Vin Scully is OK, making all of us OK
It is late Friday morning, and our hearts have started beating again.
The dreaded words were right there in the morning paper: " Vin Scully hospitalized.” It happened so close to deadline that the story could not satisfy the axioms of journalism and say what, why and how.
Now we know. He fell at home and hit his head. But he is OK. The good news got out there quickly. It marks the first time we have been happy for the existence of the Internet.
And then it hits us. Would any other member of the Dodgers — any other member of any sports franchise in Los Angeles — be deemed so important that a newspaper felt compelled, and correctly so, to print a man-enters-hospital story with no other details?
The answer is no.
Scully is a franchise treasure, a community treasure. No need to stop there. If you are even a tiny bit of a sports fan, he is a national treasure.
He is also 82, and even though his 82 is the new 67, when he hits his head, the rest of us gasp.
His reaction will be embarrassment at the attention this gets. Our reaction, since this is all about us and his several million fans, is to mandate that he now wear a helmet around the house. He’ll get a chuckle out of that and go looking for one of those old leather jobs from the Red Grange era with no facemask.
He will never quite understand what he means to the rest of us because he cannot. He is the one inside that skin.
But if anything happens to him, the void is too huge for comprehension. If we had our way, there would be a fountain of youth and Scully would have John Wooden, who may know more baseball than basketball, as his broadcast sidekick. That might be the only tandem that would work, because, as current Dodgers broadcaster Charley Steiner has so often and so aptly pointed out about Scully’s go-it-solo broadcasts, “Poets don’t need straight men.”
Think of what we would miss as we navigate our tangled web of freeways during the baseball season.
Scully starts a story as the batter comes to the plate. The stories are almost always new, always fascinating. As the tale unspools, we focus harder, praying somewhere deep within ourselves that the pitcher has the decency to throw a couple in the dirt and the hitter has the good sense to take some pitches, or at least swing and miss. We don’t care about the game at that very moment. We want no interruption to Scully’s story.
We’ve even thought about asking our old friend Bud Selig to help. Hey Bud, how about some sort of little buzzer that will go off on the plate and the mound when Scully starts telling a story? Then, under penalty of fine from the commissioner’s office, the pitcher is ordered to walk off the mound and go to the rosin bag. After that, the hitter must re-tie both shoes and return to the dugout for a new bat.
The once redheaded Scully was born of Irish immigrant parents and still wears the old sod like a comfortable nightshirt. One of his best friends over the years was The Times’ late and great columnist Jim Murray, who also had the Cliffs of Moher embedded in his face.
Listening to the two of them talk over a cup of coffee was like watching Koufax pitch or hearing Pavarotti sing. The stories were marvelous, some of them even true. The occasional blarney made one thirsty for a swig of Guinness.
The joy with which they interacted was a pleasure to behold. Nor did either comprehend what the rest of us have known forever: That reading Murray was like eating whipped cream, and listening to Scully is the same.
Peter O’Malley, who used to own the Dodgers and whose vintage is such that he thinks of Cork first as a county rather than something capping a bottle of wine, reacted with relief.
“Vinny’s genuine, 14 karat,” O’Malley said. “He’s as good as a friend as he is behind the microphone.”
When Murray died and a memorial service was planned for Dodger Stadium, the list of speakers included the equivalent of an American sports who’s who. In the group were Jerry West, Al Michaels, Al Davis, Chick Hearn, Chris McCarron and Scully. The dilemma for the memorial service planners was who would bat cleanup. Quickly, it was determined there was no dilemma.
So when Scully stepped to the plate to wrap things up, looked to the heavens and told the audience that it was the kind of day that Murray would have appreciated because it was “what the Irish call a soft day,” there were no dry eyes.
Scully will do his first spring game from Arizona on Sunday. Dodgers versus Cleveland Indians. The score won’t matter. The voice giving it to us will.
We remained blessed.