Joe Davis did not sleep through the night. He got his rest here and there, roused himself from bed, dressed in a Dodgers-blue blazer, and drove to Dodger Stadium to replace a legend.
Never has Los Angeles known an opening day without Vin Scully. That sentence remains present tense, at least for this year. Scully was not in the broadcast booth Monday. He was not even on the premises, and yet he was everywhere.
When Scully left the press box last year, he had to part a sea of adoring fans shouting his name and snapping photos on their cell phones. When Davis left the Vin Scully Press Box on Monday morning, the path was clear.
First, to his right, Davis could see six framed posters of Scully, freshly hanging on a wall. Then, to his left, he could see a new display case that included the scorebook, notes and headset from Scully’s final broadcast, and a picture of President Obama presenting Scully with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
As Tommy Lasorda and Wally Moon took the field for the ceremonial first pitches, Scully appeared on the video board, narrating an ode to opening day, sharing memories of Moon hitting “Moon Shots” over the 40-foot fence in left field at the Coliseum and of Lasorda leading the Dodgers to their last two World Series championships, 29 and 36 years ago. Before Lasorda and Moon could throw a pitch, Scully extended a nod to Davis.
“So, Joe,” Scully said, “why don’t you say hello to everyone?”
So Davis did. Do what Scully says, and you’ll be all right.
Davis called him a couple weeks ago. Scully shared stories of the Dodgers’ arrival in Los Angeles, and he counseled Davis to be his own man on the air, with his own style. But, when he asked about how Scully handled the biggest plays and the greatest moments, Davis must have listened.
When Joc Pederson hit a grand slam for the Dodgers’ first home run this season, Davis kept his mouth shut and let the crowd and the camera tell the story, just as Scully would have done.
“I treasure every opportunity I get to pick his brain,” Davis said before the game.
Davis is 29. Scully, the greatest broadcaster in baseball history, was inducted into the Hall of Fame five years before Davis was born.
Davis is not technically a rookie. He called most of the Dodgers’ road games last season, with Scully calling the home games.
However, until Monday Davis had not called a regular-season game from the booth Scully had long called home. The Dodgers gave the booth a spiffy remodeling over the offseason, and Davis and partner Orel Hershiser showed off the new look to their viewers.
“Mr. Scully, when he saw this, said, ‘Boy, that Joe Davis must have a lot of pull,’ ” joked Hershiser, who suggested the new work space might be so glamorous as to tempt Scully out of retirement.
“Please do,” Davis said, earnestly. “Nobody would be happier to have you sitting in this seat than we would.”
Later, when the camera focused on the entrance to the Vin Scully Press Box, Davis said, “He was, is, and always will be the Dodgers.”
Truer words were never spoken, as anyone watching Monday’s broadcast would know.
Davis delivers a clean broadcast. His preparation is evident, and he is not given to hyperbole. He works well with Hershiser, who can translate baseball jargon into English and who joyously noted Yasiel Puig’s bat flip on an intentional walk; and with Alanna Rizzo, the rare field reporter who adds substance to a broadcast. The production is superb; a shot that dissolved from a Clayton Kershaw delivery into a closeup of Sandy Koufax in the stands artfully bonded two generations of Dodgers history.
And yet, we couldn’t help thinking there was something generic about it all. Scully was the last master of the one-man booth. He talked to us, not to a broadcast partner, regaling us with stories of ice skating with Jackie Robinson, and the history of beards, and did you know that Uggla was Swedish for owl?
The Dodgers broadcast sounded good Monday, and at the same it sounded just like that of every other team. That old Joni Mitchell line came to mind — “Don't it always seem to go/That you don't know what you've got ‘til it’s gone” — except that all of Los Angeles knew what it had in Scully all along.
It’s time for a different brand of Dodger baseball.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin