In this, the Undisputed Year Of Vin, the iconic Dodger announcer’s decision to finish his seven-decade career on October 2 in San Francisco, the last regular season game of the season, has caused considerable gnashing and wailing of teeth among the millions of Vinophiles.
But Scully’s decision to decline any postseason games so that he can end his 80-year connection to the game by calling a game between his two favorite teams, while it emotionally guts his greatest fans, has a practical side, as he did not explain this morning.
“I want my last in-person memory of the sport to be watching Bruce Bochy actually unscrew his own head as he walks to the mound to make his last pitching change of the season,” Scully did not explain. “I know they’ve been having tough times and all, but I can honestly say now that we in Southern California can actually smell the roasting tires back in San Francisco, I am intrigued to see just how spectacularly they can lose on the final weekend.”
That Scully said none of these things is not surprising, given his essentially graciousness and enjoyment of the game and all its practitioners, and that I chose to make up these quotes rather than walk you through the latest controlled demolition of the Giant bullpen is a measure of my own disinterest in ex post facto crime scene investigations.
But Scully should say these things, and if not say them, then he should at least think them. He as much as anyone is invested in the Dodger-Giant rivalry, he has a special affinity for the people on both teams, and the fact that he wants to end his career watching those two teams rather than, say, the Washington Nationals or Chicago Cubs, speaks to his reverence for tradition.
If only we could add to that resume a morbid fascination with the human mudslide that has become the San Francisco bullpen. If only he would say to us all in those singsongy yet stentorian tones, “If I must retire, I want to retire watching the Giants vomit up one last five-run lead while my good friend Bruce offers to pull women out of the stands to see if they can get an out.”
But no. Just as this is an entirely fictional account of the thinking inside Scully’s head, it is also an admission that this is really about what we want. In short, we would like Scully’s voice added to those of Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow and Jon Miller as they describe that one last shower of smoldering arms while the Dodgers fight in the on-deck circle in the ninth inning to see who can squeeze out one final turn at bat before the elusive final out.
Preferably while all four of them are ginned up to the eyelids and seeing a very blurry four of everything – for maximum surreal enjoyment.
And let’s be honest here, we have reached the stage of this Dali-esque season where we look forward to the late innings just to see how this latest game can top the ones before for degree-of-difficulty absurdity. Tuesday’s Lucy skit was particularly instructive along these lines.
Playing the sub-moribund San Diego Padres, the Giants took a 4-1 lead into the ninth inning and, well, left it there with a single, strikeout, single, single, walk, RBI groundout, gargantuan homer, warning track fly ball inning that turned that “1” into a “6” and made “Stephen Okert-to-Ryan Schimpf” a thing for the ages.
And this isn’t the worst of the year. Plus, we always have to add the qualifier, “so far,” because there’s a new one right around every corner. We have gone from “Bruce Bochy, best bullpen manager of his generation” to “Bruce Bochy has lost his magic” to “Bruce Bochy has an unnaturally stubborn attraction to Santiago Casilla” to the current, “Oh, NOW I get why he hasn’t gotten rid of Casilla.” Admiration to anger is normal with a baseball manager. Admiration to anger to confusion to pity is unusual. Admiration to anger to confusion to pity is breathtaking when you compress it all to one preposterous 60-day period.
Now why wouldn’t Vin Scully want to go out seeing one last spin of that particular wheel of explosives? Exactly. He’s seen everything else in baseball, so why wouldn’t he want to go out seeing a manager pull off his own head?
Indeed, if we could be relatively sure that the final game would feature that triumph of self-decapitation, the attendance would not be 41,584, but 415,840. I mean, next to that, Raiders-Ravens and Cowboys-49ers pale in significance – and those are games where decapitation is standard tactical procedure.
So yes, we made up the Scully quotes, but only out of respect for what we think he would want when he goes out – one last great story to tell his friends:
“And then the Dodgers reload the bases, and the next thing I know is, there’s shrapnel everywhere, the Giants’ relievers are refusing to leave the bullpen and the infield grass is on fire, and then Bochy takes off his hat, grabs each side of his head and pop! You could hear it all over the ballpark. It sounded like a Frank Howard home run. Damnedest thing I ever saw.”
And you know it would be.