Dodgers’ tribute to Vin Scully is in essence a celebration of baseball history
Broadcaster Vin Scully arrives at Dodgers Stadium to call the final home opener of his career.
The game will go on without Vin Scully.
In fact, it already did. The Dodgers produced a splendid tribute to Scully before Tuesday’s home opener, but it ran so long that he could not get back from the field to the broadcast booth in time for the first pitch.
There is a first time for everything, even in the 67th and final season of his career. Scully said he never had missed the start of a game, but he masked his disappointment with trademark grace and good humor.
“I know they’re going to play without me,” he said.
That was a first awkward note in a delicate farewell dance. Scully believes the spotlight should be reserved for the game, not for the guy calling it. Los Angeles wants to embrace Scully, to send him into retirement with a group hug and a million selfies. The Dodgers must walk a thin blue tightrope, trying to strike just the right balance.
The fans lined up by the dozens on the club level Tuesday, waiting for a glimpse of the greatest broadcaster in baseball history. Scully emerged from the press box at 12:30 p.m., his hand on his wife’s back, as security guards parted the blue sea and opened a path to an elevator. The fans cheered, shouted declarations of love, snapped pictures with their cell phones. One fan got a little too close to Scully; the guards intercepted him.
The elevator took Scully down to the field, to a ceremony that traced the history of the broadcaster and the team, joyously intertwined for posterity. The first man out: Don Newcombe, 89, the starting pitcher in Scully’s first Dodgers game, in 1950.
“To be out on the mound with him all those years later — 67 years later — and we’re shaking hands,” Scully said, “that was a great feeling.”
Next came Maury Wills and Sandy Koufax, and then Hank Aaron on video. Al Downing joined the parade, and Rick Monday, and Steve Garvey, Bill Russell and Ron Cey. Fernando Valenzuela did too, and then another video tribute, this time from Kirk Gibson.
“It’s an honor for me to have your voice attached to the soundtrack of my career,” Gibson said.
Orel Hershiser joined the line, and Tom Lasorda, and finally Clayton Kershaw. In that first game, in 1950, the Dodgers lineup included Hall of Famers Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider and Jackie Robinson. Think about it, a Cooperstown legacy that could extend from Robinson to Kershaw, and Scully called it all.
In the visitors dugout, the best hitter in the National League sat in a folding chair, leaning forward and taking in the moment. The ceremony had nothing to do with the Arizona Diamondbacks, other than forcing them to wait a few extra minutes until the first pitch, and yet Paul Goldschmidt relished his front-row seat.
“To have all those legends out there, with the history they have here at Dodger Stadium, and with all their players, that was awesome,” Goldschmidt said. “It was fun to be a witness to that.”
Some of the sights and sounds of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ home opener to the 2016 season.
Chip Hale, the Diamondbacks manager, did not direct his players to watch the Scully ceremony but said he was delighted that most of them did.
“That showed me they have respect for the game. That’s one thing we try to teach here,” Hale said. “If you can’t be out there to celebrate a guy like Vin Scully …”
Hale’s voice trailed off, as if he realized he did not need to complete the sentence.
“That’s the history of baseball,” he said. “We have these newfangled uniforms — they’re funky — because we don’t have a history like they have here. You have to respect that.”
On the air, fans across America and abroad — from Newfoundland, Canada, to Nottingham, England — could enjoy Scully. Alas, more than half the fans in Los Angeles could not. Perhaps the Dodgers, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV can reach peace in our time, before Scully’s broadcast time runs out in October.
At the ballpark, the Dodgers plan to hold a Scully farewell salute Sept. 23. Fans must buy an 11-game plan to guarantee tickets to that game, although team President Stan Kasten said single-game tickets would be sold at a later date. The median resale price for that date: $199, according to Vivid Seats, more than $100 higher than any other Dodger Stadium date left this season.
The Dodgers also will give away Scully T-shirts in May and bobbleheads in September.
“It makes me uncomfortable,” Scully said. “I only work here, when you get down to it.”
Kasten said he has discussed promotions and commemorations with Scully.
“He did understand this year has a unique significance to our fans,” Kasten said. “That meant a lot to him. So maybe he did more than he might otherwise have been comfortable with, because he understood it was important to the fans.”
That it is. Onward, and farewell.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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