Luck is with us in Los Angeles, for we get to hear verbal nuggets such as this one from the Dodgers’ home opener Monday, courtesy of broadcaster Vin Scully, who is telling us about Travis Ishikawa of the Giants.
“Ishikawa, last year he had a stretch where runners were in scoring position with less than two outs and he went seven for 11. That got everybody’s attention.
“He was a football player in high school, as well as a baseball player, and now he’s trying to tackle the tough job of picking up [Bengie] Molina from third.”
In less than 15 seconds, the 81-year-old Scully has described how Ishikawa had shown a talent for getting runners to score, talked about the young man’s football career and in a literary tour de force, joined the football with “trying to tackle” the job of getting the runner home.
How good is that?
In another moment of the game, Scully reminded his listeners about how transitory life can be as he told of the passing of a colleague, the Philadelphia Phillies’ legendary Harry Kalas, who collapsed Monday in the broadcast booth at Nationals Park in Washington and was rushed to a local hospital, where he died.
Phillies fans loved Kalas as much as Dodgers fans love Scully, but that didn’t need saying.
What Scully did say held us tight.
“I know that a lot of people watch us as a form of escape,” he said, “as a chance to get away from it all, so I’ve always been sensitive about bringing sad news.
“Today we have sad news. We learned just a couple of hours ago that a wonderful broadcaster, Harry Kalas, a great guy, passed away while in the booth in Washington, D.C. Harry was with the Phillies since 1971 . . . count on Martin is 1-1 . . . he was 73, the father of three and my heartfelt sympathy goes out to his family . . . and believe me when I say this to the city of Philadelphia because they loved him, as well they should.”
There was the pro, our pro, honoring another pro and still seamlessly giving the count on Dodgers batter Russell Martin.
An occasional e-mail will come in from a Dodgers fan who wishes Scully would tell fewer stories and give more pitch counts.
But it is the stories that we can’t get anywhere else. The pitch counts, those are on the Internet and in boxscores and in graphics on our televisions. The stories are another matter. The best ones come only from those who have been around baseball long enough to breathe life into the history of the game.
Scully can talk about national anthems sung decades ago and then praise 16-year-old Filipina singer Charice as she belted out the anthem Monday; he can talk about watching Willie Mays and then sound totally down with calling Orlando Hudson “O-Dog.”
He finished the game by saying, “The O-Dog was barking right from the beginning,” and it didn’t sound corny. Then Scully said, “A record-setting crowd of 57,000 and Manny’s number, 99.”
Isn’t that a lot more interesting than, “The crowd was 57,099 . . . "?
Bob Costas was speaking on a conference call Monday morning to promote the MLB Network’s Thursday night broadcast, the home opener at the new Yankee Stadium. Costas is returning to the baseball broadcast booth for the first time in nine years, and while talking about the death of Kalas, described Scully.
“Vin has the unbelievable combination of special skill with a distinctive style. Combined with all those generational memories is something we’ll never see again,” Costas said. “Circumstances will never allow for it again.”
Again is for some other time, some other place. We have Scully now, so if his stories mean you miss a moment of action, you won’t have missed a thing. You will only have gained.