Vin Scully claimed to be “the most ordinary man you’ve ever met” and insisted he knows little about poetry, but anyone who has heard him during his 66 seasons as a Dodgers broadcaster knows he’s an extraordinary person and a poet, a storyteller, at heart.
It was while discussing his decision to return next season — likely his finale, which he has said before but not with as much apparent certainty as he did Saturday — that Scully cited Welsh poet Dylan Thomas to explain his approach to the end of his remarkable professional journey.
“He wrote, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ And I guess in a way that’s what I’m doing. I’m raging against the dying of my career, which has to be around the corner now,” said Scully, who will be 88 on Nov. 29. “But at least for the God-given time that I have left I’ll be raging. Because I’ve never minded getting older. In fact, when you get to where I am, you’re very grateful that you’ve gotten to be that old. But I never wanted to be old. Ever.”
Scully’s lyrical calls and vibrant anecdotes will never be old. For most of us he has always been there, the soundtrack to millions of childhoods, a link to a time and to places few remember.
Typically modest at a news conference Saturday, and apologetic about arriving two minutes late because of traffic, Scully was as engaging as he is at the microphone. He was vague about the social-media excitement generated Friday by his announcement that he will return, saying he had been told “there was something like 11 million, is it tweets?” But he was precise in citing the 1862 birthdate of Hall of Fame member Connie Mack, whom Scully saw before working one of his first broadcasts, at spring training in 1950.
Then 22, Scully had no idea how long his career would last.
“My whole thought was ‘Dear God, help me survive each broadcast,’ ” he said.
He has survived and thrived, outlasting most of his contemporaries but never wearing out his welcome. Reducing his travel schedule has helped preserve his energy and his health, and he indicated he might cut back again.
“We’re going to talk about that next year,” he said. “As I told people, this is August and we’re talking about next April.”
But next season is likely to be his last, he said more than once.
“I do feel in my bones that will be enough for sure, and I’m sure that people say that will be enough as well,” he said.
He doesn’t sleep as well as he used to. He lost his road dining companion when longtime Dodgers executive Billy DeLury died in April.
“It’s a fight some days to really kick myself and get going,” Scully said.
And while it’s impossible to imagine the Dodgers without him, Scully said the team will go on without missing a beat. It will, but no broadcast will be as lyrical or poetic after he says goodbye. The best we can wish is that he can make his final decision with a clear mind and strong heart and not because illness gives him no choice.
“I would say realistically — I don’t want any headlines — but I would say next year will be the last one,” he said. “How much longer can you go fooling people? Yeah, I would be saying, ‘Dear God, if you give me next year, I’ll hang it up.’ ”
He acknowledged some fear of retirement, and that’s natural.
“Baseball has meant really a good portion of my life, and to give it up?” he said. “I was thinking the other day, I started working when I was 11 years old. I sold newspapers in New York. That was the beginning. I could give you a list of jobs that you wouldn’t believe, from selling newspapers to being a box boy to delivering dry cleaning. I worked in the Pennsylvania Hotel cleaning silverware. Now, that was a job. I was a milkman.
“All my life I’ve worked and I was so lucky to go from a radio station in Washington to the Dodgers and of course, it never stopped. For me to suddenly put the key in the ignition and turn the engine off, it’s kind of a frightening thought. I put the key in and left it there, God willing, for another year.”
Shouldn’t the imminent end to Scully’s glorious career give the Dodgers and SportsNet LA incentive to make games more widely available on TV? Even if he has a change of heart and stays beyond next season, no fan should have to miss his lively stories or keen observations. The more we can see him, the more we can cherish his wisdom and remember his tales and pass them on. There’s no better way to honor him than that.
Scully said he doesn’t know what to tell millions of fans who have missed him because they can’t get SportsNet LA.
“I’m as confused as they are,” he said. “I would hope somehow it all works out, and we do have from now until next April and maybe a miracle will happen.”
The Dodgers and their TV partners should make it happen. Let everyone enjoy Vin Scully as often as we can while we can, before his poetry is heard no more.