Saturday, September 24, 2016

Thank You, Vin

We're beginning to say our farewells in the final inning of Vin Scully's career. Tonight, the Dodgers held a ceremony to honor our hero in the fading twilight of the 67th year. We are now faced with oncoming reality of 1 A.V. (After Vin, of course).

For one thing, I won't be watching Dodgers games anymore, but I digress.

He's been everything. Mentor to too many broadcasters to count (that's me raising my hand). He's been friend to fans everywhere -- most of whom will never so much as be in the same room as him. He's been dad to those who have lost. Or grandfather. Or uncle.

We think he belongs to us, and we're not entirely wrong. From Brooklyn to Los Angeles and the transistor radios, he's been a part of the world of the Dodgers.

We nearly brought him back to New York in 1965 as a replacement for Mel Allen, but we were able to hear him on each of the major networks at one point or another. He showed up on NBC for a few World Series before becoming the lead baseball voice in the 1980s.

He was on CBS for golf (including the Masters). Check out this funkalicious bit from 1978.

He also did tennis on CBS (yes, tennis). Of course, he called football, including a little something called "The Catch." Incidentally, he's brilliant (duh) and has the great Hank Stram alongside of him.

It all turned out well, but his road nearly changed. If CBS didn't pair Pat Summerall with John Madden, it would have been Vin. Oh my indeed. But we were the lucky ones, and Vinny moved onto NBC.

The icon and legend grew.

Vin and I were once in the same ballpark. It was Old Timer's Day at Yankee Stadium in 1983, and wouldn't you know it - I found video of the opening of that broadcast!

Yes, young Rob was in there, in the right field seats, for Bobby Murcer's first Old Timer's Day (my first also), and for the Yankees and Rangers to meet in the regular game.

We didn't meet that day, though I did take a picture of the booth (yup, even then).
Joe Garagiola, Vin, Phil Rizzuto, Frank Messer, Bobby Murcer, John Gordon, and Bill White (RA photo).
Anyway, at this point I don't ever expect to meet him or interview him, but I am grateful to him. Grateful for everything he has taught me. In a time when we need heroes (however insignificant), this red-headed kid originally from The Bronx and then Washington Heights taught me the most about sculpting the narrative of a whole lot of sporting events for listeners and viewers.

But there's more to Vin.

He hosted a game show in the 1970s. Yes. A game show.

There was also a talk show. And later, on ABC (this was in the 90s) he was back to doing golf.

Oh wait. Did I mention the Tournament of Roses Parade?

Of course the top calls are being ranked. Shall we rank the work Oscar Wilde or Emily Dickinson or Stephen King? I suppose that's what we do. Most are going to say number one is the Kirk Gibson home run, and I don't blame them.

Oh it's brilliant, of course. Heck, the back story is that Scully himself unknowingly propelled Gibson to hit because the latter heard the former say that Gibson wouldn't play. There are a litany of great lines in it "Not a bad opening act," "You talk about a roll of the dice," and the best of all: "In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened."

I love it. But for me, technically, it's simply not the best ever.

That, of course, is saved for "Twenty-nine thousand and a million butterflies."

"You can almost taste the pressure."

I've explained it to students. It's been reprinted verbatim. It's not a single moment like the Miacle on Ice or the The Shot Heard Round the World. But it is everything. It's perfect. Vin and Sandy - forever intertwined in that regard.

Oh my there are others. Hank Aaron's 715th. Fernando's no-hitter. The Twins walking off against the Braves in 1991. Larsen in '56. The comments following September 11th. Mookie Wilson in '86.

Countless moments -- big and small. The narration of a brawl or an argument with an umpire. The little moments of watching children in the stands. The meticulous preparation and the use of such things like explaining Socrates (the philosopher) while Socrates (Brito, the Diamondback) was at home plate.

Yet sometimes it's the brilliant subtlety, where nothing needs to be said. Until tonight, I've never heard his call of Joe Carter's World Series-winner in 1993.

"Home run!" Then silence. Wonderful.

Perhaps my favorite, past Koufax, is the last out of the 1996 World Series. The crowd noise. The utterly insane euphoria. Vin's inner-child saying "Is this something? I mean do you loooooove baseball? There's not a thing the Yankees can do. They can't the quarterback kneel down on the ground. They can't freeze the ball. Sooner or later, they've gotta throw it."

That's on my collection of highlights that I put on my archive page several years ago. That's how we'll finish here. Thanks, Vin.

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