after a 50-day player strike, baseball needed so much to get in the fans’ good graces that when it started the second half of the season with the postponed All-Star game, Fernando, still just a rookie, was named the National League’s starting pitcher. Think of how Stephen Strasburg might have fit into that scenario.
But in the grand scheme of things — trying to document how Valenzuela made an impact on a culture and a city upon his arrival with a flury in 1981 — Angeles need not worry that Los Angeles will forget that part of it. We get enough screwball comedies on TV enough every season.
Starting and ending with Valenzuela’s connection to the controversial Mexican-American family displacements around Chavez Ravine between 1952 and ’58, the stuff in between will make your goosebumps rise again. Angeles was able to achieve both his goals.
Fernando’s story isn’t that tough to mess up, actually. The key is getting him to cooperate, which he did. And to speak on camera. In both Spanish and, for the first time many may hear it, in English.
“We only had five months,” said Angeles, who estimates they shot about 30 hours of material, and had another 60 hours of archived material to go through to cut down to about 50 minutes. Thank goodness most of the ESPN “30 for 30” projects end up for sale on DVD with the director’s additional cuts.
Angeles was approached by ESPN for any ideas he might have for this documentary project, and he had already done some initial legwork in getting Valenzuela to agree to do something about his life. So he pitched it. And they’re weren’t initially sold.
“In a way, Fernando’s story has already been told through baseball history — it’s what Joe DiMaggio did for the Italians, or Sandy Koufax for the Jewish community … aside from what Jackie Robinson did,” said Angeles. “But there was much more context to put Fernando’s story into.
That would be the history of the 170-acre land under Dodger Stadium, which bulldozed three communities of 300 families, most of whom had already moved away by the time the city council of L.A. and the county board of supervisors had given Walter O’Malley the spot to build the park. Those who remained had to be forcibly taken away, with the TV cameras rolling and the photographers snapping pictures.
That Valenzuela arrived in L.A., Angeles found out, wasn’t so much by accident. O’Malley wanted a “Mexican Sandy Koufax” to bring back the local Mexican-American fans to the stadium, even though many boycotted the Dodgers, blaming them for what happened.
A key clip in the documentary is from then-general manager Al Campanis — infamously fired in 1987 when he made racial-heavy comments about African-Americans lacking “the necessities” of becoming a big-league manager.
“Mr. O’Malley, he would say, ‘Al, do you think it’s possible that we might get a good Mexican player? there are a lot of Hispanic-speaking people here and it would be a help to have somebody of their own playing on our ballclub.”
Yes, “Hispanic-speaking” was the term he used. It reminds us of how then-Dodgers broadcaster Jerry Doggett would refer to the “Latin-speaking” fans who jammed Dodger Stadium during the 1981 season to see Fernando pitch.
Angeles taps into people like United Farm Workers of America co-founder Dolores Huerta, author and poet Luis Rodriguez, former boxing champ Oscar de la Hoya, former L.A. Opinion managing editor J. Gerardo Lopez , former ABC producer Estella Lopez and actor Ray Lara to provide the Chicano context. Interestingly, Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, who was Fernando’s main translator at the time, wasn’t interviewed.
Several people identified only as “Dodger fans” are also on camera — it turns out that Paul Haddad was used because of his vast collection of Vin Scully audio tape — and a lot from Dodgers team historian Mark Langill also move the story along. Accounts from discovering scout and former reliever Castillo are among the most humorous, as well as from Valenzuela’s agent, Dick Moss, who came up the need for a $1 million contract when Valenzuela (who made $32,500 his first year and $350,000 his second) reached arbitration because it was a nice round number.
The numbers we are reminded of with Fernando’s arrival in ’81 are still mind-blowing, starting with that 8-0 start (“and who’s to say when it will end!” says Vin Scully after he records that eighth win). Then over his career — seasons where he had 20 complete games and 21 wins, a no-hitter, the consecutive strike-out record in the ’86 All Star game. Why the Dodgers released him in such a undignified manner in spring of ’91 is still a mystery.
“But you can’t put into words what he meant — no one else will wear No. 34 as a Dodger,” says Langill.
Think of that as you see Steve Garvey’s No. 6 (even if it was to Joe Torre) or Mike Piazza’s No. 31 recently reissued.
“We need long-term heroes for our culture,” said Angeles. “This is a city founded by 44 Mexicans, and still today, we are treated like illegal immigrants. It’s a long history that we need to take ownership of.
“Fernando is the most American story you can find. We love the underdog. And with him, he represents how hard work and a Protestant ethic can achieve the American dream. He was very modest. He didn’t want to be in the limelight. But everyone has an emotional attachment to his story, and it still brings an emotional reaction. The people living in L.A. need that context.”