Lamenting a World … More Memories of Vin Scully – Part 2

by on October 3, 2016 · 3 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, History, Life Events, Media, Sports

vin-scully-edvin-scully-ed2Here’s Part 1

Beyond Baseball

by Scott Stephens

Vin Scully called his last game in San Francisco Sunday. The following are some of my personal thoughts on the man and the time period in which he prevailed as the very best sportscaster in the biz.

The Dodgers were more than just baseball. This is the team that broke the color barrier and signed the league’s first black player, Jackie Robinson, in 1947. Three years later (1950) in the heyday of Jackie’s career, Scully began his tenure with the Dodgers that has lasted until this year (2016). Signing Robinson to the then Brooklyn Dodgers was largely due to the efforts of general manager Branch Rickey. Rickey was a member of the United Methodist Church, who were strong advocates for social justice and had a large role in the civil rights movement. The team has also been at the forefront of the signing of Asian players. Hideo Nomo became the league’s first Japanese star; Chan Ho Park became its first South Korean star amongst many others.

I was born in 1960 and grew up in the San Fernando Valley. The early to mid-60’s period were glory years for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The team has resided in L.A. for nearly 60 years but 3 of their 5 World Championships came between 1959 and 1965. At that time Sandy Koufax & Don Drysdale were the most feared 1-2 pitching combination in the league. Speedster Maury Wills was the catalyst for an offense that lacked a bona-fide power hitter but relied on “small-ball” seldom seen in today’s game. Once Wills got on base it was nearly impossible to keep him from stealing 2nd and even 3rd base. It was often Willie Davis or Tommy Davis who drove him home (no relation). Most Dodger games were low scoring affairs that featured speed; pitching and defense. I started listening to Dodger radio broadcasts religiously in 1969 and have tuned in off and on ever since. In my pre-teen, little league years I rarely missed a broadcast (69-73). Win or lose, with Vinny games were always interesting.

In my teenage years, girls and rock & roll occupied most of my attention while sports took a back seat. But whenever I needed a diversion from the chaos of a 70’s teen, there was the soothing voice of Vinny on the airwaves, assuring me everything is okay. I vividly recall the excitement and drama of close games when pinch-hitter Manny Mota would be called to the plate in late innings with the game on the line. And no one could paint the picture better than Scully.

In 1981 I left Los Angeles for Alaska and could only check the box scores to see how the Dodgers were doing. They won the world series that year led by the pitching of Fernando Valenzuela. I returned to Southern California in 1986 but moved to San Diego. Most of the time I could pull in a signal and catch the Dodgers on radio or TV. The players were ever-changing but Vin was the one consistent; still describing the action. When the Dodgers won the World Series in 1988 I was on vacation in Puerto Vallarta and watching the game poolside when Kirk Gibson hit his memorable home run. Vin Scully made that call and had now been broadcasting 38 years! He was already a legend. Who knew he’d still be calling games in 2016!

As a San Diego resident my allegiance for the home town Padres grew but I also became more and more disenchanted with professional sports as salaries and ticket prices soared. What once was truly a sport for all people regardless of the status in life, MLB was now affordable on a regular basis only for the middle to upper classes. Albeit certainly still more affordable than the NBA or NFL. Despite this I would still occasionally tune in to Dodger broadcasts to hear the master at work while I harkened back to a simpler, more civil time.

Listening to Padre broadcasts made me appreciate Scully even more. The Padres were now my favorite team (I’m a homer) but it was almost unbearable to tune in after being spoiled by Scully. When the Dodgers and Padres competed I would always listen on the LA station, if possible. Typically, I would learn more about the Padre players in one game called by Scully than in an entire season listening to the “home team” announcers.

I liken Scully to Walter Cronkite. Mr. Cronkite simply delivered the facts colored by more facts. That’s the way it was back then. In the 60’s and 70’s there could not have been a Donald Trump running for President. Facts mattered. Viewers were able to form their own opinions and the media wasn’t controlled by just a few conglomerates.

Vin Scully was on the airwaves in Brooklyn and Los Angeles during the heyday of America (the 2nd half of the 20th Century). While it was never perfect (and never will be) our nation had tremendous prosperity and most people had significant leisure time. Most families only required one breadwinner to support a lifestyle envied around the world and coined “the American dream”. In the 1960’s the young generation challenged the mainstream establishment and pushed through legislation that helped improve the lives of many less fortunate citizens including women, minorities and the labor force. And for the first time we started to consider the health of the environment. With this progressive nation in its prime the additional leisure hours translated into a boom in the creative arts. The period of 1965 to 1975 may been the zenith of the rock & roll period (post 1955). Los Angeles (and Hollywood) was at the forefront of this creative period. And all through the years, Vinny was calling the action when we needed that diversion coined “Americas Pastime”.

Although he rarely touched on politics during his broadcasts, I came to find out recently that Mr. Scully is a Republican. At first I was shocked and disappointed. He seemed too kind and too intelligent to be part of a party that now gets the most of its votes from under-educated, older white males who tune into partisan media outlets such as Fox News. The kind of opinionated, fear-mongering, so called “news” that seemed to be the direct opposite of Scully’s approach. It was obvious from listening to Scully for so many years that he didn’t have a racist bone in his body. His description of Hank Aaron’s record breaking home run was one example. And when Fernando Mania was all the rage in LA, Vinny delighted in it.

In thinking about this more deeply, I came to realize why this man of great dignity would remain a Republican despite the party’s recent hard right turn. He grew up in a very different America. The Republican Party was very different as well, much closer to the political center than the extreme right position it holds today. At that time it hadn’t been taken over by the neo-cons; tea-partiers and Libertarian’s. Scully is a loyalist. When the Dodgers made the move to Brooklyn, the Yankees offered him their broadcast post. He declined and stayed loyal to Walter O’Malley and the Dodger organization. Right or wrong, that’s the way he is.

I believe the first time he ever made a blatant political statement was this year during the election when he briefly mentioned the term “socialism” and how it “never works”. This was disappointing to hear from Vinny but he’s 88 years old with deeply imbedded ideals. It was really a great example of how the right wing media has twisted the word “socialism” to be interpreted as “communism”.

The fact is, socialism (like it or not) has worked well for many nations. It is the middle ground between capitalism and communism. His comment was directed at Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. This was hard to swallow as I personally feel the issues Bernie is concerned about are the issues we need to tackle to bring the country back to sanity and “make America great again”, lol! But Vin never intended to be malicious or political. As far as I know, it was the first and last time he delved into political discourse. I’m sure it upset many and made other ecstatic. Social media “blew-up” with opinions from both sides on his commentary.

Other than this one-time anomaly in his reporting, Scully ­was the leader of a vanishing breed of reporters who refrained from shouting, casting stones and personal editorial. The departure of Scully signified end of dignity in American broadcasting. Those last slivers of honesty, humility and class that Vinny personified.

When my tears rolled during his final inning, it wasn’t so much about Vin the sportscaster; it was about Vin the human being; the American. And the America we aspired to be and nearly achieved. And now, sadly, how we’ve lost our soul as a nation. His departure signifies the end of an era in many ways.

Vin Scully you are absolutely my favorite Republican! I never met you but, I’ve known you my whole life.

Scott Stephens is a native of Los Angeles and now resides in San Diego. He’s the founder of Liquid Blue, a musical act that has performed in over 100 countries. As a teenager he founded Raw Power Magazine (circa late 1970’s) a punk & hard rock fanzine immersed in the rock & roll culture of Sunset Blvd. His dream gig would have been to play ball for the hometown LA Dodgers but at 5’7” he instead trained with the Los Angeles Thunderbirds Roller Derby team and skated pro briefly (1978-1981). Other gigs included financial planner; insurance agent and L.A. City Lifeguard. He also competed as an amateur boxer. Scott is a lifelong activist for peace, social justice and the environment.  http://scott-stephens.com/

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Raine October 3, 2016 at 9:13 pm

This article is worth reading for ! Good job !

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Ronnie Wald October 12, 2016 at 7:48 am

Stupidity personified. I know you put a lot of effort into this but, you brought up politics (and inexplicably socialism) in this rambling, incoherent piece. Bottom line: If you want to understand Scully then you need to understand his profound faith in God and his religious beliefs. That’s where the rubber meets the road. Without that perspective, your tome (even though sometimes heartfelt) does not have a clue who Vinnie is beyond the microphone. If you attack conservative ideals then you attack Vin Scully. You can’t deny or dismiss what Mr S feels is the greatest aspect of his charmed life…his undeniable faith in a Christian God. Sadly, your piece fall woefully short…like a nine inning game that is a washout and goes only five

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Nikki Green October 25, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Right on point! Great article.

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