When Dodgers fans stream into the stadium Tuesday for the opening game of the 2016 season, many of them will do so via a brand new street inaugurated just the day before. Well, not a physically new street, but one newly renamed to honor the beloved and long-lived Dodgers broadcaster, Vin Scully.
It's a pretty big honor considering the late, and similarly beloved, Lakers announcer Chick Hearn only got a square in his name. But Scully is a pretty big deal. He's been calling the Dodgers games for 67 seasons now. Generations of Angelenos have "seen" the game through his voice over the radio or loudspeakers. When he leaves, possibly at the end of this season, it will be a sad day for Los Angeles and the Dodgers.
Some neighborhood activists protested the decision by the Los Angeles City Council on Friday, complaining that there was a lack of outreach about the change. And some worry that rechristening Elysian Park Avenue between Sunset Boulevard and Stadium Way as Vin Scully Avenue dishonors the park surrounding the stadium. We don't think that a new name for this short stretch takes anything away from the park. Assuming much of anyone notices the change, they can rest assured that Elysian Park will retain its name.
But there is certainly a danger in naming things after someone who hasn't yet departed this world because the honoree still has time to besmirch his or her own name.
It happens with disturbing regularity. Great people are tripped up by hubris, temptation, addiction, arrogance or some combination – and their names instantly become a punch line. Who doesn't feel a tiny bit sheepish to say they attended Richard Nixon Elementary School? It's preferable to wait to bestow this honor until someone is well beyond the possibility of committing crime or engaging in embarrassing behavior.
Who knew back in 1978 that school officials in a San Joaquin Valley school district might someday have reason to rue their decision to replace dump President Abraham Lincoln for a Dodgers first baseman? "He's not perfect," said district Superintendent Bob Edwards upon the dedication of Steve Garvey Junior High School in Lindsay, Calif, "but he's about as close to being a well-balanced person as you can get. He cuts across racial, social and cultural lines and with his beautiful wife and two daughters he's a tremendous package."
Uh, oops. Nowadays, if anyone thinks about Garvey, they are as likely to recall the public scorn over his poor personal choices as his victories on the field.
Fortunately, the 88-year-old Scully seems an extremely safe bet. If he hasn't succumbed to the same temptations of other great men by now, then he isn't likely to.