Vin Scully helped California baseball take root

At the end of the 1957 baseball season, Brooklyn Dodgers management packed their bags for a long-threatened move across the continent.

In the hypothetical moving trunks were the house uniforms that read “Dodgers” on the front, the grating old heroes of Flatbush and much of the front office, as well as manager Walter Alston and his promising young players. (They weren’t quite sure if young Brooklyn southpaw Sandy Koufax would ever exploit his speed.)

Baseball was moving to the promised land. The historic giants from New York were also moving to San Francisco, taking Willie Mays with them. (The girlfriend of them.)

But nothing and no one in the latter-day boxcars would transport and transplant baseball to the Left Coast better than a young man not far from the Fordham campus in the Bronx and the Brooklyn broadcast booth named Vin Scully.

More than anyone or anything, Vin Scully feels baseball floating in the ozone layer – first from the malformed Coliseum, then, from 1962, from the pastel oasis of a nestled former Mexican camp in the Chavez ravine.

Scully was the warm voice that floated through a warm climate, instructing the locals in the intricacies of big league baseball. (We sullen, abandoned Dodgers and Giants fans out east liked to think Californians knew nothing about baseball, despite Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.)

On balmy evenings at Chavez Ravine, the common denominator was not crowd noise or public announcements, but detailed storytelling from Scully and his cronies, discussing strategy as well as MM’s past exploits. Hodges and Reese and Snider and Erskine and Furillo, most of them running on faded batteries.

Scully’s sweet voice floated over the stereo waves of new gadgets called “transistor radios”, which were easy to carry around the stadium.

He wasn’t the normal baseball announcer who was prone to saying things like, “Let’s do some runs this inning!” Vincent Edward Scully, died Tuesday at age 94, never shouted, never rooted, never patronized, never lectured – just called plays and added personal player notes. His gentle, chair-pulling approach was as if a beloved elder was explaining the game unfolding on the court. In 1958, at just 30 years old, Vin Scully was the repository of the story of a beloved franchise in another world.

“He wasn’t the first baseman, or the manager, or the team – certainly not with the win-loss record, because they’ve had a tough year,” said son Peter O’Malley. of former owner Walter O’Malley, said halfwayJuly essay by Bill Shaikin from the Los Angeles Times on Scully’s immediate impact on Los Angeles.

“Vinny introduced the team,” he added. “There was no one who could have done better. When you stop to understand the impact he had then, as well as now, it’s extraordinary.

One consolation for heartbroken Brooklyn fans left behind by the Dodgers was that Scully remained within earshot. I called World Series games often enough to be reminded of what we had lost. Gil Hodges and Duke Snider came to the Mets as faded icons, but Scully would materialize on the airwaves at the top of his game.

Scully had a good teacher at Red Barber, which broadcast games from Brooklyn when Scully was a young (Giants) fan. Barber had his Southern model practiced. (“Tearing the pea patch,” “both teams have a rhubarb,” the Dodgers are “sitting in the catbird seat” — we learned exactly what each meant.) But behind the pleasant, charming regionalisms, Barber was a complicated religious man who had once thought of becoming a teacher.

Scully was a bit vague on air one day about why a player was out of lineup; Barber let him know he should have found out why during the manager’s pre-match access.

On another occasion, the authors recount, Scully was drinking a beer in the press room before a game, a normal practice in Scully’s experience. Barber, who is no stranger to alcohol, told Scully he couldn’t afford to be seen drinking a beer because he could be blamed if he slipped on the microphone.

The authors note that Scully may have been sensitive to tight discipline, but always treated Barber as his mentor, in his public statements and in his letters to “The Old Redhead”.

If Barber was known for his southern style, Scully became known for his silence. I realized that a memorable play deserved the roar of the crowd rather than the roar of the broadcaster. He sat by the microphone and let the roars escape.

In 1986, Scully was back in New York, watching the Red Sox climb the dugout steps, awaiting the final of the franchise’s first World Series championship since 1918. Instead, Mookie Wilson’s short dribbler slipped in front of first baseman Bill’s aching legs. Buckner, and the World Series was suddenly extended to Game 7.

“Small roll first…behind the bag!” Scully started, but then added, “It goes through Buckner!” Here comes Knight, and the Mets win!”

The Shea Stadium went wild as Scully sat by the microphone for a full three minutes. Then he added: “If a picture is worth a thousand words, you’ve seen about a million words, but more than that, you’ve seen an absolutely bizarre ending to Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. The Mets aren’t just alive , they are doing well and they will face the Red Sox in Game 7 tomorrow.”

Here, for once in his magnificent career, Scully missed something. He was quoted as saying he never expected to hear normally neutral New York sportswriters cheering on a Mets win. I noted later in print that we weren’t cheering, we were gasping at the horror of suddenly having to rewrite our stories, at midnight, to note that the Mets had inexplicably survived to play Game 7 (and win series, after a rainy sunday).

Scully’s impeccable confidence in on-screen action served him well two World Series later when an injured Kirk Gibson hobbled to pinch the Dodgers behind the Oakland A’s. He tersely called out the game-changing circuit, but then was silent for 65 seconds as Dodger Stadium erupted, then made a brief comment and was silent again for 29 seconds. He was Vin Scully, and he knew the fans at home in front of the tube could feed their eyes and ears, their own emotions.

Major League Baseball had come a long way since Walter O’Malley got away with Our Bums. Baseball had grown from essentially the eastern half of the United States to a global sport. In Canada, in Latin America, in Japan, all over the world, fans knew the score.

Vin Scully knew his audience. He carried himself with the aura of a self-confident but discreet star. I knew he was part of the show; he didn’t have to babble.