Vin Scully has begun his 63rd season as play-by-play broadcaster for the Dodgers.
The mellifluous 84-year-old Hall of Famer stands as baseball's most gifted raconteur — ever. He's been my hero since I was a kid.
The Dodgers moved to L.A. from Brooklyn in 1958. I was 13 when I began my love affair with the Dodgers via radio. Scully and his on-air partner, Jerry Doggett, provided the inspiration.
Though I've admired countless players over the decades, my all-time favorite Dodger has always been Scully.
During the first few L.A. seasons, my dad took my brother and me to games at the Coliseum, and later Dodger Stadium. Like countless others, I took my transistor radio with me so that I could watch the action and listen simultaneously to Vinny's matchless play-by-play. I kept one eye on the field and the other at the press box.
On July 21, 1960 — when I was 15 — I wrote Scully a letter.
"Mr. Scully, I want to be a broadcaster like you," I wrote. "What do I need to do?"
I also asked if I could visit him in the press box.
Five days later he composed a response on a manual typewriter.
I've always treasured the memory of that response, but, for the last three decades or so, I assumed I misplaced it. Then, six months ago my wife and I renovated our guest bedroom and removed some boxes from the closet.
I found Scully's letter, still in the envelope and in mint condition. I could see that the letter had been hastily extracted from its envelope — by me — 52 years earlier. One end of the envelope was indelicately torn open.
The letter brought a flood of emotions.
"Dear Jim," Scully began.
"Many thanks for your kind and thoughtful letter of the 21st of July. From reading your background, I would say that you are definitely following the right course for a career in broadcasting. I would certainly continue as you have been doing and then I would definitely plan on attending college when the time comes."
To that point in my life, I'd never been encouraged to go to college.
"Unfortunately," Scully continued, "there is no set way to success in broadcasting but I would think that you should attend a college or university that features an FM or campus radio station. I would vary my activities while at college so as to be as fully equipped as possible upon graduation.
"Participate in as many extra curricular activities as possible and I am sure that in time, with your natural desires and proper training, you will reach your chosen goal in the broadcasting field.
"I regret to say that because of lack of space, we are unable to have visitors in our broadcasting booth. I trust you will understand.
"Again, my best wishes for your future success.
"Sincerely, Vin Scully."
He added a postscript.
In my original letter I'd enclosed a school picture of myself. I pointed out that, like him, I had freckles.
"P.S. — I am enclosing your picture which is certainly a good one and I am sure you would like to keep it. You certainly beat me in the freckles department!"
Class. Pure class.
What celebrated personage takes time to write a thoughtful letter like that to an adolescent? A person of substance, that's who.
Scully was the first person to advise me about college, and I heeded his counsel. I became the first member of my family to earn a college degree and, later, a graduate degree. I didn't replace him in the broadcast booth — no one did! — but I embarked upon a career that brought me great personal satisfaction. I likely wouldn't have chosen my career path without Scully.
I was hired by my alma mater, Orange Coast College, in 1971 as director of community relations, and I continued to indulge my passion for "broadcasting." For 21 seasons I was P.A. announcer for Pirate football games, and for 15 I announced basketball. I retired after 37 years, in 2008.
It's been a wonderful life.
Thanks, Mr. Scully, for your kindness!
JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Tuesdays.