The first, and only time I saw Vin Scully in the flesh was during the summer of the 1981 Major League Baseball season. I was eleven and my step-uncle worked for the Dodgers; every now and then he would slip my family free tickets. Adequate seats, always behind the home dugout, usually around 15 or 20 rows deep.
After several months of sitting there watching regular-season games, I realized what a monotonous sport baseball is. Every sport is really, but baseball is second only to golf in regards to what the most boring athletic event is to watch. If you’re participating, that’s different. I’m talking about watching an average regular-season nine-inning ball game or eighteen-rounds of golf – in person. No fun.
For me, the boredom usually set in by the fifth inning into any given game. That’s when I’d leave my seat and explore the concourses of Chavez Ravine for a few innings. I got to know the lay of land pretty well.
One afternoon, I was certain I found the nondescript door Dodgers’ sportscaster Vin Scully used to exit his announcer's booth after each game. Standing watch, a security guard wearing a Dodger-blue blazer and an old-fashioned carnival barker’s straw hat carrying a walkie-talkie. It had to be Scully’s door.
I also recall thinking I wanted to see if Scully’s hair was as vibrantly-hued in real life as it was on television where he called every Dodgers game I could remember up until that point. (KTTV Channel 11, back then.) I decided to hang around for the remainder of the game and find out for myself.
I wasn’t able to follow the game while I was lying in wait for Scully, but the Dodgers must have won because all of a sudden, the simmering crowd of 56,000 or so fans suddenly erupted with a loud cheer. As the applause was tapering off, the concourse started filling up with everyone rushing toward the stadium’s rolling acres of parking lots.
Suddenly, the door I was hoping he’d walk out of swung open with a loud metal crunch. It was Vin; all business, not a note of emotion. Hair perfect and beaming. A stoic professional. He also seemed stage lit, as if there was a soft white spotlight only on him. You’d never think he just called a four-hour day game during a smoggy August afternoon. He wasn’t even perspiring.
Scully was flanked by a cop in full LAPD gear to his right; to his left, the usher with the blue blazer and the carnival barker hat. As the trio parted the sea of local hoi polloi, the cop’s right hand gripped his holstered sidearm, while his left hand rested on the shoulder pad of Scully’s eggshell blue sports jacket. The sense of grandeur was similar to that of a visit from a president or a pope.
The three were headed towards a VIP parking lot. Nearby onlookers shouted “Vin! Vin!,” but Scully never diverted his gaze from the prize – the idling town car that was waiting for him about 30 yards away.
Then he disappeared. His car door slammed and he was gone. It all happened in less than fifteen seconds, but in that short amount of time, you could sense that Scully had a certain elegance radiating off him, a regalness. We at OUTSIDELEFT call it charisma.
It’s a memory I think about everytime I hear Scully’s voice, but my favorite thing about him is that knew when to keep it to himself. While it seems like sportscasters make an athlete’s notable moment on the field about themselves, Vin knew when to pull back and let the moment speak for itself. Sort of like when he called Kirk Gibson’s miracle walk-on World Series homerun to win the game…
Vin Scully was able to make baseball interesting and exciting, and as players have come and gone in the 59 seasons he’s called games in LA, he was the one element of the team (and the city) that remained pure and consistent.
People who grew up in Los Angeles were lucky to have grown up with Vin’s voice in the air, although It was more than the golden throat. He was one of the last few good ones. There’s was Mr. Rodgers and now Vin Scully. At least Jimmy Carter’s still around.
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