Vin Scully’s stories hit the mark at foundation’s gala
I’m sorry, I had to do it.
I strong-armed Vin Scully, grabbed his right arm just above the elbow, stopped him where he stood and told him, “It’s time.”
Maybe a book comprising questions, answers and baseball stories retold, a DVD, documentary, anything so his 16 grandchildren might grow up knowing just how awesome Gramps has been as a broadcaster.
He has just dazzled everyone again; it’s a perfect night. A couple of hundred friends of Ali and Joe Torre gathering Thursday at the Hotel Bel-Air to further Torre’s Safe At Home Foundation campaign to help abused children.
Billy Crystal and his wife Janice are sitting to Gramps’ left for dinner. If not planned, it is inspiring good fortune with Crystal already writing a wonderful book for his own grandchild: “I Already Know I Love You.”
Dinner ends, and someone hands the microphone to Scully, who has Torre, Tony La Russa, Mike Scioscia and Tom Lasorda join him on stage.
Together they account for 10 World Series titles.
Throw in Don Mattingly’s 16 or 17 wins as manager and it’s nearly 8,000 combined wins.
Scully begins with Oct. 2, 1965, the Dodgers playing the Milwaukee Braves and “our host [Torre] here going 0 for 4.”
When the laughter subsides, he talks about the Dodgers’ pennant-clinching win behind Sandy Koufax and the endless celebration.
“The next day was Sunday, and our entire team had been overserved,” Scully says.
Manager Walter Alston calls Scully and asks him to manage the team just as Ron Fairly gets on base.
“Ron is standing at first and he’s full of champagne,” Scully says. “And I mean really full.
“In those days everyone has a transistor radio, so I’m telling Alston I want the hit and run. Everyone in the ballpark knows what’s coming. Fairly looks to the third base coach and thinks Alston has lost his mind, having no idea I’m at the wheel.”
The batter fouls off the pitch with Fairly running, or as Scully puts it, “Fairly collapses at second.”
Scully lets everyone with a transistor know he’s going to have Fairly run again. The ball evades the catcher, Fairly is safe and so Scully tells Alston and the crowd, “I got you this far; now you’re on your own.
“So for two pitches I was a major league manager,” Scully concludes, and with the Dodgers talking about fan-experience improvements, how about providing transistor radios to everyone in attendance?
It’s as if there is a tilt to the room, everyone leaning forward to watch Scully work the managers.
He sets up Torre, who talks about a run-in he had with umpire Dutch Rennert.
“Dutch misses a play at first and I go running out,” Torre says. “I say, ‘Dutch, why are you such a good umpire behind the plate and so [horrible] on the bases?’
“Dutch looks at me and says, ‘Isn’t that something?’
“I just turned around and went back to the dugout.”
Scully continues to prime the pump to the delight of everyone; he seems to have a knack for this. He asks Scioscia whether it’s tougher to deal with defeat home or away.
“It’s easier on the road because they have room service,” Scioscia deadpans. “On the long ride home after a game, most of the fast-food places are closed.”
Torre is on the road for his birthday, as Scully continues to mine for treasured stories.
“My wife arrives to celebrate and we’re winning, 11-0,” Torre says. “We lost, 15-12.”
His wife suggests he better have two or three margaritas. Apparently he does, waking up in the middle of the night and on the way to the bathroom breaks a toe.
If there is anyone in sports better at self-deprecating humor than Torre, he’d have to boast to say so and therefore not qualify.
The stories keep coming: Lasorda and Giants manager Charlie Fox throwing punches while exchanging lineup cards; Lasorda managing a 22-year-old La Russa and telling him he might want to find work as a coach, “the sooner the better;” and Don Sutton and Steve Garvey getting in a clubhouse scuffle.
“I was pulling for Garvey,” Lasorda says.
Scully asks each who is the best player he saw, Scioscia going with Barry Bonds, “pre-enhancement,” he says.
Torre, as a player, says Willie Mays and Hank Aaron; as a manager he lauds Derek Jeter.
Lasorda says no one compares to Ted Williams as a hitter, and Mattingly singles out Rickey Henderson.
La Russa’s top choice is Henderson, but the last decade it’s Albert Pujols. He describes Pujols as not only the best player he has seen, but the best teammate.
“Listening to La Russa, I should have walked Pujols the other night,” Mattingly cracks later, and Mattingly is beginning to grow on me.
When Scully wants to know how they handle defeat, Mattingly is the most insightful. Maybe he just has more experience.
“I want kids in the clubhouse after wins and losses,” he says. “I like the music too. I want it to be the same win or lose because we’re going to move on.”
The evening ends, but Lasorda is still telling stories.
He’s managing Spokane, calls the Dodgers to tell them if they ever need a broadcaster he has found a great one doing minor league games in Hawaii.
“Al Campanis wants to know how I know such a thing,” Lasorda says. “I got thrown out of five straight games, so I had time to listen to Al Michaels in the clubhouse.”
Michaels is still giddy about the Kings, a hockey team, I believe. But despite that, standing a few feet away from Scully, here are the two best broadcasters of our lifetime.
It’s that kind of grand event, closing with a hint of great news. It’s the better half of the Scully duo as Scully likes to say, his wife Sandy, saying Major League Baseball is going to do a DVD featuring Gramps’ recollections.
HappyFather’s Dayto everyone, and you can let Dad know he has another special gift coming.
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