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. . .
And this. . .the day after Magic sells his share in the Los Angeles Lakers. . .
The always insightful & humorous Tom Hoffarth brings us the sad/distraught/odd? news about Kirk Gibson, he of the most famous homerun in Dodger history. Initially, I was apathetic upon the announcement; it’s the guy’s bat, he can do what he wants. . .even though with an impending visit to the Baseball HoF with my Dad, Mom & Wife, it would be nice to experience/feel/see one of my favorite childhood moments up close.
That said, Hoffarth explains why this sale may ring a bit hollow and somewhat inexplicable. At least we won’t forget Vinny’s “she is gone” call (oft-overshadowed by Jack Buck’s also classic “Dodgers win 5 to 4, I can’t believe what I just sawrrrr.”
There’s a whole, cool story behind the black-and-yellow pine-tarred Worth Tennessee Thumper bat that Kirk Gibson used to hit the most dramatic home run in Los Angeles Dodgers history 22 years ago. Pull up a chair, he can tell you all about it.
What’s it worth to you?
Actually, the real story here is: Why isn’t it in a display case in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown? Or at the Sports Museum of Los Angeles? Or somewhere at Dodger Stadium?
And why, if anyone with credit card was so inclined, could it be bought next week at auction, stuck into someone else’s own secure humidor, and perhaps never shown to anyone without some kind of written consent form?
This bat, as Gibson points out, has a blue “x” on the knob, below the black “23,” meaning it “was a reject.” The 34 ½-inch bat was too light when it came to him from the factory, maybe only 30 or 31 ounces, so he set it aside. “So I basically had it sitting there all year.”
Until now, it’s been sitting it in a safe, in a warehouse near his home in Michigan.
He only used that bat during the 1988 playoffs because “I started getting tired,” he says. “I had no legs at all, so I didn’t want to be swinging any big lumber.” By Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, both his knees were shot. He needed something much lighter.
Now, you can assume that Gibson, recently hired as the full-time manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, doesn’t need the money he’ll receive in return from this highest-bidder-gets-a-piece-of-history exercise. But he won’t say.
“That’s not an appropriate question,” he told a reporter on a conference call Tuesday. “I don’t know what that has to do with anything.”
The bat has red ink marks on the barrel, smudges from the special red-labeled balls he fouled off early in the count. It has extra tar on the handle, to make “the balance feel better.” The deep nicks in the backside of the barrel, “that’s from me hitting my cleats . . . at the beginning of the at-bat, they weren’t very deep. Then as the at-bat progressed, I kept hitting it harder and harder.”
The spot on the sweet part of the bat where he met the ball that would float into the right field pavilion as the tail lights were heading out of the parking lot and win Game 1 in the most improbable fashion “is actually chipped out of there. There is a little nick where I hit it.”
Of the bat as a whole, Gibson says it “so much character . . . it’s like a painting. It’s like a story and it will tell you the whole thing.”
The character of the bat isn’t what’s in question here. It’s seems to be more about the character of Gibson, who is putting this, plus the batting helmet he wore, and the tar-smudged, never-washed white Dodgers jersey top out there for someone to buy. Plus a gray road uniform from that World Series.
The opening bids for the five items add up to $85,000. SCP Auctions CEO David Kolher projects about a half-million dollars will come from it. The profits go to Gibson.
“I’d like to see (the items) in the Hall of Fame,” said former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, himself a Hall member, “but if he can help a charity more, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
True, in this same auction from Oct. 27 to Nov. 13 on SCPAuctions.com, also up for bid are Gibson’s 1988 N.L. regular-season MVP Award and his replica ’88 World Series trophy, with the proceeds going to his foundation. That will fund scholarships for the two high schools in Michigan that his mother and late father used to teach. The combined minimum bids for those two items are $30,000, expected to fetch in excess of $100,000.
Don’t confuse those two charity-based hawked items with the other five 1988 World Series pieces.
Since we may never see the ball that Gibson hit for what’s been called the biggest sports moment in Los Angeles history – the owner of it has never surfaced, and it would be nearly impossible to verify its authenticity without the holograms used on today’s equipment – why wouldn’t these treasures be placed somewhere to be marveled at by the public?
“I’m really at peace with what I’m doing,” Gibson explained, implying that he’s done listening to what other people think he should do with it.
He said that while his relationship with the media and fans has been touchy in the past, “it’s much improved, and I’m going to continue to improve it,” he said, knowing that as the Diamondbacks manager, that’s probably a requirement.
“To add another group to that is the collectors. It’s a huge environment. I think just as I realized that fans and media are a huge part of the game, the collectors, the people who display it, have museums, really cherish these things on a different level than I do. It’s an important part of our game, keeping our game healthy.”
Kohler, who has one of the greatest collections of Lakers memorabilia at his Orange County home, says it’s more common these days for buyers of this kind of stuff to display it. For the public? Or in their own homes, with added security.
Yet there’s no guarantee that whomever buys these items will put them on display, but Gibson says he’s “hopeful” that happens.
Gary Cypres, the curator and megacollector who owns the Sports Museum of Los Angeles, agreed that they were “great pieces, and I’d love to own them,” as he looked at the rooms of Dodger memorabilia in his personal treasure trove. But estimating a $200,000 fetch for the uniform, for example, “that’s a lot,” he said, noting that there’s much more of an emotional tie to these items.
Having possession of them this long has actually given Gibson what he calls a “phobia,” with his fearing they’ll be destroyed in a fire. Yet, he’s hung onto them. The bat, Gibson admits, was once requested by the Hall of Fame, but it never got there.
How it was that they weren’t conveniently picked up by a locker room kid, or a team official, or someone else in the meyhem of that moment on Oct. 15, 1988, Gibson doesn’t seem to be surprised.
“Well, they were mine,” he said, adding that owner Peter O’Malley also gave him a giant LeRoy Neiman lithograph of that moment and allowed players to keep their jerseys and, presumably, other items.
At least we know where the bat is. For the time being. But for the rest of time, Gibson will handle it his way. He says he also has many items from his days with the Detroit Tigers – more equipment from the 1984 World Series – that he will sell off as well. Maybe for his foundation. Maybe not.
“I have my reasons,” he said. “Let’s leave it at that, OK?”
Sure. Fine. Whatever.
The bat alone, item No. 1198, has a opening bid of $25,000, with expectations that it could go for more than $200,000. So a price has just officially been set on a priceless archive of Los Angeles history.
Everyone in L.A. will remember where they were when Gibson hit the home run. Will they remember where they were when swatches of the event were parceled off to the highest bidder?
Quite simply, there is nothing better than relaxing on a summer evening, door open, slight breeze blowing, dog in tow. . .listening to Vin.
Enjoy while you can, Dodger fans. I can not stress enough how fortunate we are to have Vin Scully as our Homeboy.
Si.com Recently ranked Vin Scully #2 Sportscaster of all-time (behind Jim McKay).
Always awesome to hear anything Vin-related.
SI.com’s Top 20 All-Time Sportscasters: #2 Vin Scully
At 61 seasons, Scully has the longest tenure of any broadcaster with one professional sports team, and he’s still going strong. He has been known as “the Voice of the Dodgers” since 1950, when the team was still in Brooklyn. The 82-year-old play-by-play man and his familiar voice may be nearing a final season.