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,
Excellent piece, Tom Verducci.
Thank you, Sports Illustrated.
I think that Nomar Garciaparra is as a first-year Dodgers color man on SportsNet LA. He was tentative and understated early in the season, but is evolving into an important element of the broadcast. Still a distant third in sheer volume of commentary, he takes cues from Charlie Steiner and is a capable banterer during typical on-air discussion. He also lends expertise as a contemporary (as opposed to an Old-Timer) of players, and is conscious of the viewer’s affinity for the Game, thus his ability to explain without condescending. Bravo.
In a recent email thread with my two closest baseball guru friends, we sent missives back-and-forth noting our favorite baseball players in recent memory. More specifically, in our lifetimes – for this project, that spans the 80’s, 90’s, oughts and 10’s. I’m curious to see your favorites – here are MY players. Not the best, just my dogs by position:
I was noticing how low-scoring and homerless today’s (Opening Day) games seemed. . .then I see MLB Network flash the stat:
average of 4.7 runs per BALLGAME today. Lowest for a full day (min. 7 games) since May 11, 1983.
*not lowest opening day, folks. Lowest single day run output per ballgame in 29 years!!!*
a good infotweet courtesy @espnstatsinfo: A recap of the day’s pitching and how it – and the game with the most runs – rewrote the Opening Day record book. http://es.pn/I0jIB7.
sidenote(s): Matt Kemp. Dodgers. Magic. Vin Scully. Awww yeah, it’s back!!!
Apparently, I’m not as excited as most Dodger fans regarding the landmark McCourt sale to Earvin Johnson & the Kasten-Guggenheim Group.
While I do feel that this change in ownership is necessary, and I certainly believe that this is the right ‘team’ to lead the organization for the next decade+, I’m a bit offput at both the $2 BILLION price tag. As of yesterday, the projected sale price was a robust $1.5 billion, though perhaps Time Magazine was a bit more optimistic, calling the $1.5 billion projection a ‘bargain.’ That latter conjecture turned out to be true, and while the Guggenheim team has $125 billion in assets, I don’t see how you outbid somebody by half a billion dollars. . .
That’s not my main gripe, however. The fact that McCourt still is a partner in a “land venture” in the surrounding Chavez Ravine area. Though he won’t be an organizational decision-maker so that should be sufficient reason to back the Dodger news whole-heartedly, but my enthusiasm is definitely dampened. The main reason I cut back on tickets & attendance (personally) for the past two years was due to McCourt personally. The fallout from the divorce & proceedings led to a subpar experience at Dodger Stadium and Frank-ly, the team was inferior due to the shoestring budget of ownership.
New ownership – especially by one of L.A.’s most beloved icons – is definitely an enticement to head back to ballgames & the Stadium, but as Vin Scully’s years wane, the pull to stay home and “get back to this one” on the TV may outweigh the fact that McCourt will still be getting my money. Furthermore, the unplanned-as-of-yet land venture will undoubtedly be a profit machine, adding to McCourts magical coffers. . .with my hard-earned money. I’m dubious.
Though it is definitely a ‘fresh start’ and celebratory moment at the Ravine, I’ll feel better if Magic can really occur, and somehow Earvin Johnson can make McCourt disappear for good.
Until then, it’s TIME for Dodger baseball. . .