Yet Another Terrific Vin Scully Tribute
ALSO: ERSTWHILE ACE CHRIS SALE CAN'T KEEP OFF BOSTON'S INJURED LIST
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Baseball’s Best Voice Was A Better Man
Appreciating Vin Scully, a genius and a gentleman
By Jeff Kallman
“The tradition of professional baseball,” wrote Heywood Hale Broun in 1923, “is agreeably free of chivalry.”
I hope Broun changed his mind upon spending time listening to Vin Scully, who retired after the 2016 season and died on August 2.
Baseball’s unquestioned all-time Voice was a genius and a gentleman, not always in that order.
Last year, when a hapless Pirate named Will Craig got hammered all over social media for a defensive mishap that began with an errant throw across the infield pulling him off first base, I couldn’t help remembering Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax’s recollection of a longtime Scully habit:
Before the World Series, Vin would go to church and pray. Not for a win, but there would be only heroes in the World Series, no goats. He didn’t want anybody in the future to be tarnished with the fact that they lost the World Series for their team.
That was the man who rarely made mistakes on the air but knew how to atone for every one of them with self-deprecating wit.
Scully once mis-identified a pitching matchup as Clayton Kershaw versus Steven Spielberg—he meant Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, of course.
“The other night,” Scully told his listeners a couple of days later, “I think I said Steven Spielberg. But I regret to say he is unable to pitch.”
A very occasional mistake could be forgiven of the man who delivered the single most transcendent on-the-spot call of the home run by which Hall of Famer Henry Aaron passed Hall of Famer Babe Ruth on the career bomb list:
He means the tying run at the plate now, so we’ll see what Downing does . . . Al at the belt now, and he delivers, low, ball one. And that just adds to the pressure, the crowd booing. Downing has to ignore the sound effects and stay a professional and pitch his game . . . One ball, no strikes, Aaron waiting, the outfield deep and straight away. Fastball — and a high drive into deep left center field, Buckner goes back, to the fence, it is gone!!! . . . [long pause during crowd noise and fireworks] . . .What a marvelous moment for baseball, what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia, what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron, who was met at home plate not only by every member of the Braves, but by his father and mother . . . It is over, at 10 minutes after nine in Atlanta, Georgia, Henry Aaron has eclipsed the mark set by Babe Ruth.
Two years ago, as his wife fought a battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease that she lost in January 2021, Scully put as much of his personal memorabilia—score books, scrapbooks, a book about Theodore Roosevelt that that president signed for Scully’s father (who worked in T.R.’s law office but died when Scully was four), assorted awards, balls, bats, among others—up for auction.
“It’s not just a collection of cold, inanimate objects,” he said announcing the offerings. “There are things that mean a great deal to me, but now it’s time to let someone else treasure them.”
(The Scullys donated a considerable volume of the proceeds to UCLA’s medical school division for neuromuscular research.)
Such memorabilia couldn’t possibly be treasured as greatly as Scully on the air was for almost seven decades from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and beyond. He was a game caller, analyst, and storyteller, sometimes all upon the same swing at the plate or pitch from the mound or play in the field. Most sportscasters make fans. Scully made friends.
And, students, if you take Koufax’s word for it: “It was a very strange phenomenon, to be on the field and hear the broadcast coming out of the stands. The people of Los Angeles, even though they were at the game, didn’t enjoy it without listening to Vin tell them about it. He entertained and he educated.”
I’ve never forgotten seeing for myself how right Koufax actually was. In 2000, I took my then 7-year-old son to Dodger Stadium for the first time, by which time Scully flew solo on television but was simulcast on radio for the first three innings. I saw what I’d never seen in any major or minor-league ballpark over a lifetime of loving baseball: numerous fans holding small portable television sets, the pictures turned down, the sound turned up. All game long.
“I don’t believe what I just saw! Jack Buck hollered on the air when Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith hammered an unlikely game-winning home run in the 1985 National League Championship Series.
From the lit matches aloft on Roy Campanella Night to Koufax’s practice-makes-perfect-game, from Fernandomania to Kirk Gibson’s World Series Game One-winning legless pinch-hit home run, from Alex Cora’s 18th-pitch home run in 2006 to interpreting Jim Tracy’s tirade with umpires in 2012 (That is blinking fertilizer! I’m doing the best to translate), Dodger Stadium fans wouldn’t believe what they’d just seen (or heard) unless they heard it through Scully’s sonorous voice on the spot.
“You and I have been friends for a long time,” Scully said in his final, official words on the air in 2016, “but I know in my heart that I’ve always needed you more than you’ve ever needed me, and I’ll miss our time together more I can say.”
But you know what—there will be a new day, and eventually a new year. And when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, rest assured, once again it will be time for Dodger baseball. So this is Vin Scully, wishing you a very pleasant good afternoon, wherever you may be.
I’ve often said that, pace a baseball historian, the late Roger Angell wasn’t baseball’s Homer, Homer was ancient Greece’s Roger Angell. Likewise, Scully wasn’t baseball’s Cicero, Cicero was ancient Rome’s Vin Scully.
It was still too soon for us to lose him on the air after 2016; it’s still too soon for us to lose him to the Elysian Fields at 94. He’s reunited, serene, and happy with his beloved Sandra and his son Michael (killed in a helicopter crash in 1994), but—as I still believe with Hall of Famer Yogi Berra gone since 2015—America feels even less like America now that Scully, too, no longer lives and walks among us.
Jeff Kallman is an IBWAA Life Member who writes Throneberry Fields Forever. He has written for the Society for American Baseball Research, The Hardball Times, Sports-Central, and other publications. He has lived in Las Vegas since 2007, where he plays the guitar and writes music when not writing baseball. He remains a Met fan since the day they were born.
Calamity Jane Had Nothing On Chris Sale
By Dan Schlossberg
Chris Sale definitely has a black cloud over his head.
Just when it seemed like Stephen Strasburg has the worst luck of any active player, Sale is doing his best to keep pace.
The erstwhile star southpaw of the Boston Red Sox was a victim of a myriad of injuries before his August 6 bicycle disaster. Now he’s out for the season.
Sale has made just 11 starts since signing a five-year, $145MM contract extension in March 2019. The deal went into effect a year later but did little to stop the pitcher’s penchant for incurring physical setbacks.
He’s had elbow inflammation, Tommy John surgery, a stress reaction in his rib cage, and a broken pinky — suffered when a comeback liner was hit right at him earlier this summer. The result? He’s pitched 48 1/3 innings through the first three years of his contract plus nine more in the 2021 playoffs.
At 34, the lefty isn’t getting any younger. The betting here is that he’s not Justin Velander, Max Scherzer, or any other freak of nature who maintains peak form long after passing peak athletic age.
A pitching prince before he became a pariah, Sale is a seven-time All-Star who once started a record-tying three consecutive years for the American League. He posted a 2.91 earned run average from 2012-18, even coming out of the Boston bullpen to strike out the last three Dodger hitters in the 2018 Red Sox world championship effort.
In the few games he pitched this season, his fastball had an average velocity of 94.9 miles per hour, about the same as it was during his peak with the Chicago White Sox, his first team, and the Red Sox, who acquired him in a trade with the Pale Hose.
Boston fans are incredulous that Sale gave the team only 5 2/3 innings this season. But that was on par with the rest of the injury-riddled rotation.
Fellow southpaw James Paxton, for example, didn’t even contribute an inning. And an array of ailments hampered Nathan Eovaldi, Rich Hill, and Michael Wacha — all potential free agents this fall. Nick Pivetta, one starter likely to return, also lost time to injury.
A pre-season favorite of many prognosticators, the Sox have been wallowing near the basement of the American League East for much of the season. Looking ahead to 2023, the team has to hope Sale, Pivetta, and Paxton are healthy and that Eovaldi re-signs. But the odds against all those things happening are astronomical.
So look for Chaim Bloom, the team’s youthful trade-maker, to be on the lookout for rotation help by trade, free agency, or both.
The Sox made it clear at the Aug. 2 trade deadline that they want to keep All-Star infielders Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers but it’s virtually certain that J.D. Martinez, another big bat, will walk.
Suffice to say Bloom is going to have a busy winter, regardless of where the Red Sox finish.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 40 baseball books, including next year’s Baseball Zeroes. He covers the game for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, and Sports Collectors Digest, among others. Contact him via email@example.com.
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