Cherish these final games as Vince Scully closes out his 67th year on the air, broadcasting baseball games for the Dodgers. Yes, that would be the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. Some say he’s older than the ivy on the wall at Wrigley Field, but not the voice. I can close my eyes and hear him all over again. Scully loves broadcasting; he didn’t just drink the Kool-Aid, he went back for seconds.
His voice just sounds like play-off baseball. It was as if he had magic in his microphone. Listening to him is like opening a pack of old baseball cards; the players just seem to come alive. You can smell the fresh-cut grass; feel the brown dirt under your feet. This guy has made baseball fun for millions of fans. “How can you not like baseball?” said Scully. Baseball always finds a story and a place for all of us. Vin just showed us the way in. Baseball fills a need for belonging. It’s like being young again.
There are two secrets to baseball. One is that you get to play virtually every day, so redemption is but 24 hours away; and the second is the pace of the games allows stories to be told that lend unique perspective about the players and the game. Scully’s preparation is flawless because he reads endless amounts of material.
I wanted to share a few of my favorite Vin Scully stories with you. I was watching and listening to Scully on Friday night, April 15, 2016, Jackie Robinson Day, as the San Francisco Giants came to Chavez Ravine to play the Los Angeles Dodgers. The pitching match-up was “one for the ages,” as Scully would say: “Madison Bumgarner against Clayton Kershaw, the best they have.” During the game Scully told a story that had been originally written about Bumgarner, by Tom Verducci in 2014, for Sports Illustrated. Scully read the words verbatim. “This may be the best Boone-like tale about the man they call ‘Mad Bum,’” said Scully. “One day during spring training this year in Scottsdale, Bumgarner and his wife were roping cattle when Madison was startled by a large snake he figured was a rattler. He quickly grabbed an ax and hacked it to pieces. When Ali, an expert field dresser, examined what was left of the snake, she found two baby jackrabbits inside pieces of it and extracted them. A short while later the Bungarners noticed that one of the rabbits had moved slightly. It was alive. Ali brought the rabbit back to their apartment and for the next few days kept it warm and bottle-nursed it. The rabbit soon was healthy enough for them to release it into the wild,” exclaimed Scully. “Think about how tough that rabbit was,” Bumgarner said. “First it gets eaten by a snake, then the snake gets chopped to pieces, then it gets picked up by people and it lives. It’s all true.”
The second story is about the hole in the centerfield wall. “During the 1956 season, Bill Veeck owned the Miami Marlins, a Triple A team located in Rochester, New York,” said Scully. “To increase attendance, Bill signed the great Satchel Paige, who had to be close to 50 years old, to pitch for his team. Veeck was known for his crazy promotions. Former player and manager, Whitey Herzog, was an outfielder on this team. According to Herzog, the centerfield fence in Rochester had a small hole in it. Veeck had a promotional signed attached to the outfield fence that said, if you hit a ball in the air and through the hole, you would receive $10,000. Herzog said, ‘I got a bucket full of balls and tried as hard as I could, but I never came close.’ “Herzog eventually told Satch about the hole and bet Paige a bottle of bourbon that he could not throw a ball through the hole in the fence. Paige only asked one question, ‘Wild Child, will the ball fit through the hole?’ Herzog answered, ‘Yes.’ ‘I’ll take the bet Wild Child,’ said Satch. “So, the next day before batting practice, Herzog marked off 60’ 6” from the fence and gave Satch a ball. To Herzog’s amazement, Paige threw the ball and it went into the hole and then popped out. Paige’s next throw went right in the hole,” laughed Scully.
The final of my favorite Scully stories includes Yogi Berra. The New York Yankees were in Kansas City playing against the A’s, before they moved to Oakland. “Everybody loved Yogi,” said Scully. “But, one night in Kansas City, there was a big fight between the teams. There were lots of punches thrown and blows landed, but in all the pictures in the newspaper the next day, Yogi wore his facemask during the entire struggle,” laughed Vin. “And they all thought he was dumb.”
I’m missing Vin already.