(News4usonline) – The closest thing I had growing up to being present at Los Angeles Dodgers games was listening to Vin Scully. Scully would call the games so artistically that I could envision every moment that was happening. I was always there. It did not matter that I was somewhere curled up next to my radio in my Long Beach, California, home with my 10 brothers and sisters.
When I would hear Scully shout out his famous anthem, “It’s time for Dodger baseball!” that was it for me. I would zone out in my youthful imagination and pretend that I was at the ballpark. I was there because Scully put me there.Embed from Getty Images
I was somewhere down the third base line sitting in the reserve seat section, watching my childhood heroes Steve Garvey, Bill Russell, Dusty Baker, Reggie Smith, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, and Don Sutton work their Dodger Blue magic. Most of the time they did. Sometimes they didn’t. But when Scully was at the mike calling the games, whether the Dodgers won or lost, it was always an interesting wordsmith journey.
I don’t recall every game that Scully called that I listened to, but there are some I do remember. I remember when the New York Mets came to town with their hot rookie pitcher Dwight “Doc” Gooden. If I am not mistaken, the Dodgers had loaded the bases against Gooden in the first inning with no out. Gooden then proceeded to strike out of the side to get out of the inning, finishing off his sensation takedown by what Scully describes as a “Lord Charles” curveball.
It was Scully’s voice I listened to as the 1977 Dodgers attempted to be the first team in Major League Baseball history to have four players on the same team hit 30 or more home runs in a single season. For Dusty Baker (now manager of the Houston Astros) and the Dodgers, that opportunity would come on the last day of the regular season.
And it would have to come against the Astros’ J.R. Richards, one of the most feared pitchers in all of baseball. Steve Garvey (33), Reggie Smith (32), and Ron Cey (30) had already reached that mark. Baker, sitting on 29 home runs, had not. It seemed everyone was on pins and needles, wondering if Baker would be able to circle the bases before the end of the regular season.Embed from Getty Images
Listening to Scully, the drama was super thick as Baker got into the batter’s box in what would be his last at-bat for the season. In the lead-up to the moment that Baker actually connected for his 30th home run, Scully painted a vivid detail of the melodrama surrounding Richard’s pitch count and the scene of anticipation. At one point, all the dramatics became a bit unnerving for me, and I thought about turning the radio off.
But I stayed and listened. I am glad I did as I was able to hear Scully make the call on the Dodgers’ big moment when Baker homered. Speaking of moments, there probably aren’t too many in Dodgers’ history that’ll outshine what Kirk Gibson did at the plate against Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland A’s in the 1988 World Series.
Gibson’s ultra-dramatic walk-off, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 1, secured a 5-4 win for the Dodgers, who would then go on and win the World Series that year. And you know who made the call. Scully gave the Gibson moment the Mount Rushmore of calls.
“High fly ball into right field. She is … gone! In a year that has been improbable, the impossible has happened,” quipped Scully.
My mother used to tell me you never know who’s watching you. Well, along those lines, I was not afforded the opportunity to watch Scully, but I listened. I paid attention to how well he was able to disseminate all of this game information he had deposited into simple layman’s terminology for the average baseball fan to understand.
In this case, it was a teenage kid trying to find his lot in life. I never knew Scully personally. His impact on my life, however, goes well beyond Dodger Stadium. Listening to Scully on the radio drove me to study words more and get their meaning. I started reading encyclopedias to improve my mastery of language and words.
In an indirect way, I am a professional journalist today all because a gentleman with a microphone had the audacity to bring a glimmer of hope and sunshine to us all through the storytelling of a baseball game.
“I’ve always tried to make the players human beings – individuals – rather than wind-up dolls down on the field running around. So I’ve always searched for the human side of the game, if I can possibly find it. That’s the character that I try to paint, the character that the man represents himself. I think that helps, especially when a team is struggling and you have something interesting to say about someone. I think on the other end, a listener might enjoy it,” Scully once said.
Some of my fondest memories growing up were spent listening to Dodgers games. That’s because Scully just had this way with words that always intrigued me. I was fascinated by his gift of gab. The more I listened to Scully, the more I became more drawn to his wonderous word vocabulary.
Scully was a master of words. He could create theater just by the words that came out of his mouth. No one could articulate the flair for the dramatic the way that Scully was able to do it. He just didn’t call a game. He brought the game to you. Scully made you feel like you were his neighbor or someone you’d meet at church. He made you feel being in the Dodger family was a natural inheritance for local Angelenos.Embed from Getty Images
“Vin Scully was bigger than baseball,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a released statement. “He was the soul of Los Angeles, the undisputed voice of America’s pastime, and the narrator of some of the most thrilling moments of our lives. It is impossible to think about the Dodgers without reflecting on Vin’s incomparable way with words and the boundless wisdom he shared with generations of fans around the world.”
Growing up, my brothers and I were always going to our rooms and tuning in to the Dodgers station listening to the radio. God gave Scully the voice he made famous by calling Dodgers games. That voice is now still with Scully’s transition to the heavens. Scully had long stopped calling games as he quietly walked into retirement. His voice, however, will always be with us.
“We have lost an icon,” said Dodger President & CEO Stan Kasten. “The Dodgers Vin Scully was one of the greatest voices in all of sports. He was a giant of a man, not only as a broadcaster but as a humanitarian. He loved people. He loved life. He loved baseball and the Dodgers. And he loved his family. His voice will always be heard and etched in all of our minds forever. I know he was looking forward to joining the love of his life, Sandi. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this very difficult time.”
Featured Image: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti with Vin Scully on Sept. 23, 2016. The photo appears courtesy of the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti