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The three-ring binder chock full of tidbits Vin Scully wants to talk about on the air will soon be flipped shut for the last time.
After Sunday, the Hall of Fame broadcaster is down to calling three Los Angeles Dodgers games before concluding his 67-year career on Oct. 2 in San Francisco.
“I’m trying very hard not to think about me,” he said Saturday during a 50-minute session with the media. “I want to think about the game and the importance of the game.”
The game has always been the thing for Scully, starting in 1950 when he joined Red Barber and Connie Desmond in the Brooklyn Dodgers radio and television booth. Barber was the father figure, Desmond was the big brother and Scully was the 22-year-old kid.
Early on, Scully declared on the air that Willie Mays was the best player he’d ever seen.
An irritated Barber pulled him aside afterward, lecturing, “You haven’t been around long enough to talk about the best player you’ve ever seen.”
: Thank God,” Scully said at the charity event, which raised more than $1.5 million.”]
“Connie would put his arm around me,” Scully recalled, “and say, ‘It’s OK, kid. Let’s go get a beer.'”
Scully’s broadcasts focus on stories involving the people on the field rather than baseball statistics. He admits having “no idea” about newer stats like WAR (wins above replacement) or OPS (on base plus slugging percentages).
“I’m not smart enough to keep all those numbers in my head,” he said. “I got to know the players. I started to treat them like human beings. I would be by the batting cage. A player might come over and say, ‘You know what happened to the shortstop yesterday?’ and I would have a story.”
As the longest tenured broadcaster with a single team in any professional sport, Scully has plenty of stories and an amazing recall of names, dates and occasions that would put most 88-year-olds to shame.
He’s used his encyclopedic knowledge working games alone for much of his career, making him an anomaly in today’s world of booths jammed with play-by-play, color commentators and analysts talking over each other.
“That’s not an ego trip on my part,” Scully said. “Red had the theory: one voice, one man. The one-on-one is really effective.”
Scully’s esteem and influence earned him an offer from Eugene Wyman to run for office in 1964. Wyman’s wife, Roz, was influential in helping bring the Dodgers west in 1958. Wyman told Scully the Democrats were looking for a candidate to fill the U.S. Senate seat from California. Scully listened politely and asked Wyman for 48 hours to mull it over.
“I called him and said, ‘I’ve given it a lot of thought, which was not true, I just don’t think I’m qualified and I think I’d be happier doing my baseball games,'” Scully said.
His first Brooklyn Dodgers game on April 18, 1950, was in Philadelphia, having cracked jokes on the way to the ballpark in the back of the bus with Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe, whose friendship with Scully extends to this day.
“They didn’t trust me more than one inning,” Scully said, recalling Barber assigned him to call the fourth. “I was terrified.”
Even today, he says, “There’s a sense of complete relief when it’s over with.”
Eventually, Scully grew as comfortable behind the mic as Dodgers fans did listening to his dulcet voice that has informed and educated generations of Angelenos.
“I’m a very happy person. I love people,” he said. “When I go on the air, I’m happy. The people, that’s what I will miss. The people have made me feel so much at home and I think I’ve carried that onto the air.”
The fans paid him back with multiple ovations Friday night during an emotional pre-game ceremony on his appreciation night.
“I started to cry at the beginning,” he said. “I’ve never heard the noise that we heard. It kept building and staying there. There was love coming out of those stands.
“You’ve heard about being on Mount Olympus. I think I was 5 feet above that.”
Meanwhile, 28-year-old Joe Davis is taking over Scully’s duties. Davis shares a philosophy with Scully: It’s not about the broadcaster, it’s about the game. That should come as a relief to Dodgers fans are lamenting Scully’s retirement.
“Early on in my career I obsessively tried to nail the basics,” Davis said, citing time, game situation and score, pronouncing names and getting the facts right. “If you’re not good fundamentally than you lose all credibility before anyone knows what you sound like.”
Davis was hired by the team last November to work with former Dodgers Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra calling 50 road games on SportsNet LA, the team’s television channel that isn’t widely seen in Los Angeles because of an ongoing dispute between Time Warner Cable, which carries it, and other pay TV providers.
“This year there were plenty of nerves going into it because of the unknown and how people would accept me,” he said. “It’s exceeded expectations with how positive people have been.”
Some critics have pounced on social media, telling Davis that he’s no Scully.
“I’m always happy to remind them that nobody is,” he said.
Next year, Davis will do play-by-play with Hershiser and Garciaparra analyzing the action.
“It’s ridiculous how confident he is, how prepared he is, how much passion he has for the job,” Hershiser said of his young sidekick. “That’s going to serve him really well.”
Scully called Davis the night before his hiring was announced to welcome him and assure him it was a great gig.
“I’ve saved that voicemail in about a hundred different places,” he said. “A part of me is glad I missed the call.”
This season, Davis has flown from his home in Michigan to wherever the team is on the road. When the Dodgers are in Los Angeles, Scully works the games with Davis listening to the icon from long distance. He looks forward to being around the team full-time.
“There’s something romantic about baseball broadcasting,” he said, “and how that story writes itself over the course of an entire season.”
Davis grew up in tiny Potterville, Mich., near Lansing, as a Chicago Cubs fan, listening to Pat Hughes call their games. Nationally, he’s been influenced by Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck.
Like Scully, Davis has strong support at home. He and wife Libby, along with their 3-month-old daughter, Charlotte, are house hunting in Los Angeles in preparation for moving here full-time. The couple met as students at Beloit College in Wisconsin, where he earned a communications degree while playing quarterback and wide receiver on the football team.
“She’s seen me do games for nothing and make $16,000 a year doing minor league baseball,” he said. “She is the real star in the whole thing.”
Davis has called baseball, college football and basketball for Fox Sports, something he will continue to do, which means he won’t broadcast the Dodgers’ entire 162-game schedule. He declined to specify how many games he’ll miss.
“That was a big thing for me,” he said. “I didn’t want to give up the national stuff.”
Davis is six years older than Scully was when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers radio and TV booth as a 22-year-old in 1950.
“The Dodgers are not ones to change much,” Hershiser said. “Once the audience gets used to him and likes him, maybe he’ll be here forever.”
Although Davis hasn’t sought out Scully for advice, not wanting to badger him in his final months, the Hall of Famer was asked recently if he had any.
“Be himself,” Scully said. “That’s the hardest thing in the world to be.”
As for Scully, when he awakes in his own bed Oct. 3, he’ll be unemployed for the first time since 1950.
“Maybe the first thing I’ll do is take my watch off and put it in the drawer and just think I can do anything I want,” he said. “I’ll have breakfast, read the papers, go for a walk and get a book.”
“It won’t be painful at all,” he said, assuredly.
Not for him, but for the rest of us.
See below for some tributes to Scully:
Vin’s grandchildren stop by to surprise him in the booth. pic.twitter.com/L8iribaXGO
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 25, 2016
Here is to #VinScully who is calling his last game at #DodgerStadium this afternoon. https://t.co/DlhgvMWBMe pic.twitter.com/FKKjl6ErKO
— Mayor of Los Angeles (@MayorOfLA) September 25, 2016
#DearVin ” thank You ” Sir , On behalf of that little kid in San Fernando who grew up in a Trac home , shy , awkward and now when I think back never at good at baseball as I thought , but who heard you for the first time on a transistor radio and immediately fell in love , You have been the greatest teacher us @dodger fans could ever have, you introduced us to some of the greatest who ever played the game , and after 67 years we couldn’t possibly love you more, today is you’re last game at Dodger Staduim , I’m positive there won’t be a dry eye in the house, but that’s how it should be , and ” Oh Yea ” we might WIN the West too #godbless you #VinScully @teamaffiliated @arseniohall @catbelanger
A photo posted by George Lopez (@georgelopez) on
The 2nd greatest VOICE ever! 😉
We will always love you, Vin. https://t.co/0mmfNr1cpG
— Nancy Sinatra (@NancySinatra) September 24, 2016
Absolutely consistent with 67 years of work that the only person not frequently talking about Vin Scully during this game is Vin Scully.
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) September 24, 2016
I’m literally emotional. Thank you, Vin Scully. We’ve been lucky to have you. #Dodgers #VinScullyDay pic.twitter.com/FODOA2XH3x
— Kari Wahlgren (@KariWahlgren) September 24, 2016
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