Op-Ed

Vin Scully, pitch perfect for the Dodgers

He has been calling Dodger games since Harry Truman was president and the team was suiting up in Brooklyn; he's in his 63rd season of sounding every shade of Dodger Blue.

Vin Scully

Vin Scully has been calling Dodger games since Harry Truman was president and the Dodgers were suiting up in Brooklyn (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / July 3, 2012)

Oh, that voice! It comes out of the TV, it comes out of the radio, it comes out of the man sitting across from me in the cafe behind the press box at Dodger Stadium. Courtly and indefatigable, Vin Scully has been calling Dodger games since Harry Truman was president and the Dodgers were suiting up in Brooklyn; he's in his 63rd season of sounding every shade of Dodger Blue. As the team passes midseason, it's time for the voice of Dodger baseball, the man who actually does talk a very good game.

After all the Dodgers' upheaval, does the team seem different?

I think there is a spirit of optimism; the fans feel the team will get better because of new ownership. The players are like I am, and I've said this before: It's as if we're working on a ship, and I'm down in the boiler room shoveling coal, and up on top where the captain is, that's the ownership. By and large, ownership doesn't have anything to do with me shoveling coal.

What are their prospects, as we speak just before the All-Star break?

The one thing no one ever knows is the unseen enemy, the injury, and that's happened with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier and Mark Ellis, Ted Lilly. They [are] starting to get back. The team will definitely be better than it is today.

The official Vin Scully lexicon

All the games you've called — is there anything you haven't seen?

The charm of baseball is just when you think you've seen everything, something else pops up that you couldn't possibly imagine. I guarantee you.

I saw the pope at Dodger Stadium in 1987 — but you didn't get to.

We were on the road. I missed the papal visit. I missed the three tenors [Dodger Stadium concert], although I play the CD all the time. Even the Olympics — they timed it to make sure we were out on the road.

Peter O'Malley's office has extraordinary memorabilia, like a movie studio model of the stadium, and a letter from Babe Ruth. What's on your walls?

I was never a collector. If I was, I would have had to build another house! If you walked into the house, you wouldn't see anything; it's in files or drawers or in the garage, stacked in boxes.

You must be as mobbed as the players are when fans see you.

People want an autograph — I don't know if they want to keep it or want to sell it on EBay!

You played center field at Fordham University. Could you have been a professional ball player?

No. I could run, I could throw, I could catch the ball. But I wasn't anywhere close to being a hitter who would ever seriously consider moving on in professional ball. No way. And no one has to tell you that, after you've broken a couple of bats. But that's one of the reasons I love the game so much: I really tried to play it seriously. Today I watch them and I still marvel — they make the most difficult play look easy.

When the Dodgers played in the Coliseum, fans watched the game but listened to you on transistor radios.

In the Coliseum you could have been 70-odd rows away from the action. Also, [back then] the fans knew Stan Musial and Willie Mays. I don't think they knew the rank-and-file player. It was fortunate for me, the combination of the Coliseum and the transistor radio, and you had a marriage. Whoever the announcer would have been, they would have listened. It was a great break for me to bring me closer to the fans and to bring the fans closer to the ball club.

You began in radio; do you think the power to evoke images with words has made you able to do this as long as you have? In TV, people often rely on the pictures to do the work.

When you're on television, it's a good idea to rely on the picture. For the last 10 years at least, we do a simulcast: the first three innings I'm doing radio and television. I worried about that, but the late Chick Hearn, God rest his soul, did simulcasts. People understand, yeah, he's talking too much — because he's on radio! I try to find the happy medium.

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