You Hear Him, You Really Hear Him
The Dodger pregame ceremony Sunday which gathered and honored members of the 1955 World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers was a good idea, a sentimental home run and, in some ways, not necessary.
If you want to gain an appreciation for the Dodgers’ rich tradition or feel a connection to the franchise’s New York roots, all you need to do is listen to Vin Scully on a daily basis.
In his sublime way Scully was the star of Sunday’s ceremony, even though he never set foot on the field. The old-timers praised him during a video montage before the event. When Scully was introduced the cheer for him was as loud as anything else heard all day.
And the entire time he remained where he has always been: on his chair in the booth.
“I don’t want to take a bow,” Scully said to Houston Astro announcer Milo Hamilton in the press box dining room before the game. “Never did, never will.”
Fifty-six years on the job, a spot in the Hall of Fame, recognition as the top broadcaster in the 20th century by his professional peers isn’t enough reason to take a bow?
“I didn’t want to go on the field,” Scully said later. “I’d rather not. It belonged to them. It was their day, and I really and truly believe it in my heart. That’s the way I wanted it.”
The rare Dodger Stadium appearances by stars such as Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider and Johnny Podres made this a special event.
Scully is as much a fixture at Dodger Stadium as the outfield pavilions. And that’s the problem. We might take him for granted because he has always been there, providing the soundtrack to Kirk Gibson’s home run, Koufax’s perfect game and yes, the final out in 1955: “Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers are the champions of the world.”
Now that he’s 77 we’re much closer to the end of Scully’s career than the beginning. Thoughts of retirement have started to creep into the broadcasts, such as the time this season when a foul ball whizzing by a third base coach caused Scully to say that, before he hangs ‘em up, he’d like to see the base coaches wear helmets.
Just hearing him talk about leaving was jarring.
“The day will come,” Scully said. “I’m not quite sure when. Nobody’s really sure when they’re going to hang anything up. I’ll go day to day like the ballplayers.”
Dodger owner Frank McCourt said: “Vin will be here for as long as he wants to, obviously. My feeling is that he’s much younger than his years. He has a kid’s enthusiasm. He loves the Dodgers, he has a passion for baseball. As long as he has those qualities, he’s going to continue to do this. I don’t think we should be looking at the calendar when it comes to Vin.”
Scully showed his masterful touch Sunday when introducing Koufax, skipping a lengthy recital of the pitcher’s accomplishments and handing it over to the fans.
“Let’s have you use the time,” Scully said, fully aware that there’s only one sound in baseball better than his voice: the roar of the crowd.
Scully also provided the perfect context for the FSN West 2 broadcast, which tracked the evolution of baseball telecasts from the black-and-white days of 1955 to the color, multiple-angle, graphic-heavy games of today, because he actually worked through every development.
It’s not just the baseball and broadcast experience. We benefit from his broad range of interests and his ability to summon them so effortlessly. A bounced pitch that Oscar Robles smacks out of the dirt and into left field reminds him of the days playing stickball in Brooklyn. A sunset in Colorado conjures up a comparison to a Renaissance painting.
Even his microphone checks sound superior. After sending a quick “One, two, three” to bounce off empty seats of Dodger Stadium two hours before the game, he saw the Houston Astros making their way toward the dugout and Scully broke into a little play-by-play.
“Welcome to the Houston Astros,” he said. “Arriving one by one, striding down the aisle, perhaps on their way to a wild-card berth.”
He noted that three Astros had been at the stadium for 15 minutes already and his voice shifted to the tone of a school principal as he lectured the rest of the team:
“What is your excuse for arriving so late?”
For Astro third baseman Morgan Ensberg, who grew up rooting for the Dodgers and listening to Scully in Hermosa Beach, arriving at Dodger Stadium to the sound of Scully was like hearing God announce his entry into heaven.
“I’m just kind of like, ‘What am I doing here?’ ” Ensberg said.
If you’re from here, there’s no escaping the magic of Scully’s voice.
“You know there are sounds and smells of growing up?” Ensberg said. “He would definitely qualify as a sound of growing up.”
It was Scully’s turn to be nostalgic Sunday as he introduced the names he called during the early days of his career.
“Oh my gosh,” Scully said. “That’s part of my life. They were very close pals of mine. I was about the same age as most of them, so that made us closer friends than today. Plus that was the day of roommates. It was just a totally different life. It was just great to see them.”
A great day at Dodger Stadium, including a 1-0 victory for the Dodgers over the Astros, made all the more memorable by a simple fact: Vin Scully was in the booth.
J.A. Adande can be reached at email@example.com. To read previous columns by Adande, go to latimes.com/adande.