Column: With Vin Scully about to say goodbye later this year, all we can say is, ‘Say it ain’t so’
Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully held a 30-minute question-and-answer - or storytelling - session before calling his final spring training game at Camelback Ranch.
The Vin Scully farewell season began Friday with, appropriately, a history lesson.
During the middle of a news conference before Scully’s first and only spring training appearance at Camelback Ranch, the ring of a rotary phone filled the air.
It was coming from somewhere in the front of the small conference room. It sounded like a kitchen wall in the 1950s. Brrinng. Brrinng. Brrinng.
“That’s my phone,” Scully said, finally, looking down at his pants pocket, actually blushing. “We won’t answer that. Go away please.”
Can we just call this whole thing off before it starts?
The beginning of Scully’s 67th and final Dodgers summer was just another example of why we want him to talk to us forever.
Vin Scully, with wife Sandi at his side, waves to the crowd during a ceremony honoring the Dodgers broadcaster before the game Sept. 23, 2016, at Dodger Stadium.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Vin Scully and Hall-of-Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax embrace during the pregame ceremony honoring the Dodgers broadcaster on Sept. 23, 2016.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts (30) joins MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, right, in presenting a check to Vin Scully to be donated to the Dodgers broadcaster’s favorite charity during a pregame ceremoney Sept. 23, 2016.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Fans wipe away tears during the pregame ceremony honoring Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Vin Scully with Jerry Doggett in the announcer’s booth at Dodgertown during spring training in Vero Beach, Florida on April 8, 1985.(Jayne Kamin / Los Angeles Times)
Vin Scully has broadcast Dodgers games since before the team moved to L.A. in 1958.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Hall of Fame Dodger announcer Vin Scully before the start of a Dodgers - Reds game at Dodger Stadium on August 22, 2010.(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers announcer Vin Scully takes the stage to speak about his decision to come back for a 66th season in the broadcast booth during a news conference at Dodger Stadium on July 30, 2014.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Vin Scully is applauded on the field at Dodger Stadium, by family members, as he is recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records as the “longest tenured sports team employee” on September 23, 2015.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
During a 30-minute session in which he kept apologizing for saying nothing, he said everything, his words revealing the depths of the sweetness and humility that will turn the next six months into the toughest of goodbyes. He spoke Japanese to one reporter, spun baseball tales from a half-century ago for another, and quietly charmed the small room with the message that he plans to end the greatest career in sports broadcasting as just another guy talking ball.
“The thing that bothers me, really and truly, is making it sound like, because it’s my last year, I’m almost more important than the game. That scares me to death,’' he said. “I just want to do the game. I just want to have fun and they eventually say, ‘OK, Scully, that’s enough, see ya.’”
Not only does he not want it to be a celebrated farewell, but also, please, don’t compare it to Kobe Bryant’s extravaganza by calling it a farewell tour.
“I appreciate Kobe, he’s brilliant, it’s great he makes those trips . . . but it’s not really me,” Scully said. “I’m not going to take me and bring me on a tour like I’m some Stradivarius or whatever. I’m just an announcer, I belong in the press box, and only really at Dodger Stadium.”
He guaranteed he absolutely would not be heard, not even for a minute, on the All-Star game or any postseason game not involving the Dodgers, despite pleas for national curtain calls from baseball, networks and fans.
“No, no, no, I don’t belong there, I belong in Dodger Stadium in the booth, that’s where I belong, that’s where I lived, that’s where I’ll stay until it’s over,” he said.
For now, he also will not be heard by 60% of Los Angeles homes whose pay-TV operators do not carry the Dodgers’ TV channel SportsNet LA, and Scully said he feels their pain.
“I’m a baseball fan at heart, I really am,” he said. “My first thought is, I really want the fans to see all the games, that’s the main thing, I don’t know anything else about it.”
While Scully has pointedly stayed out of the mess — he will forever remain the perfect Dodgers employee, and there’s something very noble in that — he did say he thought that Time Warner Cable’s latest 30% , one-year discount offer was fair.
I love this game and I don’t want to get somehow in front of it just because it’s my last year.
— Vin Scully, on never becoming bigger than the game of baseball or the Dodgers
“In your paper they listed the various prices in various cities,” he said, referring to the Los Angeles Times. “When I compared what I understand they’re asking, I thought, well, that looks like a reasonable offer, but that’s all I know, in all honesty.”
That the Dodgers used Scully’s name in an attempt to sell that misguided offer this week seems particularly wrong in the wake of the feelings he expressed Friday. He doesn’t want the attention in either controversy or celebration. He frowned when asked if he’s ready for the adulation that will surround him with every home game, every night thousands of people turning, facing the press box and cheering goodbye.
“I love this game and I don’t want to get somehow in front of it just because it’s my last year,” he said.
As perhaps a sign of things to come, just before the Dodgers played the San Francisco Giants here Friday night, Scully was introduced in the broadcast booth to a roaring standing ovation . . . but only after Rick Monday and Charlie Steiner were introduced.
More than anything, Scully said he will miss hearing those people cheer for the game.
Bill Plaschke and Lindsey Thiry discuss Vin Scully’s final season in the Dodgers’ broadcast booth.
“When I was about 8 . . . I used to crowd under the radio with a pillow, a glass of milk and some saltine crackers,” he said. “The speaker would be directly over my head, someone would score and the crowd would go crazy, and that crowd noise would come down and wash over me like water out of a shower head.”
He said still he relives those moments every night.
“To this day, if there is a very good play in the ballpark and the crowd lets out a roar, I shut up . . . and during the time I shut up, I’m 8 years old underneath the radio,” he said.
When it’s been Scully’s voice coming through that box, aren’t we all?
He said his proudest Dodgers achievement occurred during the 1988 World Series game won by Kirk Gibson’s homer, but it didn’t involve his famous call, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
Scully recounted the wonderful story of how the injured Gibson was listening to him on television while icing his legs in the training room. Gibson heard Scully pronounce him out of the game, and took it as a personal challenge.
Every night with Scully contains some kind of magic. Even in a sports world where transition has become common, even in a town where Bryant is actually retiring, the idea this magic will somehow end in six months is unfathomable.
“I’m not sure how I’ll feel when I get down to the end,” Scully admitted. “Being somewhat of a sentimental Irishman, [there] might be a fight that I have with myself.”
It is a fight the rest of us are already losing.
Follow Bill Plaschke on Twitter: @BillPlaschke
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