Column: On Vin Scully’s first opening day in retirement, he engaged in ‘that other national pastime, paying bills’

The sights and sounds of the Dodgers’ opening day.

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Shaking the sleep out of their old ballpark, awakening their urgency to end a title drought, the Dodgers majestically opened the 2017 baseball season Monday afternoon with a perfect two-part greeting.

Hello. Goodbye!

An hour into the opener against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium, Joc Pederson hit a line drive that turned into a roar, hammering the ball into the right-field corner seats for a grand slam.

Two minutes later, Yasmani Grandal cranked up the volume by lofting a ball over the same fence just beyond the same spot.


Two innings later, Corey Seager turned Chavez Ravine into a dance party with a three-run homer into the left-field pavilion.

Three innings after that, Grandal sent those fans bouncing to the exits in exhausted joy by driving a ball into the empty left-field Dodgers bullpen.

The four home runs, a first in Dodgers’ history in an opener, quite possibly foreshadowed an unforgettable summer — struck on a day as cool as October but sunny with hope.

“With our guys, every night something special could happen,’’ Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, shaking his head and smiling after a 14-3 victory.

Their opening-day bats were so special — every starter hit safely, Grandal homered from each side of the plate, Pederson had five runs batted in — it was easy to forget the Dodgers also benefited from the planet’s best arm.

Yes, Clayton Kershaw pitched, and brilliantly, allowing just two hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts in remaining unbeaten in his seventh consecutive opening-day start.


“This is a lot of fun,’’ said Kershaw, sharing his manager’s smile. “A lot of fun to win, a lot of fun to get the edge off, to play in front of this crowd again.’’

Even against a Padres team so young and untested that the entire roster combined will be paid less than Kershaw this season — $33 million to $28 million — it was a powerful first step for a team hoping to still be chugging in late autumn for the first time in 29 years.

“We have a great team,’’ Kershaw acknowledged. “We have a good chance to win this thing.”

As usual, an afternoon of promise was framed with a bevy of memories, the Dodgers’ 60th opening day in Los Angeles marked by heroes present and missing.

The ceremonial first pitches were thrown by former manager Tom Lasorda and former Coliseum hitting hero Wally Moon, and there was a clear message in their aging and regal presence: Between them, they own all five Los Angeles Dodgers world championship rings.

Shortly before their pitches, the first video was narrated by the recently retired Vin Scully, missing his first season after 67 years but still taking the time to offer a homage to opening day.

It was strange that Scully was absent from the booth and the media room, his distinctive voice available only through scoreboard video presentations. It was so strange that during the fifth inning, with the Dodgers leading 9-1, I sneaked away to the back of the press box to call him on his cellphone.


Surely he was at home, watching the television breathlessly, calling the action from his couch, missing the game as badly as it missed him?

“Today I was engaged in that other national pastime, paying bills,’’ Scully said with a laugh. “Then I went to the post office to mail them, and now I’m just leaving the carwash.’’

Opening day at the carwash?

“Some people did stop me and say it was strange to see me,’’ he said. “I told them I agree.’’

So was he headed home to at least watch the end of the game?

“I have to go to the hardware store to pick up some anti-moth product,” Scully said. “I’m not sure if I’ll get home in time to see it. Who’s winning?’’

He was told the Dodgers. He was asked if he was happy.

“Sure I am,’’ he said. “I’ve got a really clean car.’’

He then added, more seriously, that spending the afternoon living a normal life with his beloved wife Sandi was, for him, the perfect opening day.

“I’m aware that I’m not where I’ve been for about 60,000 years,’’ he said. “But I’m just where I want to be.’’


So are the Dodgers, who are beginning a mission that has been six months in the making.

Judging by the calendar, Monday was a long way from the last time they played an official game, on that chilly Oct. 22 night in Chicago’s Wrigley Field when they were knocked out of the playoffs in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

Yet judging from their internal clocks, it was only minutes.

Bunkered in a tiny Wrigley clubhouse while a party raged around him last October, the Dodgers vowed to stick together and take that next step this season. Twenty-one of the 25 players in that clubhouse came back, a devoted group returning with such veteran focus that on Monday morning, Roberts didn’t even feel it necessary to give an opening-day pep talk.

“That feeling we had in Wrigley Field in the visiting clubhouse, I still feel that, and I know they do,’’ the manager said. “Where we’re at with the roster and being healthy, I don’t think we can envision us being in a better spot right now.’’

On the first day it counted, that spot was at the plate, on the mound, in the field and, perhaps most impressively, lodged somewhere over the fences. Four times. Farewell and welcome back.


Get more of Bill Plaschke’s work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke


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