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Vin Scully: Shakespeare Wtih a Mic

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in famously opined that "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."  Well, I'm here to tell you that his list wasn't complete.  For indeed, if you are a Southern Californian there is a third eternal verity: that Vin Scully, the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the greatest announcer in the history of sports.  Period.  And, mirabile dictu, this past Friday, the Dodgers announced that the 85 year old Scully will be returning to the broadcast booth for a record 65th season in 2014. For Dodger fans -- indeed for all Angelenos -- Scully is much, much more than the voice of the Dodgers; he is, without question, the most beloved citizen of that place Dorothy Parker once called "72 suburbs in search of a city." When, several years ago, team owners asked fans to vote for their all-time favorite Dodger, guess who won?  Hint: it was neither Sandy Koufax nor Don Drysdale.  It was L.A's favorite redhead. 

Vin Scully has been with the Dodgers longer than Connie Mack managed the Philadelphia Athletics, and longer than Joe Paterno coached the Nittany Lions.  In fact, the only person ever to serve a single sports team longer is another Dodger: Tommy Lasorda, who signed his first contract in 1948 -- one year before Vin came on board. 

I first heard the voice of Vin Scully on April 18, 1958 -- the first game the Dodgers ever played in Los Angeles.  They beat the San Francisco (formerly New York) Giants 6-5.  Carl Erskine defeated Al Worthington; Clem Labine got the save and third baseman Dick Gray was the first Dodger to homer at the cavernous Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.  I remember being absolutely mesmorized by the dulcet tones of the Dodger announcer.  It was as if he was talking to me and me alone.  By the end of that first season -- in which they finished a miserable 7th, 23 games behind the Milwaukee Braves -- I had my own radio.  Since then, I would estimate that I have heard Vin Scully call nearly 8,500 games, which means that next to my late father, his is the male voice I've heard most often in my life.

As any Dodger fan knows, Vin Scully does far more than merely announce a game.  He is a walking, talking and breathing baseball encyclopedia.  His memories are priceless; his stories are sensational.  He not only tells mostly first-hand stories of the past 70-plus years of baseball, but also, when appropriate, tidbits about world and  Broadway history, literature and music.  At the same time, this 85-year old might also remind listeners that AC/DC does "Hell's Bells" and that "Enter Sandman" is by Metallica. He does all this while calling a baseball game.  And best of all, unlike just about any other announcer, he knows when to be silent.  I guess the greatest proof of the Scully's genius is that almost everyone attending games at Chavez Ravine (Dodger Stadium) is listening to him on the radio . . . even though the game is going on right in front of them.

Over the course of his career, Vin has called three perfect games, 25 no-hitters, 25 World Series and 12 All-Star Games.  Among the iconic moments he has called:

  • Don Larson's perfect game in the 1956 World Series: Got him! The greatest game ever pitched in baseball history, by Don Larsen! A no hitter, a perfect game in a World Series ... Never in the history of the game has it ever happened in a World Series ... And so our hats off to Don Larsen--no runs, no hits, no errors, no walks, no base runners. The final score: The Yankees, two runs, five hits and no errors. The Dodgers: No runs, no hits, no errors ... in fact, nothing at all. This was a day to remember, this was a ballgame to remember and above all, the greatest day in the life of Don Larsen. And the most dramatic and well-pitched ballgame in the history of baseball. ... Mel (Allen) you can put this in your ring and wear it a long time.  
  • Sandy Koufax's perfect game, September 9, 1965: And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flourish. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that "K" stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X.
  • Hank Aaron's 715th home run on April 8, 1974: What a marvelous moment for baseball; what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia; what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron. " And for the first time in a long time, that poker face in Aaron shows the tremendous strain and relief of what it must have been like to live with for the past several months.

Vin Scully is more than an icon; more than a living legend.  He is, simply stated, the best there ever has been.  Scully is to baseball announcing what Shakespeare was to English literature, what Bach was to music, Einstein to theoretical physics or Sir Charles Chaplin to cinema -- both sui generis and nonpareil.  Scully has taught baseball -- both the game and the "game within the game" to countless millions over the past 65 years.  He has been both a brilliant constant and a thorough-going gentleman in an everchanging world where far too many idols have feet of clay.  To my ear, he sounds just as young, vital and resonant in August 2013 as he did that first time I heard him back in April 1958.

When Sir Charles Chaplin died on December 25, 1977, I felt a tremendous sense of loss. Although I never met him, I had seen just about every film he'd ever made, and read every book ever written by or about him.  He was -- and still is -- to my way of thinking, the greatest genius in the history of cinema.  I remember reading dozens upon dozens of eulogies delivered by the great men and women of his profession; heartfelt and wonderfully literate sentiments by the likes of Rene' Clair, Lord Olivier, Jacques Tati and Federico Fellini.  The simplest -- and yet the most touching -- was spoken by Bob Hope, whose words best sum up not only the life, times and achievements of "the little fellow," but Vin Scully as well:

"We were fortunate to have lived in his time."

Thank you Vin for being the third eternal verity.  We are so very fortunate to be living in your time.

-2013 Kurt F. Stone

 

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http://www.kurtfstone.typepad.com
Kurt Stone is a rabbi, writer, lecturer, political activist, professor, actor, and medical ethicist. A true "Hollywood brat" (born and raised in the film industry), Kurt was educated at the University of California, the Eagleton Institute of (more...)
 

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