Orioles

Orioles

As soon as I sat in my press box seat in Dodger Stadium, I heard the voice. “Dave,” he kept calling to the field until the Orioles pitching coach finally responded. 

“I’ll come up and see you, Vin,” Dave Wallace yelled back. 

It had been 25 years since I had been in Dodger Stadium, and 14 years since I had seen Vin Scully in person, and I knew I wanted to thank him for all he’s meant to baseball and the hours of enjoyment he’d brought to me. 

I was hardly alone. 

A minute later, I heard another familiar voice in back of me in the press box. It was Adam Jones, and he had come to say hello, goodbye and thank you to Scully, too. 

This year, players, managers, coaches and umpires have trekked to the Dodger Stadium broadcast booth to pay their respects to the living legend who’ll cap his 67-year career on Sunday in San Francisco. 

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon has visited. So has New York Mets skipper Terry Collins, and when the Nationals were in L.A., Dusty Baker and Bryce Harper went up, too. 

Wallace came the day after Jones did. The longtime Dodgers pitching coach adores Scully. 

“A finer man you’ll never meet,” he said. 

Wallace brought bullpen coach Dom Chiti, and after Jones visited, he told Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop about it, and they went two days later. 

 

Even David Ortiz went to visit the great man, and the attention humbles Scully. 

“I'm deeply touched and overwhelmed with gratitude that they would take the time,” Scully said in a conference call last week. “It's just one of the loveliest things that's ever occurred in my life.”

The umpires salute Scully, too.

“All of them, when they come in, after the exchange of lineups, they take their hats off, they look up, some bow kiddingly and I wave or bow or do whatever I do.  It's just a wonderful emotional bridge.  And now they're coming up to say hello and goodbye,” Scully said. 

At 88, Scully is still doing marvelous work. Not long after the Dodgers visited Baltimore in 2002, he decided to drastically reduce his travel, and other than Opening Day in San Diego and the Freeway Series in Anaheim, this weekend’s games will be his only trip of the season. 

It’s funny that in a country that seemingly can no longer agree about anything that everyone loves Scully. 

I first heard about him as a small boy in Brooklyn. My father, a casual baseball fan, told me about Scully whose Dodgers had broken Brooklyn’s heart when they left in 1957. I had been born the year before, so I knew only the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Scully never went back to Brooklyn after the Dodgers’ final game there 59 years ago. “I had no reason, really, to go back,” Scully told Sports Illustrated in 2014. “There wasn’t anything there for me.” 

He became a legend in Los Angeles, but has admitted he was tempted to return to New York in 1964 when there was an opportunity to replace Mel Allen with the Yankees and reunite with his mentor, Red Barber. 

Of course Scully didn’t, and like Harry Caray became a national legend late in life. 

For years, the only time viewers outside Southern California got to hear Scully was when the Dodgers won the pennant and NBC, in a charming custom, allowed the local announcers to work the home telecasts. 

Later, Scully worked on CBS football and golf. While NBC had baseball in the 1980’s, he called those games, too. 

For years afterward, his national exposure was severely limited. Then along came satellite radio where Scully simulcasts the first three innings on TV and radio. Baseball packages online and on the air helped a new audience discover him. 

After Orioles games, I’ll sometimes watch an inning of Scully when I get home, savoring this year because I know it’s his last. 

Twenty years ago, he called the Braves-Yankees World Series on radio, and talked about Joe Torre yelling from a distance to the home plate umpire.

 

“The dugouts are so far away here, he might as well be a guy in the balcony winking at a showgirl,” Scully said. 

He can even get away with a political crack. A few months ago, in referring to a Venezuelan catcher, Scully talked about the disaster of  that country’s economy. 

“Socialism failing to work as it always does,” Scully said. “Who’s the richest person in Venezuela? The daughter of Hugo Chavez. Hello.” 

This weekend’s games will likely be an anticlimax after he called the Dodgers’ division winning 10th inning home run, but they’ll be unforgettable, too. As Buck Showalter might say, take a good look at him, he’ll never pass your way again. 

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