Column: Pull up a chair and listen to Vin Scully give a message of hope and optimism
We are surrounded by a cacophony of chaos, our lives filled with words of warning and dread and doom.
I need a sound of spring. This being the formerly opening week of the postponed baseball season, I crave the melodious tones of the ballpark, the bunting, the hope.
So, what the heck, I call Vin Scully.
And, wouldn’t you know, he answers on the first ring.
“Hello Bill Plaschke, how are you?” he booms.
“I just wanted to hear your voice,” I say.
“Well, thank God it still works,” he says, laughing.
Scully, 92, has been out of the Dodgers broadcast booth for three seasons, yet his wonderfully spoken words still fill Dodger Stadium and the Dodgers airwaves in various promos and videos.
He still talks to us. We still listen to him. He can still connect and comfort in a manner unmatched by any other sports figure in this town’s history.
And, man, do we need some connecting and comforting.
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“We’re like everybody else, we’re hunkered down,” says Scully, who is sheltering with wife Sandi in their Los Angeles home. “But for me, I’ve been hunkered down ever since we hung things up at the end of ‘16, I’m very accustomed to being at home …it’s that old line, if it wasn’t for doctor appointments we wouldn’t have a social life at all.”
Scully says he and Sandi are hanging tough, and that he’s amazed he feels fine.
“That’s remarkable right now, I guess because I’m pretty much excommunicado with anybody except on the phones,” he says.
But emotionally, he’s hurting through his quarantine like everyone else, in ways few thought they would ever be hurting.
“Once in a while one of our children can come over and visit … we have a pretty large master bedroom, so they can sit quite a few feet away just to say hello,” he says. “But there’s no hugging and kissing and nothing like that … we’re trying very hard to follow the rules … the kids are scared that they will bring in something that will just blow me away … it’s a very difficult time to go without hugs, you know?”
Scully does not remain melancholy for long. He is, remember, a believer in improbable years and impossible home runs. He reminds us that this country has endured and triumphed over great troubles. He knows from personal experience. Born in 1927 and growing up during the Great Depression, he has been part of that journey.
”Among other things I remember my mother would feed me something that would fill me up and didn’t cost very much, I remember having pancakes for dinner and a lot of spaghetti,” he says. “We didn’t have any money anyway … meat was hard to come by … we bit the bullet.”
But then, he says, “From depths of depression we fought our way through World War II, and if we can do that, we can certainly fight through this. I remember how happy and relieved and thrilled everybody was … when they signed the treaty with Japan, and the country just danced from one way or another. It’s the life of the world, the ups and downs, this is a down, we’re going to have to realistically accept it at what it is and we’ll get out of it, that’s all there is to it, we will definitely get out of it.”
Scully, as usual, says he tries not to focus on the gloom, but ponder the good.
“A lot of people will look at it, it might bring them closer to their faith, they might pray a little harder, a little longer, there might be other good things to come out of it,” he says. “And certainly, I think people are especially jumping at the opportunity to help each other, I believe that’s true, so that’s kind of heartwarming, with all of it, it brings out some goodness in people, and that’s terrific, that’s terrific.”
There will be no Dodger Stadium roars this week, but Scully says that sort of home-team rooting has been replaced by applause of a different sort.
“All those first responders, people putting their lives on the lines, and we’re cheering that they’ll score a touchdown or hit a home run, whatever phrase you want to use, so I’m sure there’s a lot of praying going on and I’m all for it,” he says.
When the crisis does begin to slow, Scully says, we’ll know by the crack of the bat.
“If baseball starts up, we’ve got this thing beat and we can go about our lives,” Scully says. “Baseball is not a bad thermometer, when baseball begins, whenever that is, that will be a sure sign that the country is slowly getting back on its feet.”
Scully says the schedule will be forever altered, but also could be forever memorable.
“We’re not going to have a full season because this thing is burning up days like an express train,” he says. “But somewhere along the line, I hope and pray that baseball will start up, that will be so wonderful, that will be a rainbow after the storm, that, yeah, things are going to get better.”
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Scully can’t wait for opening day, whenever that might be. He remembers his first opening day with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950 in Philadelphia like it was last week.
“It was opening day in Philadelphia and Don [Newcombe] was going to pitch, and I was going to do like, the fourth and the fifth innings, something like that ... so I thought, oh, that’s exciting, Don had a great year in ‘49, he was very personable, we got along so very well, so I was thrilled that I would have the opportunity,” Scully says with a laugh. “And he was knocked out of the game before my inning came up. We always kidded ourselves about that for years.”
Sure enough, a check of the records shows that Newcombe was shelled in the first inning of a 9-1 Phillies victory. But, also for the record, it did nothing to dampen Scully’s enthusiasm for opening-day’s magic.
“I think it’s breathtaking, it’s emotional, it’s reverential in many ways, and it’s thoughtful,” he says of opening day. “When the anthem is playing and you’re standing up in the booth waiting to go on the air, and this big crowd is quiet listening to the anthem, and then when the anthem ends and the crowd’s noise bursts forth like some fountain that had just been released, like a gusher in an oil field … I get goose bumps from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes … there’s really almost nothing like it, except maybe getting married or having your first child.”
While the country sits at home in front of televisions waiting for the next opening day, Scully encourages everyone to slowly exhale and then — you know Vin — embrace your inner musical.
“I’m also playing a little psychology, I watched a favorite movie yesterday, ‘Music Man,’ Robert Preston, great, great musical,” he says. “Believe it or not, I dug out a copy that I had bought of ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ I think we’ll watch that.”
If Scully could offer one piece of wisdom during these dark times, it’s that, truly, we need to sing in the rain.
“If I had to be stranded on a desert island and I was allowed to take one movie, it would be ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ because, I would hope the whole world would watch that, because it’s so charming, so heartwarming, so optimistic,” he says. “You can’t watch ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ without singing along, humming along, watching Gene Kelly dance on the edge of the gutter and splash in the water … I think that’s what people should do, try to find the happiest movie they can.”
I just wanted to hear that voice. I ended up hearing so much more. If Vin Scully says there’s a rainbow out there somewhere, well, I’m going to start looking.
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