Column: It’s last call for Vin Scully, and Giants could make it a historic one
It will be a very pleasant good afternoon, and a wonderfully fitting one too: Vin Scully, calling his final game, with the playoffs on the line for his boyhood team.
After Scully delighted us with a career for the ages, the baseball gods have rewarded him with a finale for the ages. Some voices go hoarse without ever calling a clincher. In the final four games of his career, Scully could call two.
In his farewell game at Dodger Stadium, Scully called the game in which the Dodgers, his employers of 67 years, clinched the National League West.
On Sunday, his last day behind the microphone, Scully will call the game in which the San Francisco Giants could clinch a wild-card spot — 80 years to the day after he says he walked past a laundry, saw the score of a World Series game in which the New York Giants had gotten pummeled, and declared his allegiance for the Giants.
“Wouldn’t that be unbelievable?” Scully said late Saturday. “The whole idea is a fairy tale.”
This year’s Giants were left for dead, their obituary already written, held for publication until the final day of the season, when their collapse could be quantified. Instead, the Giants will report to the ballpark Sunday with suitcases in hand, and the guarantee that their season will extend beyond Sunday.
“No matter what, we’re traveling,” San Francisco Manager Bruce Bochy said, smiling broadly.
If the Giants lose and the St. Louis Cardinals win Sunday, the Giants fly to St. Louis for a Monday tiebreaker. Any other outcome, and the Giants fly to New York for the National League wild-card game Wednesday.
This was how the Giants started their World Series run two years ago: Bumgarner, on the road, in the wild-card game.
Even-year magic? That was already on display Saturday, when a kid named Ty Blach earned his first major league victory, in his second start. Blach beat Clayton Kershaw and got two hits off him too, becoming the first Giants rookie to beat the Dodgers with at least eight scoreless innings since Dennis Cook in 1988.
That was the last year of Dodgers magic, the fall of ’88.
Now Scully is 88, and one day from retirement. The Giants provided a golf cart and a police escort for Scully and his wife, Sandi, to use in navigating the crowded basement concourse after the game. Dodgers fans and Giants fans alike applauded as he passed, screamed their thanks, and hoisted their cellphones high to take pictures and videos.
At one point, Scully stopped to greet Buster Posey, the Giants’ catcher. Before Saturday’s game, in the broadcast booth, Scully had enjoyed a visit from Willie Mays. Posey said he might just stop by on Sunday.
“I’d like to run up and say hello,” he said.
Beyond Sunday, Posey will play on. Scully will go home.
In 1951, Russ Hodges yelled, “The Giants win the pennant!” In 2016, Scully’s final words could include these: “The Giants win the wild card!”
Rick Renteria managed the Chicago Cubs in 2014. By all accounts, he did a fine job, and the Cubs fired him only because Joe Maddon became available.
Hard to fault the Cubs, but Renteria deserved a second chance. He’ll get one, with the crosstown White Sox, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The Sox will part ways with Robin Ventura and promote Renteria from their coaching staff, the Sun-Times reported Saturday.
Managers who soon could be out of work include Brian Snitker of the Atlanta Braves, Walt Weiss of the Colorado Rockies and John Gibbons of the Toronto Blue Jays. A name to watch: Bud Black, who bided his time in the Angels’ front office this year after failing to reach agreement on a contract to manage the Washington Nationals.
Dusty Baker got that job and led the Nationals to their third division title in five years — the first time under Davey Johnson, the next time under Matt Williams, and this time under Baker.
Washington opens the division series at home Friday, against Kershaw and the Dodgers. The Nationals are looking to become the first Washington team to win a postseason series since the Senators won the 1924 World Series. Hall of Famer Walter Johnson started twice — pitching a 12-inning complete game and a nine-inning complete game — and came out of the bullpen to work the final four innings and win the clincher.
“You never know” applies to physical examinations too.
The Dodgers did not like what they saw in Hisashi Iwakuma’s physical last winter, so they backed away from signing him to a guaranteed contract. Iwakuma led the Seattle Mariners in games started this season.
The Dodgers instead signed Kenta Maeda, who had issues arise in his physical, to an incentive-based deal. Maeda led the Dodgers in games started.
The Angels did not like what they saw in Christian Friedrich’s physical, so they got permission from the commissioner’s office to renounce their waiver claim. Friedrich led the San Diego Padres in games started.
There might be something to the notion of not throwing hard enough to get hurt. Jered Weaver led the Angels in games started; his average fastball velocity of 83 mph was the slowest of any non-knuckleballer, according to Fangraphs.
The Mets touted their high-speed starting rotation, but Syndergaard was the only fireballer to last into October. Bartolo Colon led the Mets in games started; he and Iwakuma averaged 88 mph on their fastballs, joining Weaver in the slowest seven among qualifying starters. Maeda, at 90 mph, ranked 63rd among the 76 qualifying starters.
Win like Vin
So many beautiful tributes to Scully have focused on his incomparable broadcasting skills. But everyone who has known him has a story to share about his kindness, like the time my love’s son had to miss a Dodgers game because he was sick. Scully left a delightful get-well message on voice mail — “Hi, Sam, this is Vin Scully” — that took him one minute to do and left someone else with a lifetime memory.
Scully showed up at Dodger Stadium day in and day out with a smile on his face and a friendly greeting for all, from the elevator operator to the press-box attendant and even the sportswriters.
We can’t all spin a story like Scully. But we can all resolve to greet the day with a smile, sing a few bars out loud, and do something nice for someone else, just because. For Scully, who wants to be remembered as a good man rather than a good broadcaster, that might be our greatest tribute of all.
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