Sunday, October 03, 2010

Vin Scully

I've never understood the attraction many other baseball fans have for this long-time announcer. It may well be entirely due to the fact that he has always called the (ick) Dodgers games (among many other disturbances, I am unable to suppress the image of Steve Garvey's Family Values™ phiz whenever I say that team name), but for whatever reason, I've always found Scully … I guess competent would be how I'd put it. Unobtrusive in a very good way, sure, and comfortable like a treasured old shirt, as John D. MacDonald once put it in another context, but not more than that, for me.

Despite that, please allow me to recommend this appreciation by Joe Posnanski. It is a very fine piece of writing.

This bit, in the beginning, makes me like him more, and then, towards the end, is what I inevitably hear from Vin Scully fans when I am being all meh about him:

Vin Scully begins his stories with apologies these days. He’s reached that plateau of fame. “I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself,” he says. “I know you’ve probably already heard this,” he says. “I’ve told this many times before,” he says. It is a mark of the man’s grace that he is the one apologizing repeatedly and not the reporter who asks him precisely the same questions people have been asking for 50 years. Scully genuinely — and generously — wants to help the writer tell a good story.

“I know you’ve probably heard about the radio,” he says, and indeed I have heard it, but I ask if he will tell it again.

“When I was a little boy in New York, we had this radio that stood on four legs,” he says. “It was huge, or at least it seemed that way to me at the time. We lived in a little fifth-floor walk-up apartment then, and the radio was just about the biggest thing in there. I remember — I couldn’t have been older than 4 or 5 — I used to crawl under that radio with my pillow. There was no baseball on the radio then, but there were football games, and I remember I used to love listening even then to the crowd.”

I wait for it. Vin, I think, knows that I’m waiting for it.

“That sound of the crowd would just engulf me,” he says, and then (I’m almost mouthing the words with him now), “it was like water out of a shower head.”

Like water out of a shower head. No announcer in the history of sports has used crowd noise more musically than Scully. Can it be a coincidence? Sinatra used to say that his musical instrument was not his voice, it was the microphone. Scully uses crowd noise as his orchestra. When Henry Aaron hit his 715th home run, Scully was there, and he called the home run, and then he took off his headset, walked to the back of the room, and let people listen to the crowd cheer. Like water out of a shower head. “What could I have said that would have told the story any better?” he asks. And he pauses: “You know what? I still love listening to the sound of a crowd cheering. Don’t you? Don’t you just love that sound?”

And then there's a later bit, about Scully's refusal to Walter O'Malley to be more of an on-air cheerleader, that if not profoundly expressed, is nonetheless to be saluted. (Back in the day, I always liked Bill White and Frank Messer far better than Phil Rizzuto, if you're scoring at home.)

I will concede today's announcers could learn a thing or two from this veteran.

Okay, and this: The story later on about Ron Fairly and Vin's one game as manager … ah, now that's baseball at its finest. (Joe Posnanski here shows why he is both a good reporter and a great baseball essayist.)

Anyway, you might like.


E R E said...

john sterling does not get enough credit!

Brendan said...


Brendan said...

Okay, sorry. Shoulda Googled before I responded. (The modern-day lament.)

I guess I know that guy. I only occasionally catch a game on the radio these days, though, and perhaps DUE TO ALL THE PROMO THAT INTERSPERSES EVERY OTHER SENTENCE, I missed his name.

You know what I do like, though? That that most hidebound of organizations, the NY Yankees, has without drama also had a woman on (Susan something), doing their broadcasts for some time now. She is good if not great, but my point is: she does her job without feeling compelled to be a booth bunny about it, and so far as I can tell, the NYY haven't done anything to trumpet their Embrace Of Diversity or anything else equally noxious.

Small steps, baby. Small steps.