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  • Stan Brooks

Vin Scully -- An Appreciation

I was not a happy camper after my parents split up in the fall of my fifteenth year. I felt betrayed and abandoned and left alone to care for my depressed Mom and younger sister. My father and I had a rough time finding common ground. If he was oil, I was water. If he wanted Chinese takeout, I wanted never to see him again.

Well, almost never.

Even at the worst of our troubles, we had one thing we still could share: the Los Angeles Dodgers. Walking into Dodger Stadium, we could leave the hostility at the gate. Coming out of the darkness of the cement overhang into the light and that first glimpse of the perfectly manicured green outfield and beautiful white chalk against the brick dust infield, we had a tiny Utopia. At least for nine innings.

From the moment I could walk, talk or understand the spoken word, there was only one voice that was in my house, in my parents' cars, even in my ear when I went to camp or snuck a transistor radio into school -- Vin Scully. Since my birth, the soundtrack of my life has been the sweet, gentle, comforting tones of the best broadcaster in the history of sports.

I was a terrible athlete. And for some reason that still haunts me -- my parents decided for the summer of my seventh birthday to send me to a sports camp in Lake Arrowhead -- Camp Troy, run by the physical education teacher at my elementary school. So, instead of just getting picked last once or twice a day at school during recess or P.E., I had the ignominious distinction of being picked last six, seven, eight times a day -- in every imaginable sport. I took refuge in the rare Arts and Crafts time and in my bunk. For every night -- no matter what happened during the day -- I could crawl into my little bunk in Cabin 12 turn on the little grey-and-white transistor radio, put it under my pillow and listen to Vinny (as my Dad called him) tell me about the Dodgers. That summer I got to hear Vinny call Sandy Koufax's third no-hitter.

If you ran my life back as a movie -- the voiceover would be read by Vin Scully.

His charm and talent aren't just in painting these beautiful sketches with his words -- bringing you straight to the ballpark with his prose. He's also constantly, subtly teaching us all something with every story, every broadcast. He taught me about the importance of hard work with a story of a minor leaguer struggling for over 10 years in AAA and the joy of their first major league hit or a pitcher's strikeout. I learned that a man working the same job for 65 years, without ever advancing, can still find happiness and success; when you love what you do, you don't worry so much about titles and promotions. That's another good lesson.

Scully taught me to appreciate the beauty of a California sunset or the majesty of a gifted athletic achievement. He has shown me humility in each of his decisions to let the Dodgers be the story -- or telling us of how lucky he has been to have this job.

'Tis we, Mr. Scully, that have been lucky. 'Tis we.

This is the announcer who called Hank Aaron's historic 715th home run. He called Bill Buckner's fateful error that led to the Mets' improbable World Championship in '86 and Kirk Gibson's home run in '88 (arguably the greatest single moment in L.A. sports history). But, he's also the guy that called the "The Catch" on CBS Television -- maybe the most famous touchdown reception in the NFL.

Just as we listen to iconic film and radio moments from yesteryear -- like Lou Gehrig's I'm the luckiest man on the face of the earth or the famous The Giants win the Pennant! The Giants win the Pennant -- many years from now, it will be Vinny's voice that joins them in that rarefied spot on the shelf of historic broadcasts.

I wasn't around to see Michelangelo sculpt. I never saw Beethoven compose or conduct the Ninth Symphony. I only ever saw Astaire and Kelly dance on screen. But, I can say that I lived during the time of Scully. I had the privilege to listen to the greatest announcer of all time. I had the good fortune to live in Los Angeles and watch the sports equivalent of the Sistine Chapel painted every night.

'Tis we, Mr. Scully, that have been lucky. 'Tis we.

My father and I made up long ago -- and we now share Opening Day together in the same seats he's had since 1963. My father with a new transistor radio in his ear. Over the last two decades I've raised three boys of my own, who also think of Vin Scully as the one constant voice in their lives. With the coming of March every year, my sons and I eagerly await that first pre-season game and appreciate those marvelous five words from our best friend, favorite Uncle, wise counsel... IT'S TIME FOR DODGER BASEBALL.

And as much as we waited with bated breath for the first time we heard those magical words of spring -- for the last decade or more, we also held our collective exhalations each year right about now -- with the decision on whether or not the Voice of Los Angeles would return. Each year my sons, my Dad and I would call or text each other with the breaking (fantastic) news that we would be graced with one more year of Vinny by our side and in our ears.

Yesterday, the Dodgers -- on the night they gave away a talking Vin Scully Microphone (sitting prominently on my bookshelf as I type this) -- the Dodgers announced (via a video message in Korean, Spanish and then English) that, to this city's collective WOOOHOOOO!, Vin would be right back behind that microphone for his 66th season.

At his press conference Wednesday, Mr. Scully spoke of how humble he felt to be given the privilege of announcing games for the fans of (first) Brooklyn and Los Angeles. He spoke of how blessed he's been by God to be able to work at the same job for the past 65 years. He said "I really haven't done anything but just be here for the 19 no hitters and three perfect games..." There he was again -- teaching us all about humility. About finding the grace in life and appreciating every day, every moment, every hit, run and error.

One more time, he was guiding us. In a time of watching hitters admire their home runs before starting to run, basketball players celebrating three-point shots when their team is down by twenty points, football players dancing in an end zone even if it costs their team a penalty -- Vin Scully took no victory trot, never applauded himself -- only spoke of his luck and humility. He even joked that none of the press were there to see him -- as if he would ever be an opening act for anybody.

On Wednesday, Vinny said that the reason he was coming back had everything to do with the goosebumps he still gets, like when, last night, Yasiel Puig (the Dodgers' young Cuban phenom) settled under a fly ball knowing that an Atlanta Brave would be challenging his arm, trying to score, once the catch was made.

That's how we feel, Mr. Scully, every time we tune in to hear your voice. Every season that you return to our homes, to our cars, to our lives.

At the end of the Press Conference, Scully spoke of a saying that comes to mind every time he decides to come back to the Dodgers, back to Los Angeles broadcasting...

If you wanna make God smile -- tell him your plans. I pray that I'm able to come back next year.

You will not be alone in that prayer my dear, wondrous Mr. Scully -- so will every fan and resident of Los Angeles -- and anyone who can appreciate that they've been blessed to be in the presence of perfection for all this time.

'Tis we, Mr. Scully, that have been lucky. 'Tis we.

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