GLENDALE, Ariz. -- His is the voice of summer. It is the voice of sons bonding with fathers and of those fathers bonding with their fathers. It is the voice of poetry, baseball and the one you think of at sunset, beneath a cotton-candy sky. It is the voice of Los Angeles.
Vin Scully is also the voice of reason, modesty and humility.
So as he is set to begin his 67th and final season in the broadcast booth for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Vin Scully is honestly aghast that anybody would think of it as a big deal.
“I hope not,” Scully said Friday to a question that was really more of a statement about all the attention he will receive this season. “I mean, really, I hope people come to see the Dodgers play. They listen to me if they don’t come. I love this game and I don’t want to get somehow out in front of it just because it’s my last year. I would be very happy to have people come out and love every minute of an exciting game, period. That’s enough for me.”
Pardon the blasphemy, but oh how wrong Scully is.
It is hard to pinpoint his genius, not because it catches you off guard, but because it comes in so many forms. He is a storyteller with no equal, somebody who could repeat the same anecdote a dozen times and continue to make it more interesting each time.
He never gets flustered or angry. He is never at a loss for words, an impossible feat in itself since he speaks thousands of them over a single broadcast. He is not a cheerleader.
But that doesn’t get to the crux of it either.
Perhaps the best way to describe Vin Scully is that he is a best friend, reading you a literary classic for three hours every night, in a soothing pitch-perfect voice, all while you are able to keep track of the ballgame.
That is why it will be so hard to see Scully go after this season. Scully himself doesn’t seem to understand the significance of this, maybe because nobody has done for him what he has done for so many others.
What are his thoughts of his final season?
“I haven’t given it much thought other than my usual eagerness to get the season started,” he said. “I’ve tried to compare it to seasons in the past and it might be similar to the way I felt for the second year of my career. I had one under my belt and I was so excited to start another one.
“This one is special to me so I’m excited to get it started. I’m not sure how I’ll feel when I get down to the end, being somewhat of a sentimental Irishman it might be a fight that I have with myself. I’m looking forward to the whole year without thinking about the end of the year at all, concentrating on today and as they go.”
So there it is. Scully sees it, too. Of course he does. How can he not? It sounds like he doesn’t want to be overwhelmed by the moment. It would be the first time.
Friday night was Scully’s one and only game on the microphone during spring training. Fittingly it was in a game between the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. Scully grew up a Giants fan and became a Dodgers icon.
“When a game starts (against the Giants), I always feel something special,” Scully said. “I grew up in New York. I grew up going to the Polo Grounds, in the bleachers. When I was about 10, my all-time idol was Mel Ott.
“The Giants have always been a part of me, growing up as a kid idolizing Otty. I was a Giants fan. So tonight will be something special.”
He can find the beauty in a spring training game all because of the history it imparts. And Scully’s connection to history is another reason that his loss will be monumental.
There is perhaps no other day on the baseball calendar when Scully’s connection to history is more riveting than Jackie Robinson Day. The annual baseball celebration on April 15, will of course pit the Giants and Dodgers this year. The Dodgers will be at home so Scully will be on the microphone.
Like every other broadcast around the country that day, Robinson’s significance to baseball and society will be discussed. Unlike every other broadcast around the country that day, Scully will tell Robinson stories that he witnessed first-hand. He will relay conversations he had with Robinson directly and put his own spin on the hardship and triumph that Robinson achieved.
Scully wants no credit for this. He wants to be the narrator, not the author or actor. Necessary but unnoticed.
“You know one of the things I worry about really is ... the thing that bothers me, really and truly, is making it sound like, because it’s my last year, I’m more important than the game,” Scully said. “That scares me to death. That’s the last thought. I just want to do the game. I just want to have fun and eventually they’ll say, ‘Okay, Scully, that’s enough. See ya.’”
Asked what he will miss most, Scully says the fans. If that isn’t symbiotic, nothing is.
“No. 1 will be the roar of the crowd, the goose bumps that you get," he said.
If there is anything the fans can get Scully as a thank you this year, it would be a healthy supply of goose bumps.
“Yeah, that’s always been my thermometer as far as my baseball fever goes,” he said. “I still get them. I’m sure I’m going to get them throughout the year, if there’s a good play and the crowd goes bananas.”
Scully, of course, will give those goose bumps right back. For one last summer, it will start every night with five simple words: “It’s time for Dodger baseball.”