- Stan Brooks
I’ve been in mourning since August 29th of last year.
It’s been a long, private grieving, knowing the end would be coming soon.
Now it’s here. And this past Sunday it all came to an end.
Vin Scully is blessed us with his final broadcast. Ever.
Even as I type this I can’t believe it. Tears moistening my eyes and cheeks.
For the approaching six decades of my life, there have only been two voices that remain a constant. My father. And Vincent Edward Scully.
I was there for Vin’s last Dodger home game - captured for eternity by the stealth broadcast cameras - weeping with my wife as the former college song and dance man serenaded all 52,000 of us with ”Wind Beneath My Wings.”
There have been countless essays about his broadcasting brilliance - deservedly so.
There will be personal reminisces from fellow broadcasters, friends and players who know him or been lucky enough to hear him say their name. I have never been that fortunate.
And there have been those that remind us, accurately, that there will only, ever, be one Vin Scully in our lives - never another like him to pass this way again. That too, is perfectly stated and worth repeating forever.
Yet, of the myriad of things I’ll miss by not having Uncle Vin in my ear and filling up my life - what I may miss the most is the sound of his silence.
My youth was spent as more of an observer than a participant. At six, I was diagnosed with allergic asthma, brought on by dust, pollen or athletic endeavors. I spent as many days parked on the discomforting green fiberglass bench as I did in P.E. or recess. From that vantage point I yearned to play, to be a jock - but settled for being a fan. In the earliest days of my butt parking prowess, I received a small, blue transistor radio. I discovered Vin before I could even ride a bike and he was my constant companion. Thanks to the voice in the little metal box, I took him to school and hid him in my locker. I snuck him into our synagogue’s High Holy Day services, a tiny earphone, surreptitiously snuck into my ear, camouflaged by an overgrown sixties Jewish Afro. I had to stifle a cheer when he told me about Maury Wills stealing his hundredth base or Drysdale notching another shutout.
For my seventh birthday, my parents, fearful my athletic inabilities would dwarf my boyhood development, decided to send me to a one month, sleep-away, sports camp in Lake Arrowhead. Yippee.
Instead of being picked last on teams in P.E. once a day, or maybe a couple of times a week (”you take Brooks - that makes the teams fair”) - at Camp Troy, being picked last was a six or seven times a day event. This was the opposite of character building - it was Colonel Kilgore calling in a napalm strike on my self-esteem.
I survived that hellish summer because I had a friend with me the whole time. Uncle Vin.
Vinny was waiting for me, hidden under the pillow in the lower bunk of Cabin Eight. While the rest of the boys were regaling the counselor of their victorious exploits, I was able to escape into my sleeping bag, twist the tiny circular dial and find Vin at his 640 address.
He was reliable. Always there. Never late. Happy to be in my ear yet again. It was the summer of ’64 and I had just heard Vinny call Sandy Koufax’ no-hitter against the Phillies weeks before I left for Camp Nightmare.
Even when only broadcasting on radio, Vin did something wholly unique, besides being one of the only broadcasters to work alone: He embraced the moment - letting the crowd tell the story.
He wasn’t afraid of silence.
No panic to fill up the air.
Nobody sitting next to him, waiting for a pause to jump in and add ”color.”
Each night, in the shadows of my squeaky plywood bunkbed, my head pressed firmly against the lumpy, hypo-allergenic pillow, that soothing and comforting voice shared with me the exploits of Koufax, Drysdale, Wills, Davis and Fairly. And in those delicious pauses betweens strikes and stories, I escaped to blue heaven on Earth. In those quiet moments left to the listener, I would finally drift off to sleep. Vin was my prayer before bed, the warm glass of milk comforting me when I needed it most.
A year later, the day before my August birthday, sitting alone on the cold, white marble floor of my great Uncle Harold’s living room, my sister frolicking outside in the swimming pool, I was hypnotized by an unfolding vision on the giant Zenith console before me. John Roseboro, the tough, legendary Dodger catcher was being pummeled with a bat by the Giant hitter - their fiery pitcher, Juan Marichal. I was transfixed. Even though it was fifty-one years ago - what do I remember most? The crowd noise before Marichal turned his bat on Dodger number 8 and then the abrupt, eerie silence of horror - and sound of a wooden Louisville Slugger connecting with Roseboro’s plastic helmet. It still haunts me.
Why do I remember the sound? Because there was no announcer talking over the shocking images. If a picture is worth a thousand words - that one was coming in at a million.
And the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains.
Within the sound of silence.
Dodger Stadium was less than five years old when I first visited there with my father for the 1965 World Series against the Minnesota Twins. It was a postcard Los Angeles day. The sky signed on to flaunt its best Dodger Blue for my first visit. It’s not possible for a ten year old boy to have been more excited. My dad handed me my ticket: a big, colorful card, almost too big to hold in my little hand. It said WORLD SERIES on it with a big red 1965 and a green map of the United States. My father had a silver transistor tucked into his shirt pocket, an earphone dangling from his right ear, connected to the AM receiver. It didn’t matter that the game was right in front of us, nearly every adult male in the park was connected to the storyteller right above. Like watching a movie with the sound turned off, it just wasn’t the same without the soundtrack.
My parents split in 1971, divorcing the following year. My adolescent ire flared any time my father and I were within a zip code of each other - yet, detente existed whenever we listened to cousin Vinny or spoke of baseball. We could avoid the big elephant in left field and just enjoy the one thing we still had in common, The Dodgers and Vin.
1974 was my last year of high school and I was more than ready to leave home. That April I sat alone in the den of my house watching Henry Aaron loft an Al Downing fastball into the dark, Atlanta night sky and listened to Vin’s now iconic call of the home run that broke Babe Ruth’s insurmountable record.
As memorable as Mr. Scully’s call (”Fastball. It’s a high drive into deep right-centerfield. Buckner goes back. To the fence. IT IS GONE!”) - what we might truly remember is the sound of that deafening crowd. The loud crescendo of history. As Vinny said a few minutes later: ”What a marvelous moment for our country and the world… A black man is getting a standing ovation in the deep south for breaking the record of an all-time baseball idol.”
That night Vin Scully let us feel history; putting us in the best Braves stadium seat.
Mr. Scully told Rich Eisen recently, that just after the home run he took off his headset, walked to the back of the radio booth and poured himself a cup of water. He chose to let the hometown baseball fans tell the story in that perfect, historic silence. Vin Scully went without broadcasting for one minute and forty-six seconds (I just timed it). You can hear the fireworks, the waves of endless cheers and applause, washing over you like a tidal parade. We are with them. We are one with that joy.
Since that day, I’ve heard Vinny call Fernando’s no-hitter, Gibby’s iconic World Series home run against Eckersley, the Buckner error in the Mets / BoSox Game Six and Dwight Clark’s legendary catch in the NFC championship game. And with all of them, the stories delight us like a first grade reading circle - accentuated always, by the silences of being there.
The journey of my life has been impacted by the dulcet tones of Vinny in so many ways.
Instead of following in the footsteps of the other adult male role model I’ve known since I arrived - I followed Vin. I’m not in my father’s profession - I’m a storyteller like Scully. I make movies. And if I were to look at my life as a film - Vin Scully is the soundtrack. He’s every bit as important to my story as John Williams to Spielberg or Morricone to Leone.
When I saw a desperate need in Los Angeles for a charitable foundation to be created - it was to bring baseball back to LA County parks needing summer Little League for at risk kids. Giving back. Vin taught me about that too. Baseball was my friend again - like on those lonely nights at camp incubus with Mr. Scully.
Over the years my teen angst and young adult ennui were replaced by graying maturity and I forgave my father. He turned out to be an amazing grandfather to my three boys. Shortly before the arrival of our first son, my father turned over his Dodger season seats to me. And, once again, there were fathers and sons of three generations, in every imaginable double play combination, venturing to our collective second home on Vin Scully Avenue.
When my sons were young, after a particularly satisfying park league hoops or baseball victory, I would drive them to 7-11 for a Slurpee. It became a tradition. We loved those heavenly muted moments of victorious revelry. There are moments as a dad when sitting with your kid, not saying anything, is as important as when you speak.
Embracing the silence can be a wonder in itself. I learned that from Vin Scully.
In a world where every televised sporting event has two or three broadcasters sharing a booth, falling all over each other to fill up the soundtrack of a game, imagine that there’s someone that did it alone for 67 years and once went almost two minutes without talking on the air.
In a time when movies and TV shows aggressively fill up the audio track with score and songs and sound effects - appreciate an artist who embraces the quiescence.
And in a city where we are surrounded by cars and freeways and flyovers…
You never lived next door to Michelangelo.
Never went grocery shopping and bumped into Albert Einstein.
Never drove carpool and spotted Beethoven.
Be appreciative that you lived when the greatest announcer, of any sport, of any time, was in your home, your car, your life and your soul.
Charlie Steiner once said he never got to see Babe Ruth play on the field, but he was blessed to be able to sit beside the Babe of Broadcasting. We were just that lucky too.
Sixty-seven years wasn’t nearly enough and I can’t believe it’s about to end.
On behalf of everyone in my family and in my world… We will miss you Vincent Edward Scully. You connected us all - blessed us with your generosity and gentility and stories.
And your silence.
May whatever lies ahead bring you a thousandth of the joy you have brought us.
To deep right field.
To the warning track.
To the wall.
I’m losing my friend under the pillow and from the best of my memories.
And I don’t really know a world without him. Or how I’ll endure.