I miss Vin Scully.
I am not a die hard Dodger fan. I have only been to Los Angeles and Dodger Stadium once. I was attending my now wife’s cousin’s wedding in Oxnard and as part of the trip we went to Dodger Stadium for a game. Even then I went to the game more to see the stadium than the team. The Dodgers pummeled the Phillies and we got to experience the most annoying Phillies fan on the West Coast.
The most annoying Phillies fan on the West Coast. Philadelphia was losing 6-0 in the 2nd inning at this point. (The Winning Run/ KCL)
My primary love for the Dodgers is Vin Scully. In recent years, I always enjoyed listening to the broadcast when Los Angeles were at home so that I could listen to the voice of baseball. It never mattered what the score was, I just wanted to listen to the stories. The history of the foul pole, the rise in popularity of beards on ball players, or anecdotes about some player who has not played a game in decades. Yes, please, and thank you. There was no need for a partner, Vin Scully could do it all. He could call the game, debate controversial calls, supply the history of almost anything going on, and provide endless entertainment and information.
I have tried to watch a few Dodger games this season, but Charlie Steiner, Rick Monday, Joe Davies, Nomar Garciaparra, and Orel Hershiser just are not Vin Scully. It is unfair to compare these broadcasters to the greatest of all time. Steiner and Davies are professional, they earned the opportunity to call games in the Majors. Monday, Garciaparra, and Hershiser bring their playing experience and expertise to the booth. In some ways it may be better with this new group of Dodger broadcasters, but the retirement of Vin Scully leaves something missing from every Dodger home game.
I have never met Vin Scully, doubt I ever will. The closest I will probably ever get was sitting in the outfield bleachers that day, straining my eyes to see if I could see the voice of baseball in his broadcast booth calling the game. Watching a master ply their craft allows you a look inside a world where greatness is the norm. I wanted to watch.
The score never mattered, it was about spending time with my buddy, Mr. Scully. (Jean Fruth/ National Baseball Hall of Fame)
My now sister-in-law went to the game with us and asked me why I kept straining to see the press boxes. My now wife told her it was because I was trying to see my buddy, Vince Gulley. I should explain. When I started dating my wife five years ago she knew the bare minimum about baseball. She has learned more than she ever wanted to, mostly through exhaustion and/or osmosis. Even now she can only name a handful of announcers. Marty Brennaman, mostly because she is from and we live in Cincinnati. Harry Caray, Skip Caray, and Chip Caray because my love for the Atlanta Braves, and thus the connection of the Caray family. She knows Joe Buck, but she has a physical reaction at the mere mention of his name, that turns even more sour if he is “announcing” a baseball or football game. It took some time but she now knows Vin Scully. For several years she did not understand how to pronounce his name and thought I was saying Vince Gulley. The many late nights I have stayed up late just watching a Dodgers game after a long day of work she began calling him my buddy.
Vin Scully as my buddy is an easy visualization. Listening to him call a game was like watching a game with a friend and just talking about what was happening and anything else that came up along the way. Maybe it was about the game on the field, or maybe it was just something that came to mind. It did not matter what it was, listening to Vin Scully was always a pleasure. The game on the field was central, but not necessarily required for the time spent between Vin Scully and his friends to be quality time. He knew when to talk and when to just let the sounds of the game flow over you and transport you to Dodger Stadium.
I miss Vin Scully. I am glad I was able to spend so many late nights and sunny Sunday afternoons with him. I am also glad he was able to leave the game at a time and in a fashion that suited him. There is a certain justice in seeing the greatest of all time walk away at a time and place of their own choosing, not when age, injury, or declining ability force them out. During his farewell address to Congress, General Douglas MacArthur said, “old generals don’t die, they just fade away.” Vin Scully was never a general, but his retirement has allowed him to fade away, just the like sun on a baseball diamond where for so many decades he called the game.
October is the month of dreams in baseball. Teams have worked tirelessly since Spring Training, and a select few are in the Playoffs with the chance to compete for a World Series title. Players who have toiled in the minors for years may finally get called up to the Major Leagues to fill the expanded Playoff rosters, for some this will be their only experience at the top of the sport. Umpires are rewarded for a year of excellent work by assignments in the Playoffs or the World Series.
Living the baseball dream is not reserved for only those working at the top of professional baseball. It happens everywhere the game is played. Earlier this Summer I was given the opportunity to work the NABF (National Amateur Baseball Federation) Cincinnati Regional Tournament. I had two simple jobs for each game I was assigned; score the game, and operate the scoreboard. Not difficult jobs, but you have to pay attention to every pitch of the game. The players, coaches, and fans wanted to know the count and score, thus I had to keep up with the game. As the official/ unofficial scorer I had to determine what a hit or error looked like, which on some plays is not easy task. I worked seven games over two day, enough baseball to satisfy the appetite of any ravenous baseball fan.
The action from the Marty Brennaman Press Box. (The Winning Run/ DJ)
Fast forward to October and I am working a Wednesday night baseball league at the Urban Youth Academy in Cincinnati. The NABF Tournament is filled with players ranging from fresh out of high school, to several years removed from college. The Wednesday night baseball league is filled with players in the late 20’s and 30’s, so even older still, who are playing for the love of the game. Players in both the NABF Tournament and the Wednesday night league are all chasing the same thing; how far can they make it in this game. The odds of any of them reaching the Major Leagues, are so small you would need a microscope to see them. No matter, they keep playing this game until everyone tells them they cannot play anymore.
This is how I find myself sitting alone in the Marty Brennaman Press Box at the Urban Youth Academy. In Middle School my desire to continue climbing the ladder towards professional baseball outpaced my physical abilities. Knowing my future playing career was with friends on a sandlot field and not under the bright lights of the Majors, I had to find a different path to continue my rise in baseball. Jesse and I started The Winning Run as a way to continue in baseball after our skills told us it would not be as a player. Over the past four years, this blog has grown and evolved with our love of the game. This passion is what led me to become an umpire. I work slow pitch softball games in a beer league. While not baseball, it is in the neighborhood. This season of umpiring has become a great source of networking and education on the game itself and those working within it. My willingness to work on an almost nightly basis will see me umpire more than 100 games this season. The quality and hustle I have put into each game has meant my boss has given me more games and other assignments, such as the NABF Tournament and the Wednesday night league. More trust, means more opportunities. I will be attending a local umpiring camp over the winter and hope to begin working high school baseball games in Ohio in the Spring. Most likely my work in the Spring will be a combination of 9th grade/ Junior Varsity high school games and plenty of slow pitch softball. It is a step forward, no matter how small.
Baseball under the lights, a field of dreams. (The Winning Run/ DJ)
I have learned so much in my very short time working in baseball. This is not my full time job, the money I earn through baseball is for paying bills and putting a little in savings. My love for baseball began before my first memory. I do not remember picking up a glove or bat for the first time. Baseball has always been there, it was my first love and the passion continues to burn. I do not know which avenue will take me further in baseball: writing, umpiring, or something else. I love umpiring beer league softball, working small baseball tournaments, and writing The Winning Run. Regardless if I get a paycheck or not, I am living the dream. How many people get to say that?